Religious scholars slam Farouk Hosny for anti veil remarks

Sarah El Sirgany
7 Min Read

Minister’s supporters fear disproportionate reactions for expressing their opinion

CAIRO: Farouk Hosny, Minister of Culture, set off a firestorm late last week when he criticized the hijab head scarf and those who chose to wear it.

His remarks garnered swift and often angry reactions from Egyptian and Arab religious scholars, some of whom said Egyptian officials were waging war on Islam.

I do not like the veil, but anyone who wishes to wear it, is free to do so. I just do not like it, just like I do not like to wear a galabyiia. What is so wrong in saying that? Hosny reiterated Saturday on 90 Minutes, a talk show on El Mehwar satellite TV.

Moataz Demerdash, the show’s host, gave Hosny a chance to explain what the press referred to as controversial comments regarding the veil he made in El Masry El Youm on Thursday.

On the live talk show, however, he stood firm on his opinion.

Is the veil the sixth pillar of Islam? The Egyptian constitution has nothing about women s dress code, said Hosny.

Hosny said: [The veil] differentiates between Muslims and Christians.

“Women are like flowers; they color our lives and make it brighter. They do need to get veiled and hide their beauty, the minister said.

“Unless they believe that we men are animals and cannot control our sexual desires. Why do not we ask men to get veiled too? Women have feelings too and can get affected by seeing men s naked arms and legs.

Hosny stressed that veil isn’t an Islamic obligation (fard).

However, he asked that his statements not be misconstrued to indicate his disrespect for veiled women. Every woman is free to dress as she likes. I do not ask veiled women to get unveiled. I have lots of veiled employees and they were never discriminated against because they are veiled, he said.

The minister told Arabic press that his opinion was expressed in a casual chat and was blown out of proportion by the media. But Diaa Rashwan, political analyst and expert on Islamic affairs, would have none of it.

“This statement was not a coincidence like Minster Farouk Hosny claimed, said.

“It was told at this time to intentionally divert the public and political parties away from the constitutional amendments that both the opposition parties and Muslim Brotherhood are demanding. The aim is to make them concentrate on issues like the veil that they have different opinions on, rather than focus on constitutional reform.

Citing the minister’s remarks that tied the veil with cultural backwardness and general stagnation, Rashwan said: “Can [the minister] tell us how the veil related to the political despotism, corruption, social retardation and governance’s hierarchy, which are our major disasters that we have been suffering from the past few years?

Adding, “Hosny is the oldest Minster in the government, since 1986, what did he do to fight back the corruption and retardation that he is talking about?

Hamdy Hassan, a Muslim Brotherhood MP, lodged an official complaint in the People’s Assembly and called for Hosny’s resignation.

Hassan joined other MPs and Islamic scholars in pointing that Hosny’s remarks would have benign had he not been a cabinet minister.

The Minister of Culture is using the ministry to launch an attack on the veil, which he considers a symbol of a backward ideology, Hassan charged.

“If he had said this as a personal opinion, no one would have held him accountable, Hassan added.

But Hosny was adamant and even countercharged that the Muslim Brotherhood – who lodged the complaint against him – were an obstacle to free speech.

Is that their democracy? If they ruled, what will they do with me and my opinions? Hosny asked.

“He is wrong, wrong, wrong, said Sheikh Fawzy El Zefzaf, the head of Al Azhar Religious Dialogue Committee. “Of course Farouk Hosny crossed the line.

El Zefzaf said that considering the official post of the minister, he shouldn’t have publicly expressed his personal opinion. “As an official in a ministry in an Islamic state, he should have kept his opinion to himself.

Sheikh Saber Taalab, former member of the Islamic Research Center, said Hosny’s remarks show his disrespect of the constitution, which stipulates that Islam is the source of legislation in the country.

The public outcry following Hosny’s remarks are making government officials clearly uneasy. Some secularists who had previously called for banning the veil fear a violent backlash and death threats.

When contacted by The Daily Star Egypt, one sociologist refused to comment in fear of disproportionate reactions. “I heard two women saying the minister should be shot down, she said. Others didn’t hold back their opinion. Eqbal Baraka, a renowned feminist, told the Arabic-language press that the veil is a sign of ideological backwardness.

“Farouk Hosny isn’t a religious reference, said Taalab. He explained that the veil is misunderstood.

“The veil isn’t just a head cover, he said, “This is one part of it. He added that the Islamic understanding of the veil refers to modest behavior not a mere dress code.

Dress code doesn’t define ideologies, Taalab added. “A head cover doesn’t translate to backwardness. Taking up science and technology, renewing ideas are what determine the ideological stance of the person, he noted.

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