Egyptian society increasingly divided over headscarf

Egyptian society increasingly divided over headscarf

Discrimination in hiring, filtering in restaurants… A BBC survey shows that women wearing the hijab are less and less tolerated by wealthy circles.

A BBC investigation points to “employment discrimination” in Egypt for women in hijab. KHALED DESOUKI / AFP

Egypt may be an almost exclusively Muslim country, where religious freedom still has a long way to go (journalist Ibrahim Eissa, who was indicted in February for doubting a miracle of the prophet, knows something about this ), its well-to-do population seems to be freeing itself more and more from wearing the veil. So much so that a BBC survey reveals that women still wearing a hijab bear the brunt of it: they would be discriminated against more than their fellow citizens who got rid of it.

According to British radio, which met several veiled Egyptian women, wealthy circles in Cairo would indeed be more and more reluctant to tolerate the hijab within them. Thus a 25-year-old researcher, Mayar Omar, confides that she has difficulty being accepted in certain prestigious restaurants in the city because of her veil. So much so that the story of her experience, shared by other Egyptian women, has emerged as a trend on social networks: many women wearing the hijab give their testimony about situations of discrimination against them, experienced in various places of Egyptian high society. These discriminations relate to the idea that “the hijab is not part of acceptable dress among the upper classes of the country”, according to the lawyer and defender of women’s rights, Nada Nashat.

Other BBC investigations have in particular highlighted the difficulty for veiled women to buy holiday apartments: the property developer La Vista is thus accused of closing the door to customers wearing the hijab, and who would like to buy a high-rise apartment. range on the coast.

In 2015, 90% of Egyptian women were still veiled

In Egypt, discrimination based on religion is prohibited and the BBC, which presented the results of its investigation, quoted a spokesperson for the Chamber of Tourism Establishments and Restaurants who was scandalized by such discrimination, considering that “women veiled people should not have their doors closed to any public space”.

Still, in mentalities, the veil is now relegated to the lower social strata. Yet a few years ago, 90% of women wore it, according to the correspondent of Le Monde in Beirut Hélène Sallon. Since the 2011 revolution, calls to remove the hijab have multiplied in the country, and many journalists and politicians have removed it. In 2015 the writer and former journalist Chérif Choubachy, who had publicly supported the unveiled young girls, was accused by a women’s magazine of “insulting Egypt”, and caricatures had flourished in the press to make his call a advocating for prostitution. Also in Le Monde, a young student testified to the atmosphere of intimidation that dissuaded her from removing her veil during her studies: “[Some students] punished me and threatened me with physical violence. I had no answer to oppose them nor the strength to face this pressure, so I gave in, ”she said.

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