Thursday, December 15, 2011

Once Upon a Voting Day!

At exactly 10:30am on a sunny Monday morning, I was standing in line next to my mother ready to give my voice to someone I was in no way terrorized to vote for. This time I was going to take part in making history and witness Egypt as it blossoms into the beautiful democratic country it ought to be. Well, I was a part of making history alright, but the democracy part now seems like a blurry image of something I can’t really tell if it’s real or just mere hallucination!

Since great minds think alike, all women showed up early and I mean all women! The line was endless; it was two streets away from the Mohamed Taymour’s school door where I’m supposed to vote. It was hopeless, part of me actually considered leaving and coming back in the afternoon or may be tomorrow but the look my mum shot me when I started complaining pinned me right where I was, sinking in the muddy streets of Nasr City.

You would think the fact that it was all women would make the four hour long waiting interesting and fun, but as it appeared women didn’t talk about politics, in fact we were ordered by one bossy woman not to talk about the candidates because she considered that to be a form of advertising and influencing. So, what else women talked about? Food, yes it came down to the point that women were exchanging recipes, actually two got into an argument of whether it was better to use garlic chopped or minced when preparing molokheya! And knowing that my knowledge about cooking ends at microwaves you can guess how happy I was.

As the street got busier with cars dropping off women and the sun was growing merciless, a young woman appeared with a megaphone screaming that any woman above 60, pregnant or with children should proceed to vote directly. That’s when my mum chose to sarcastically mock me for not bringing my 20 months old baby along.

By 1:30pm my back was killing me and my feet were slowly outgrowing my boots but on the bright side the school’s door was at least visible to me. Right in front of the school, there was a Muslim brotherhood booth with lots of men wearing hats with “El horeya wal Adala” logo, they weren’t actually promoting for their candidates, not in an obvious way at least, but they were lecturing people on how to vote. Other parties sent in their youths wearing t-shirts with printed logos distributing informational flayers about their candidates. Some women refused to take those flyers because that was unethical while others took them then threw the flayers away.

Approaching the gate, we were walking a lot faster now; I had to part ways with my mother because we were in different voting committees. My battery was dead by then so we agreed on a meeting point. I headed to committee number 75 and I was devastated to find a line again. But with the scary bossy lady off the radar we were free to talk about politics, candidates, and the SCAF whichever way we liked. One woman innocently joked about the Mubarak era saying that he saved us from the elections hastiness, when another woman starting yelling “who’s saying Mubarak? Do you have any idea what he did to us? He robed us blind?!” After we soothed things out between the two and prevented what could easily turn into a catfight considering the heat and the long hours came my favorite part, the talk about the candidates and the parties. I was voting for “El Kotla Al Masreya” and “Mostafa el Naggar” out many reasons but the most important, I think, is to bring diversity to the parliament. Almost everyone I know, including my grandparents, are voting for Muslim Brotherhood and I just don’t want to repeat the farce of the NDP all over again.

Just as I wrapping up my wise political theory, three army soldiers barged into our diminishing line yelling, “Lobna Khairy! Where’s Lobna Khairy?!” I swear it was my first time to be aware of my knees’ existence, my heart just pounded as the thought of being arrested, tortured and rapped like the horror stories I hear about women’s interrogations in the Egyptian police station brought vomit to my mouth. I replied hesitantly, that my unfortunately I was she, one of the soldiers answered “your mum is waiting for you outside” Could I be any more embarrassed? My mum actually sent the “army” to look for me when I was just lecturing the women, who by the way were much older than I am, about the importance of diversity in the political scene!

It was almost 2:00pm when I was up next to vote. I was doubtful and scared; what if I marked the wrong person? What if I took too long and people started complaining like it happened before with other candidates? But the truth was the people in that small filthy, if I may add, classroom was more helpful than I could have ever imagined. They guided me through every step and successfully managed my stupidity. And I voted without messing it up. For the very first time, I wasn’t hesitant about my candidates of choice or the vision of the political party I am for. For the very first time, I actually knew what I want for my country’s future to look like and I did my part. I voted!

So as I walked outside the room my head was filled with two thoughts, first, how sorry I felt for those students who have to go to that school because it was unbearably hideous, old and smelly and second, the fact that I, ironically, waited for 4 and a half hours to vote in just 2 minutes! 

