*UPDATES: Media misstep in coverage?
Seeing the Egyptian people topple a dictator in 18 days through non-violence and social media organization was brilliant. They will need a lot of luck, encouragement and support now to create a stable, credible democracy and protect it from sinister forces– not that I’m paranoid a la Glenn Beck of an evil dominating world order as other countries like Iran, Bahrain, Libya and more follow suit.
But a piece of unsettling news broke that triumphant glory– CBS chief news correspondent Lara Logan, who was reporting in Egypt, was harassed and sexually assaulted by a mob of protests after being separated from her crew in Tahrir Square. A group of women and Egyptian soldiers saved her.
This alone suddenly casted a negative light on the events, since all the previous violence was attributed to Mubarak’s thugs riding camels through and attacking the crowds.The assailants weren’t identified, but some people in discussion over the news are blaming the Egyptian/Arab/Islamic culture for allowing it to happen.
Why is that?
Women are raped and violated all over the world. It is most definitely not tolerated or acceptable by any cultural or religious standards. Just because Logan is white/female/attractive/non-Muslim, didn’t make it permissible for Egyptian men to violate her human rights and dignity. The chaos and high emotion at the time plus the locals’ resentment and suspicion of foreigners and journalists all factor into my theory of why the rape took place.
But still, there’s no excuse and no defending what happened to her–it’s wrong, perverted and shameful on all levels. Violence against women in developing countries, like the Middle East and in Africa, and is a huge problem that is still not being addressed sufficiently in foreign policy as well as violence against journalists. The men who did this to Logan are cowards of the first degree.
Now I know the general population doesn’t believe that Muslims or Egyptians are all to blame and that their men are uncivilized brutes who didn’t like her “Western dress,” but for once, I’d like to see people actually think about what they’re saying before accusing a whole religion of permitting the debasement of women as a holy principle. And note that, Logan was saved by the Egyptian people themselves, so obviously what happened to her was not acceptable to them, despite how high the levels of harassment in Egypt are.
The whole idea of Islam legislating a punishment for obeying a certain dress code is completely false and I am eager to understand where that belief came from because if you look all through the Qu’ran, you find no such statement. Same for cartoons–there is nothing in Islam about prophets not being depicted or any kind of punishment related to it, yet we have these trigger-happy extremists in margins of the world who act like they’re following a pillar of faith when some pictures show up. But that’s another topic.
Continuing on the idea of dress code, there is no implication that if someone doesn’t follow the Islamic guidelines of modesty, that the person is looked down upon and deserves to be raped/abused/harassed etc. etc. If the whole point is to dress modestly to not have people judge you by your appearance, then why would we judge someone’s appearance if it wasn’t like ours? If you interpret an innate Muslim contempt for people who don’t dress the same way as them, then you are basing it off of your own philosophical argument and not an Islamic one. Apparently, scholarly knowledge doesn’t hold very well in the real world of debate.
Now that she’s back safe in the United States, I hope Logan recovers well and will be willing to share her story in the near future to allow the government to hold whoever is responsible accountable for that crime. That’s the biggest part of the problem-there has to be a safe and accepting environment that doesn’t shame a person who has been assaulted, because it is not their fault. We have the same problem in the United States, with double standards in the media and suspicion towards victims of rape of their motivation and credibility and we’re supposed to be the more advanced, progressive country.
The bottom line is we should be able to be furious with this incident without people automatically associating the men behind the assault with the people’s arduous struggle in the Middle East and North Africa for freedom and democracy.
If you’d like to continue having a conversation about Egypt along with the issue of women’s rights, make sure to follow Egyptian columnist, Mona Eltahawy: @monaeltahawy.