November 04, 2006
Who Let The Cats Out?
I spent the past few days ruminating on a post, part of me wanting to ignore it and frankly bury it in the recesses of my repressed memory pile, another part of me gagging and wanting to spew my last meal. Am afraid the bile won and the balanced pondered upon post is in the bin. There are times when one has enough, when one comes to the realization that the tempered non-agitational reasoned approach to life leaves you out of the idiot pile but also robs you of your rage. It’s not Neanderthal or ignorant to be angry and I am, fucking seriously outraged, and I will not look for underlying causes or phenomenal precedents. Scum the lot of them.
Having lived in Cairo and gone through the obscenities of being a Cairene female, this spontaneous explosion, albeit horrifying, is sadly not a surprise to me. Aside from the graphic expletives uttered by men in the street there was always the threat of being groped, felt up or even bundled away into a car. Routinely young females at my college would stumble into campus effervescent with rage and choked with tears. One of my teachers disappeared one week to return looking haggard and drawn seven days later telling a gruesome story about being attacked in a traditional souk. Don’t give me any rot about ‘Western’ women or women dressed in an immodest manner. And I dare, nay challenge any female who has visited Egypt or lived in Egypt to tell me this is an isolated phenomenon in Cairo. Sorry mates, I realize this is ‘Aqoul and reasonableness is above righteousness but give me a fucking break.
Eid is a particularly bad time in Cairo, most traditional inner city neighborhoods are transformed during Ramadan where Tarawih takes up most of the evening and most are fasting during the day and abstaining from thoughts of the flesh (such a sad state of affairs when a holy month is needed to elevate pond life from sub-zero existence to what should be a normal state of affairs). From Global Voices:
"Such behavior is witnessed every Eid but the difference this time is the concentration of the attacks which went over board. You should not think that it has resulted from a sudden deterioration in the morals of the righteous youth; it just increases year after year. According to a psychology student in Egypt, statistics show that the largest number of people who type the word sex in Google search engines comes from Pakistan, followed by Egypt, then Iran and finally Morocco,” she said.
One can’t mince words here, the situation is seriously grave. It is one thing for a city to have a reputation for being culturally predisposed to dehumanising women in the street, that could almost pass as endearing, like how Italian men entreat you to have their babies when you’re buying ice cream. I remember trying to think that I was being paranoid and that they never meant any harm, until even security guards and police officers started doing it. The degree of profanity is what is phenomenal. Young boys of seven or eight selling flowers or tissue packets in the street threaten to eat your genitals when you don’t indulge them. This is indigenous, endemic and entrenched and saying so does not make me anti-Egyptian or a Westernised outsider condescendingly and without comprehension frowning upon the acts and habits of the natives. I’m just calling it like I see it.
The delicious irony is how close to the whole meat/cat fiasco this is all happening. Just in case Al-Hilali needed any more evidence to refute his assertions:
“The gathering wasn’t easy to break. Suddenly, they turned their attention to two girls wearing the Gulf Arab cloak (abaya) walking down the street. A number of boys tried hugging the girls and taking off their head scarves. They also tried undoing their robes (abaya). There were even children aged 10 and 11 years trying to get under the abayas. Once again, a number of shop keepers intervened and splashed water on the boys and pulled the girls into the safety of their shops”
Seems cats can sniff out even covered meat. There is no way anyone can accept any mitigating or justifying circumstances.
“What happened was that a few films were being opened among them a film by the dancer Dunia and the singer Saad Al Sagheer. Dunia was dancing and Saad was singing so a lot of people gathered. In such situations it is difficult to maintain control. I am not making up excuses for what had happened, which was the action of a few and shouldn’t be exaggerated to include everyone in this dangerous fashion. Speaking about massive sexual harassment has created panic among the people and caused more harm than benefit.”
Excuse me? If it was the action of one I would still be pretty outraged. Girls should fucking panic. Or shall we tell them oh it’s only a few guys who would possibly rip off your clothes in broad daylight, you know, it’s downtown Cairo, chill out and have a sheesha. It is this lack of outrage and a blasé normalisation of the sickness that has helped it progress unchallenged or treated for so long. This Al-Jazeera article quotes sources that attribute this behavior to sex scenes in movies that most of the youths had attended the infiltration of Western influences through the media in terms of female dress and the availability of porn online. Are these influences restricted to Egyptian society? Is it the only Arab or Muslim country where the cost of marriage has become prohibitive or where pre-marital sex is frowned upon?
