What Does it Mean to Cover the Head (Hijab)
April 18, 2008 No. 1904
Egyptian Author Sharif Hatata Talks about Life with Egyptian Feminist Nawal Al-Sa'dawi, States: The Hijab Symbolizes the Claim that Women Have No Brains
The following are excerpts from an interview with Egyptian author Dr. Sharif Hatata, husband of Egyptian feminist and activist Nawal Al-Sa'dawi. The interview aired on Al-Mihwar TV on March 31, 2008.
To view this clip on MEMRI TV, visit http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/1736.htm.
"Dr. Nawal Al-Sa'dawi is More Famous than Me - This Reflects the Truth, Regardless of the Fact that She is a Woman and I am a Man"
Interviewer: "When I entered the house, I saw the name 'Dr. Nawal Al-Sa'dawi' on the door. It is customary to have the husband's name - let's say, 'Dr. Sharif Hatata.' I even thought the production crew had made a mistake, and had given me the wrong address, when we saw the name of Dr. Nawal Al-Sa'dawi on the door. How do you explain this?"
Dr. Sharif Hatata: "It was me who prepared the sign on the door."
Dr. Sharif Hatata: "Yes, me. I did this for a simple reason - Dr. Nawal Al-Sa'dawi is more famous than me. This reflects the truth, regardless of the fact that she is a woman and I am a man. What's important to me is the human being, and I don't care whether this human being is a man or a woman. In my opinion, many women are better than men, and there are also men who are better than women. I did this because I hold Dr. Nawal in esteem, and I want to make a statement and bring about change." [...]
"We Have Become Used to Sweeping [Child Sexual Abuse] Under the Carpet"
Interviewer: "As a child, you experienced a traumatic incident - you were sexually assaulted. What were the circumstances and how did you overcome this?"
Dr. Sharif Hatata: "I was born in England, and I came [to Egypt] when I was four or five years old. Back then, we were living in my grandfather's home. This was a big house in Zamalek. My grandfather, who was part of the feudal system of those days, used to bring workers from various rural areas, and there were even Ethiopians who came to work here. There was a black man who worked in our house. I was just a small boy.
"One day, I was playing in the house, and there wasn't anyone home that day. They had all gone out, or maybe they were sitting in the garden, or something. He took off his clothes, and pulled me towards him. He didn't manage to sexually assault me, but he tried. Soon after, I fled to the garden. I wrote about this in my memoirs.
"Why did I write about this? Because, in my view, this is something that happens to many Egyptian children. This happens to both boys and girls. Family members commit these acts."
Interviewer: "Did this incident affect you?"
Dr. Sharif Hatata: "Let me finish, because this is very important. We have become used to sweeping these things under the carpet."
Interviewer: "We bury our heads in the sand."
Dr. Sharif Hatata: "Yes, we hide these things. But these things happen, and they affect the children in a grave way. We think that children forget such things, but this is not true. A child never forgets such a thing, and it affects his life.
"How did this affect my life? For a long time, until I grew up and began thinking differently, I used to hate black people. I couldn't tolerate a black man coming near me or talking to me. I couldn't believe what black men said, just because of the color of their skin. This is a form of offensive racism, because you should judge people by their inner qualities, not the color of their skin - whether they are white or black. I recall that when I was a child, we used to call these people 'barbarians,' because they were black. This had an effect on me, and made me view black people in a negative light."[...]
"I Am Against the Hijab... What Does It Mean to Cover the Head? The Head is the Most Important Part of the Human Being"
"There are women who wear the hijab whom I appreciate, and there are women who do not wear the hijab whom I do not appreciate. It depends on their character. But I am against the hijab in the sense that... What does it mean for a woman to wear the hijab? What does it mean to consider women's hair to be 'aura [body parts that are forbidden to expose]? What does it mean to cover the head? The head is the most important part of the human being. The head contains the brain. When the brain stops working, our life comes to an end. When our brain works, we do great things. Human beings use their brains to create everything we see - airplanes, missiles, medications, books, plays, and films. All these great things are produced by the brain.
"So why do they cover the head? Because it is a symbol. It symbolizes the assumption that women have no brain, no head, and that the man, her husband, is her head, her brain. I oppose this symbol, which, in my opinion, is against women and is inappropriate." [...]
"We Are Regressing, Rather Than Moving Forward... Women are the Only Ones Ruled By Islamic Law in This Country"
"If we compare Islamic teachings in the days of the Prophet Muhammad to this day, we see that we are regressing, rather than moving forward. There was more freedom and more openness back then. I oppose Al-Azhar as an institution. I oppose those in charge of it. In my view, they spread backward and reactionary Islamic ideas, and they play a role in reinforcing the fundamentalist ideas in society.
"When society is ruled by religion, no one can speak out. Why? Because whenever you say anything, they respond: 'God said this. You are a heretic.' This is what is happening now. Anyone who expresses an opinion that differs from what is prevalent in society - especially with regard to the ideology of the fundamentalists and Al-Azhar - is immediately considered a heretic."
Interviewer: "But Egypt is not a religious state, you must be referring to the Muslim Brotherhood."
Dr. Sharif Hatata: "It is a religious state. It is written in the constitution."
Interviewer: "Do you support changing the article in the constitution that considers Islamic law as the main source for legislation?"
Dr. Sharif Hatata: "Our main source for legislation is not the Islamic religion. This is a lie. The main source for our legislation is the French law. Our civil laws have nothing to do with Islam and the Koran. Only marital laws are connected to Islam and the Koran. Women are the only ones ruled by Islamic law in this country.
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