Pakistani Clerics Have Banned Women from Shopping Alone
Pakistani Clerics Have Banned Women from Shopping Alone

Aliaa Magda Elmahdy has become an online sensation after posting naked pictures of herself on a blog to denounce the oppressive nature of the Egyptian society, and the taboo surrounding femininity and women's bodies. While she certainly represents a portion of Egyptian women, others on the other hand have joined the ranks of the Muslim Brotherhood, even sporting the party's banners during the anti-Mubarak protests.

Until recently women were not given any chief political roles in the party but leaders of the movement maintained it was mainly due to the severe crackdown led on high ranked figures by the Mubarak regime.

A few months after the revolution it seems that the brotherhood is becoming more receptive to the sisterhood's demands as the party insist it is working on increasing women's involvement and role in shaping the future of the country.

Asked about the role of women in supporting the revolution, Mohamed Badie, the party's Supreme Guide acknowledged their vital contributions.

‎"No one can deny the vital role the women played during the January 25 Revolution, ‎whether as activists, mothers or wives," he said in the opening speech of a press ‎conference held by MB under the name of "Woman: From the revolution to the ‎prosperity."‎

‎"Women made history, and with their success [during the 18-day revolt] they gave the whole ‎world a lesson about how to fight injustice and tyranny. They partook with men in everything.‎

‎"Our mission to lead Egypt to prosperity is even harder [than the revolution]. This is the ‎responsibility of men and women alike, in order to draw a bright future,"‎ he added.

The female wing of the party, the Sisterhood was created in 1932 and women from the party insist they participate to the same political and social activities than men.

The Brotherhood first nominated a woman for parliament in the 2000 elections and also fielded women in 2005 and 2010.

Moreover women members have also been at the forefront of the social and political struggle of the party, joining demonstrations and protests.

Women members of the party firmly believe that the political system advanced by the brotherhood will help bring women some justice.

They see their current lack of equal rights as to do more with the cultural, political and social realities in which their movement functions than with the movement itself.

Realising the importance of their role during the revolution female members soon started to actively demand for more rights and opportunities within the organisation itself, demanding the right to run for office as members of the movement's council, for example.

They issued a public letter to the party's leader where they complained about being obstructed while their meetings are considered "meetings of housewives in which they only speak about their children and their vegetables."

All is not perfect however and the Muslim Brotherhood clearly needs the sisterhood in the current climate. It emerged as one of the most popular political party after the revolution and needed to create a more moderate image and putting women at the forefront of the movement will help silence its detractors.

The party however still has some conservative elements who could turn to more radical movement such as Salafists political parties if they deem the role given to women is excessive.

While women members of the party also assert their will to take on more public responsibilities some of the comments made in the media remains controversial.

Makarem el-Deiry, the only women representing the Brotherhood in 2005 has in the past adopted quite a strict position when it comes to women, telling the Agence France Press in the same year that women in the west had forgotten that men are superior.

"We believe that domestic chores are not less (than other types of work) and we oppose battling against men's superiority to women" she also added.

Moreover, explaining why she thought that God had granted Muslim men alone the right to initiate divorce, she replied "Women are impulsive, they ask for divorce and then they regret their decision."

In view of the different grievances but also attitude adopted by women on women in Egypt, it seems that the country faces a dilemma that goes further than the patriarchal nature often attributed to the Egyptian society. Conservative attitudes clashes for more freedom of expression and other liberal demands but women can be found at both end of the spectrum.

However since the revolution it seems that more and more Egyptians women are inclined to play an active role in politics or simply just be themselves without having to first ask men for permission.