CAIRO: As 2008 nears its end, a third Egyptian women forged her way into a male-dominated profession as Kariman Hamzah became the country’s first female to interpret the holy Quran.
A familiar face on religious television programs, Hamza has penned more than 25 books on Islam.
Hamzah is the third women this year to break barriers and take on an occupation usually dominated by men. Just a couple of months ago, Amal Suleiman Afifi became the first female marriage registrar in Egypt despite opposition from some conservative clerics.
Earlier this month, Eva Habil, a 53-year-old Christian lawyer, beat five male candidates to become Egypt’s first female mayor of the predominantly Coptic Christian town of Komboha in southern Egypt.
During her 35 years in television, Hamzah served as the general manger of religious programs at the Egyptian Radio and Television Union. She has anchored several successful religious programs, producing more than 1,500 episodes and interviewing some of the most prominent Islamic scholars and sheikhs including Youssef Al-Qaradawi and the late Mohamed Metwaly El-Shaarawy.
Hamzah s interpretation of the Quran was made for the youth, using a simple language and writing style, according to Sheikh Ibrahim Negm, spokesperson for Egypt s Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa.
The interpretation of the Quran is always the same, regardless of whom it is made for, added Negm.
While she has a wealth of experience in religious television programs, the mass communications graduate does not have a religious academic background. There is no law that requires Islamic scholars to study at Al-Azhar or have a religious academic background to interpret the Quran, said Negm, and Al-Azhar provides the material and specialized scientist to help Islamic scholars in their work.
Hamzah has also worked with ART’s Iqraa satellite channel and with the International Institute of Islamic Banking and Economics as a media and public affairs consultant.
She is the daughter of Abdel Latif Hamzah, a prominent professor of journalism and mass communications at Cairo University.