I am not dim or deluded enough to claim that in individual cases the onus may not be entirely upon the agressor but when there is a mass, consistent, recurring and undiscriminating attack I’m afraid some World Bank pamphlet breaking down of contributing factors is not fair, and it’s not enough. No race of people is born naturally perverted or inherently so sociopathic but why does this continue to happen? I'm tired of hypothesising. Am hanging up my political science hat for today and hijacking 'Aqoul for my own personal devices. Scum, the lot of them.
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couldn't agree more.
and i do find it almost ironic that just a few days after shaykh hilali echoed what by now, sadly, has become a mainstream attitude in the mideast/neo-islamic world when he claimed that uncovered women are "asking for it" & hence covered women are safe.
i hadn't known that cairo was/is THAT bad. so far, the worst city in the region used to be aleppo.
and shifting the blame on "western influence" was to be expected. IF ONLY "western influence" WOULD be so pervasive, so impossible to countermand, so capable of undermining local social behavior - then such notions as "women's rights/equality/etc." would be ubiquitous in the mideast.
Posted by: raf* at November 4, 2006 05:44 PM
so how is the Egyptian media playing this, given they can't ignore it? outrage or excuses?
The Egyptian media caught on after bloggers highlighted it, Al Ahram, a prominent Egyptian newspaper came out and confirmed the events did happen and criticised the government's position to turn a blind eye to the events.
More here http://malek-x.net/node/268
Mostly in Arabic but am sure Meph or myself can do a quick trans soon.
Posted by: Bint ash-shaitan at November 4, 2006 06:43 PM
btw Bint, you're a great writer, and I don't know where you got the idea anger doesn't belong on 'Aqoul. Lounsbury's trollbashing is the stuff of legend. And I'd love him to lift the veil, teehee, on why he hates Cairo so much.
Unsatisfied cocks turn men into hateful pigs. A quick one and we're alright really, for a while.
For some reason all these recent events remind me of misogyny in Japan, where groping and fondling is so commonplace women have been given their own train carriages. In Japanese porn, the woman always looks away and sounds like she's in pain during the sex (Frank: Don't you fucking look at me!). Sadistic hentai that men read on the train to and from work.
Posted by: Klaus at November 4, 2006 07:08 PM
Here's the flyer that is going around now calling for a demo about this. Feel free to use it as you wish.
Posted by: praktike at November 4, 2006 07:48 PM
btw Bint, you're a great writer, and I don't know where you got the idea anger doesn't belong on 'Aqoul.
Probably stems from my tendency to be so clinical about everything. I spent the week thinking about how domestic violence came to be addressed as a social/legal issue in Europe/N. America and what factors are missing in places like Egypt, India, sub-Saharan Africa, etc (there is a disconcerting universality that ordinary Muslim-bashers will miss in their zeal to blame Islam). Wonkery at its best.
Anyway, I really wanted to read a bint rant, and she seemed about ready to explode, so...
Posted by: eerie at November 4, 2006 08:18 PM
Cheers pratkike, re Muslim bashers, have been relatively quiet in relation to this, though I'm not optimistic it will last for long...
Posted by: Bint ash-shaitan at November 5, 2006 08:08 AM
It was mentioned in passing on LGF, but have not checked in a while.
Posted by: eerie at November 5, 2006 10:41 AM
I cannot tell you how much I agree with every word you have said.
There is nothing I'd like to add, rendering this comment absolutely pointless.
Anyway, good job!
Posted by: ubergirl87 at November 5, 2006 10:59 AM
this brings a very strange night in Le Kef, Tunisia more into focus. hundreds of men milling about and me doing bodyguard work for a couple of moronic American women. those hungry eyes... they're so unnerving.
great piece as always, Bint.
Via Sandmonkey (who's been ranting a fair amount about this himself), an interview with an Egyptian rapist on death row. Basically, he presents the cat-meat argument in even blunter terms.
(Three guesses where it's from)
Posted by: eerie at November 5, 2006 02:05 PM
YouTube is blocked in Saudi! Unfuckingbelievable. If she was condescending and creepy am guessing Iqra?
Posted by: Bint ash-shaitan at November 5, 2006 02:36 PM
Can you use Tor? http://tor.eff.org/
Would that unblock it? (Bear with me, I am only a tad better than L when it comes to techy stuff)
Posted by: Bint ash-shaitan at November 5, 2006 03:09 PM
it would reroute all of your traffic through third party anonymous servers so no one could tell what you were looking at online nor could they block it
Unless the tor directory servers are blocked...