Monday, December 12, 2011

Polygamy in Egypt

According to a recent statistics conducted by National Centre for Sociological and Criminological Research (NCSCR) after only three short years of marriage, nearly 25 percent of Egyptian husbands take on a second wife when almost 70 percent of those second marriages end in divorce!

The alarming rapidity with which men remarry raised the imperative question of why Egyptian men are yet again embracing polygamy in the midst of the deteriorating economic status of the country, the obligatory military service and the exacerbated unemployment crisis. Nevertheless, the validity of polygamy in Islam was almost never really questioned here in Egypt, it was never legally banned before like in many Islamic countries including Tunisia, Turkey, Tajikistan and Indonesia, yet it was always frowned upon by women!
Polygamy is God’s right granted for men limited to four wives with a number of conditions underlying fairness to the first wife. The problem is that women overlook the sanctity of protecting fellow Muslin sisters from the various harms in society because of selfishness and the idea that their husbands are insulting them by taking a second wife,” said, Sheikh Mohamed Gad, Head of Panorama el Shrouk Mosque, Shrouk City, Egypt.

In Egyptian society, the reasons why husbands take second wives can vary randomly. Some men remarry out of nothing but love, yet the idea of informing the first wife is too scary for many reasons, to mention a few, to avoid marital problems, to maintain a healthy peaceful environment for the children and escape the divorce demands the first wife insists on when informed about the second marriage. “There’s nothing wrong with my first wife, I love her and I still do, but I did not want to sin or do anything that will jeopardize my faith so when I met my second wife ,  I decided to get married. It was not an easy decision, and it requires a lot of sacrifice from my second wife to keep our marriage as discreet as possible, but in the end I am doing nothing wrong or illegal,” said, Moustafa Hussein, 36, businessman.

Others seek fatherhood, which is one of the most common reasons why Egyptian men remarry when the first wife is reproductively challenged. However, in most rural cities in Egypt, many men blessed with daughters remarry for the second and even third time until they have the heir they hope for. Despite the hail of equality messages Egyptian media adopted throughout the past seven years, well educated men still pursue the outdated desire for a son. “I have four daughters and I love my family, but I wanted a son of my own and thankfully now I have one as a result of a second marriage; I informed my first wife after having my boy because I didn’t want to create problems out of nothing if God didn’t grant me Hamza,” said, Ayman Galal, 48, anesthesiologist.

When torn between misery and family, some men try polygamy to have the billboard-like marriage they dream of instead of breaking the first one. “It was the endless fights and demands; I didn’t want to divorce my first wife and I still don’t to keep my family together, so I married another to give me the peace and patience I need to continue my life,” said, Amr Faramawy, 42, businessman

Yet, not all Egyptian women refuse the idea of polygamy; in fact some wives don’t want a full-time husband and would not mind being a part-time wife either which means sharing him with another wife. “I married my second wife 6 years ago, my first wife knew all about it from the moment I decided to get married, she was jealous and hurt at first of course but now she has the time she needs to look after the kids as she likes without having to worry about me and what I think of her,” said, Emad Antar, 42, field engineer. 

Polygamy is most certainly the most controversial family system in Islam; however there are many conditions that allow the man to have more than one wife yet keep the responsibility and presence of marriage alive. “Polygamy was mainly intended for protecting widowed women with children, to give her the security and marital life she accustomed and guard her from sin,” said, Sheikh Mohamed Gad. For a husband to remarry he should be able to afford the expenses of multiple households, he should be able to give fairness in terms time and treatment to both wives, and a justifiable reason to get married like if the wife is sick or barren.

Polygamy like any system has its advantages and disadvantages. “Look at the number of Muslim women who are not married, divorced or widowed; if a man can be fair and pay for more than one home, then why shouldn’t he marry another,” said, Sheikh Mohamed. Polygamy will definitely help abolish the phenomena referred to as “spinsters”, curb men’s excessive sexual needs where one woman may not be enough, and increase population. But the problems resulting from the misuse and the misinterpretation of polygamy is the reason why most men are cautious about second marriages.

Egyptian women are fighting polygamy hard; in 2000 a new marriage contract was issued legalizing for Egyptian wives to put the conditions they want which if violated by the husband, a divorce can be easily granted by the court. Among those conditions are allowing the wife to work, number of kids or in some cases none, marrying another and travelling to work abroad.