Egypt men say 'I don't' to woman marriage registrar
CAIRO (AFP) — The appointment this week of Egypt's first woman able to conduct Muslim marriages has sparked controversy in the religious country, particularly from men who see their status being challenged.
Amal Soliman, 32, is the first woman in the Middle East and possibly the Muslim world to be authorised to perform wedding ceremonies and sign marriage and divorce contracts.
Straddling the worlds of bureaucracy and religion -- two pillars of Egyptian society -- the graduate in civil and criminal law said she is "more qualified" than her colleagues to perform the function of "maazun".
Justice Minister Mamduh Mari stressed that Soliman's nomination depended on her abilities rather than on her gender, but it has raised eyebrows and anger on the streets in the male-dominated Arab country.
"I completely reject the idea," Mahmud Ali, a bearded 40-year-old, told AFP in Cairo. "There must be religious texts forbidding this... there are also obstacles on a social level, she would always take the woman's side."
"This idea won't spread, it's a one-off and it won't last."
Ahmed Abdel Rehim declared simply: "A woman cannot do this job. I would never have a female maazun at my wedding."
But officials, eager to portray an image of equality, welcomed the decision.
"I'm not shocked at all, it's a purely legal job, reading Koranic verses and conducting a marriage," said Ali Saman, former head of Al-Azhar University's religious dialogue committee.
"A maazun is a judicial assistant, a notary... so it's a job that women can do."
In 2005, US-based Amina Wadud sparked controversy in the Muslim world, including in Egypt, when she led prayers in New York, with some clerics saying it went against Islamic doctrine.
"A female imam (who leads prayers in a mosque) is different, that's to be debated by specialists but a female maazun who signs and officialises a marriage certificate there's no problem," he said.
"There are no religious texts banning a Muslim woman from being a maazun," said Al-Azhar's deputy director Sheikh Fawzi Zafzaf. "But when a woman is menstruating she must not enter a mosque or read Koranic verses and that will affect her job, so for this reason we say it is not advisable to have a woman maazun."
Women's rights in Egypt have a long and occasionally rocky history. Egyptian women were allowed to vote and stand for office in 1956. But they are notable in their absence from Egyptian courtrooms, even those dealing with family law. A first group of 30 women judges was authorised to practice in March 2007.
"Islam guarantees women's rights, whatever is said about the inferiority of women is a lie," said Zafzaf.
"Why not support women?" said Shawkiya Rawash, in her 50s. "If she can be an example to follow, if she manages to do her job well, why not? I'm in favour."
And I'm in favor too, Shawkiya. Thank you so much. But, you know what? Egyptian men seem to have got issues with this..
Now, let's speak seriously, please guys. What's up with you, men? Huh?
Al-Azhar seems to me to be so messed up on this subject. And unfortunately, I've been one miserable victim who watched this issue being debated live on Egyptian TV. Gotta tell you.. I just felt SICK of all the biased trash I heard.
I've talked about this before in my comment on EFC's first post here. And I told her about Al-Azhar's unjustified objection to the court sentence in this case back then. This woman, Amal Soliman, has earned her basic rights through a long needless battle with the justice system. And even after that, the judge was reluctant, and he insisted that an official approval by the Fatwa Committee of Al-Azhar is a must for Amal to get her legal rights in holding her job.
I saw Amal Soliman on TV.. She is such a decent woman, and she has got all what it takes to have this job. She holds a masters degree in law, and her work experience has enabled her to beat 10 male candidates in order to become maazun. Moreover, she faced lots of unjustifiable complications, and was deprived of her right to start practicing her new job. But she didn't give up. She fought for her right. She filed a lawsuit against her employers, and got a court sentence in her favor. So.. Why the hell had Al-Azhar's committee denied her permission to get that job, and why the hell did they suddenly change their minds?
And please allow me to ask, WHAT THE HELL is Al-Azhar's deputy director saying?!!
I'm sorry. With all my respect to Al-Azhar and its men.. But this man doesn't seem to make any sense in his speech. And I am sorry to repeat his meaningless and contradictory statements down here.
He said, "There are no religious texts banning a Muslim woman from being a maazun."
Right.. Then why did Al-Azhar reject Mrs. Soliman's request the first time? And how can they forbid what God Himself has not forbidden? How can anyone dare to ban something, on religious basis, although God has never banned it?
OK.. Let's assume that they realized they were mistaken. Now, check out what Sheikh Zafzaf says right after: "But when a woman is menstruating she must not enter a mosque or read Koranic verses and that will affect her job, so for this reason we say it is not advisable to have a woman maazun."
Wait a minute! Did I just read this again? I really wish this is just a bad dream.. But did this man actually say "it is not advisable to have a woman maazun"? Come on! Are we kidding here or what?
Or.. Are we playing some kind of a very old game that men are never tired of playing? They give you something by one hand, and take it by the other.
Zafzaf, haven't you learned in Al-Azhar that lying is haram? I mean, this is a lesson we learn in 1st primary.. Yet, in your case, I assume that lying is not a good thing to do at all, since you are Al-Azhar's deputy director! Who are you speaking to please now? God or society?.. Or the beduin patriarchal society, to be more specific?
Zafzaf, you know that the maazun's job has got nothing to do with the mosque. And you know that the prayers said at the wedding are part of the cermony, not the legal process of writing and officiating the marriage certificate. Thus, you are misleading people - on purpose - to make them believe that this woman will actually hold the hands of the groom and the bride's father under a white handkerchief to recite the usual lines said at the wedding ceremony. Isn't this a lie Zafzaf? Aren't you twisting facts A LOT here? Isn't this a very bad and cheap con job?
And then you dare say, "whatever is said about the inferiority of women is a lie"!!.. Man, you've just said that this woman's period will affect her job!
Now, this is a double lie. You've discriminated against this woman, and all other women who would want to have the same job.. You've told people not to hire this woman for their weddings, for God's sake! And then you go ahead saying "the inferiority of women is a lie"?! That's way too much.. Seriously.
Zafzaf.. I'm sorry, but you don't belong to a respectable religious institution like Al-Azhar. You rather belong with some male chauvinistic movement . You are a disgrace to the position you hold, really. You deform Islam to satisfy your male buddies.
Thumbs down Azhar!.. Both thumbs down!.. And I will tell all my family and friends to hire this woman for their weddings. Shame on you men.
* I'd like to thank Raaasa for inspiring this post and providing the AFP link