Posted by: eerie at November 5, 2006 04:43 PM
Why on earth do I not know about this?! To think of all the porn sites I missed out on over the years
Posted by: Bint at November 5, 2006 04:43 PM
that'd be a whole bunch of tor servers to block. the tor project is really starting to take off.
if that doesn't work, there's always conning someone with a VPN in a non-filtered country into giving you an account.
English please E, and WAS it Iqra? I hate feeling so left out!
Posted by: Bint at November 5, 2006 04:45 PM
There is the matter of the Saudi gov proxy as well.
Other options include dialing out to another country, using satellite internet or VPN.
I seem to recall a mirror version of YouTube being unblocked in UAE, perhaps its the same in KSA. Trying to think of the URL, maybe secretdubai knows.
Posted by: eerie at November 5, 2006 04:47 PM
How queer, Dubai TV, that's unexpected.
Posted by: Bint at November 5, 2006 04:48 PM
There are only a few directory servers, afaik. Without access to those, it's much harder to get a list.
Posted by: eerie at November 5, 2006 04:49 PM
Even more bizzarely, MEMRI isn't blocked
Posted by: Bint at November 5, 2006 04:52 PM
Really? Go look for it there, the translation was provided by MEMRITV.
BTW DrDoug, love the geektalk.
Posted by: eerie at November 5, 2006 05:04 PM
Got it. You two get a room.
Posted by: Bint at November 5, 2006 05:07 PM
Wonder if this is an excerpt or the full clip, I know it makes no difference but I come out in a rash when I see excerpts of shows or transcripts from MEMRI and not the full clip.
Posted by: Meph at November 5, 2006 05:24 PM
E: talk nerdy to me
Bint: did Tor work for you? If you need some assistance walking through the setup process, such things can be arranged.
Of course, such incidents have been known to be exploited for bigotry pornography elsewhere.
Posted by: matthew hogan at November 5, 2006 07:08 PM
excellent piece ya bint. i was disgusted when i first heard of this; you have every right to be angry about this ...
Posted by: lazarus at November 5, 2006 07:22 PM
Think I may need my hand held doug, only in a manner of speaking of course E.
Posted by: Bint at November 5, 2006 07:25 PM
Shoot me an email at drdougfir [at] gmail [dot] com and I'll walk you through it. I probably won't get to it for another six or seven hours. Must finish up these reports first.
As for Western corruption being the cause of that outrageous event, I am not impressed by that argument. I suppose that Morocco is much more exposed to that cultural influence than Egypt, if for no other reason only because French is so widely spread here, but I've never heard of anything like this kind of sexist pogrom. Of course, this in no way implies that chivalry and respect are universal norms here, but what happened in Egypt is clearly beyond the pale.
I know this won't endear me with liberals, but I suppose that kind of behavior really makes a case for reintroducing flogging - every Thursday, round my place, to quote from Monty Python's Flying Circus...
Posted by: Ibn Kafka at November 5, 2006 08:23 PM
Bint: rather than me reinventing the wheel, just go here and follow the directions: http://tor.eff.org/docs/tor-doc-win32.html.en
This interview is definitely edited (ie not a continuous flow) but whether by Memri or by the TV station is hard to say.
Can any Arab speakers please comment on the accuracy of translation? Particularly the phrase "little girl" - which I would be surprised the interviewer didn't pick him up on, were it not for the fact that I suspect he actually said something closer to the meaning of "young woman"/"young girl" meaning an unmarried young female, not an actual child. I could be wrong.
Posted by: secretdubai at November 6, 2006 08:14 AM
in 0:38-0:40 he is clearly referring to a little girl, as he says "bint" (girl, daughter) and indicates with his hand that he means a little (i.e. short of physical stature) girl.
in 1:38-1:40 the journalist uses the term "sitt", meaning something like "woman, lady".
throughout the rest of the interview the words used to refer to the raped woman or any other female are "she", "her", "one like her", etc. arabic is different from english in that one can make an adjective - like "modest" - into a gendered one, i.e. "a female modest one".
back on the "little girl" issue, what he said was that even if a young/little girl was wearing a skirt so short as the one worn by the woman he'd raped (btw, it's never said what age that woman was) then any many would not be able to control himself.
from the exceprt of the interview given it seems clear that the interviewer wanted to portray the fact that he was/is NOT a pious muslim (he never prayed) and that, yet, he can find god's forgiveness if only he starts praying.
