WESTERN LEADERS: "Hey! If we help Islamist organizations in the Middle East, we can topple secular dictators and bring about a renaissance in Muslim leadership!"
PEOPLE WHO'VE STUDIED ISLAM: "That's not going to work. If the Muslim Brotherhood takes over, women and religious minorities will be severely oppressed."
WESTERN LEADERS: "How racist and Islamophobic of you to say that! You don't understand the wonderful nature of Islam!"
WOMEN AND RELIGIOUS MINORITIES: "Help! Help! We're being severely oppressed by the Muslim Brotherhood!"
WESTERN LEADERS: "Sorry, can't help you. Who are we to interfere in the affairs of Muslims? It would be racist and Islamophobic to object to your oppression."
PEOPLE WHO'VE STUDIED ISLAM: "We tried to tell you."
You know the problem has gotten bad when even the New York Times is forced to say something about it.
CAIRO — The sheer number of women sexually abused and gang raped in a single public square had become too big to ignore. Conservative Islamists in Egypt’s new political elite were outraged — at the women.
“Sometimes,” said Adel Abdel Maqsoud Afifi, a police general, lawmaker and ultraconservative Islamist, “a girl contributes 100 percent to her own raping when she puts herself in these conditions.” The increase in sexual assaults over the last two years has set off a new battle over who is to blame, and the debate has become a stark and painful illustration of the convulsions racking Egypt as it tries to reinvent itself.
Under President Hosni Mubarak, the omnipresent police kept sexual assault out of the public squares and the public eye. But since Mr. Mubarak’s exit in 2011, the withdrawal of the security forces has allowed sexual assault to explode into the open, terrorizing Egyptian women.
Women, though, have also taken advantage of another aspect of the breakdown in authority — by speaking out through the newly aggressive news media, defying social taboos to demand attention for a problem the old government often denied. At the same time, some Islamist elected officials have used their new positions to vent some of the most patriarchal impulses in Egypt’s traditional culture and a deep hostility to women’s participation in politics.
The female victims, these officials declared, had invited the attacks by participating in public protests. “How do they ask the Ministry of Interior to protect a woman when she stands among men?” Reda Saleh Al al-Hefnawi, a lawmaker from the Muslim Brotherhood’s political party, asked at a parliamentary meeting on the issue.
The revolution initially promised to reopen public space to women. Men and women demonstrated together in Tahrir Square peacefully during the heady 18 days and nights that led to the ouster of Mr. Mubarak. But within minutes of his departure the threat re-emerged in a group attack on the CBS News correspondent Lara Logan. There are no official statistics on women attacked — partly because few women report offenses — but all acknowledge that the attacks have grown bolder and more violent.
By the second anniversary of the revolution, on Jan. 25, the symbolic core of the revolution — Tahrir Square — had become a no-go zone for women, especially after dark.
During a demonstration that day against the new Islamist-led government, an extraordinary wave of sexual assaults — at least 18 confirmed by human rights groups, and more, according to Egypt’s semiofficial National Council of Women — shocked the country, drawing public attention from President Mohamed Morsi and Western diplomats.
Hania Moheeb, 42, a journalist, was one of the first victims to speak out about her experience that day. In a television interview, she recounted how a group of men had surrounded her, stripped off her clothes and violated her for three quarters of an hour. The men all shouted that they were trying to rescue her, Ms. Moheeb recalled, and by the time an ambulance arrived she could no longer differentiate her assailants from defenders.
To alleviate the social stigma usually attached to sexual assault victims in Egypt’s conservative culture, her husband, Dr. Sherif Al Kerdani, appeared alongside her.
“My wife did nothing wrong,” Dr. Kerdani said.
In the 18 confirmed attacks that day, six women were hospitalized, according to interviews conducted by human rights groups. One woman was stabbed in her genitals, and another required a hysterectomy. (Continue Reading.)