btw, maybe the devil's daughter can add to this, to me that female journalist sounds like she has a heavy egyptian accent. certainly she comes across as egyptian, with body language and demeanor.
cheerio & all that,
Posted by: raf* at November 6, 2006 09:37 AM
'Nuff Respect for having the courage to confront those of us who are complacent, tolerant, in denial, and turn a blind eye to our responsibility in the sickness of the Muslim and MENA communities. For too long I've tolerated, in turn cosigned sick comments about Jews, Women,Gays,Christians,the justification of terrorism, etc. out of fear of rejection by the Muslim community, as if it were some type of fraternity. May I have the courage to stand up to it. Inshallah
Posted by: Gabriel Hernandez at November 6, 2006 10:09 AM
Just for clarification of my above comment. By fraternity I meant a college fraternity.
Posted by: Gabriel Hernandez at November 6, 2006 10:51 AM
Raf and Secret, got the video but it won't play so afraid I'm going to have to defer to Meph on that one until I get it up and running. I would not be surprised however as Egyptian female presenters have somewhat of a monopoly on religious affairs reporting certainly on Al-Risala and Iqra'a and they are often outsourced to other channels. By the way raf, what does Egyptian 'body language' entail?
Posted by: Bint at November 6, 2006 11:42 AM
The only time I was ever the victim of a crime in Egypt was on the 4th day of Eid (a taxi slowly went by me and the guy on the passenger side ripped my necklace off my neck).
Although I wear a scarf and am middle-aged I was once followed nearly all the way home by a young male who would just not stop coming on to me.
I was never actually groped but Cairo is absolutely legendary for this. A woman from our office in Palestine came to Cairo to attend a program and was absolutely appalled that she could nto walk down the Corniche and look at the city without feeling that she was under attack. She compared Cairo to other Middle Eastern cities she'd been in and said this was really unique.
It makes me really mad when Egyptians try to say this is not a big deal. Young Egyptian women who have not traveled think this is normal behavior and a lot of them have very low expectations for how males are supposed to believe. Is this what Egyptian men want?
It's absolutely appalling, and "getting married earlier" and all the other so-called sociological reasons for brute animalistic behavior are not appropriate. Sexually frustrated men can always masturbate. There is no law of nature saying they have to attack women on the damned street.
Posted by: Anna in Portland (was Cairo) at November 6, 2006 01:13 PM
Sorry, "how males are supposed to believe" s/b "behave" (wish I had used the comment preview)
Posted by: Anna in Portland (was Cairo) at November 6, 2006 01:15 PM
Anna: Young Egyptian women who have not traveled think this is normal behavior and a lot of them have very low expectations for how males are supposed to believe
Actually, I think this is key. The studies I came across for Egypt showed that a huge segment women felt that they deserved violence and/or had done something to encourage it (rural background and education/literacy are factors). Similar results have appeared in India as well.
I do think it's important to consider the sociological reasons though, otherwise the moral outrage won't be properly channelled into real policy solutions. Certainly the Egyptian government is absolutely useless in this regard.
Posted by: eerie at November 6, 2006 01:32 PM
So Tor worked for you but you still can't watch the videos? Does it give you any specific error messages (like not having Java Script or not having an up-to-date Flash player)? At the very least, if Tor works, you can now look at pornography and dissident blogs.
By the way raf, what does Egyptian 'body language' entail?
I'm thinking something like The Bangles circa 1985, now can't get that song out of my head, nor can I stop thinking 'She Wore a Yellow Ribbon' whenever I read 'She Wore a Short Dress'.
Incidentally, Clive Davis mentioned a a good word for MEMRI in the comments section.
Anyone care to point it out?
Posted by: Meph at November 6, 2006 04:22 PM
Must have been the "three guesses where it's from." I guess Memri is so regularly criticized on Aqoul that this is seen as a positive mention! (Never mind that I read it as a tongue in cheek reference that essentially means "a negative interview about something in the Muslim world - who else would translate this but Memri?" Oh well.)
Posted by: Anna in Portland (was Cairo) at November 7, 2006 01:06 PM
Indeed, Anna. It was something of a warning.
Posted by: eerie at November 7, 2006 01:15 PM
I bollixed it up Doug but cheers for trying!
Posted by: Bint at November 7, 2006 05:46 PM
next time you're state-side, perhaps some private computer consulting work can be arranged.
Tardily injecting my own reaction.
First, my utter loathing of Cairo stems from long personal experience. However, obviously I was not sexually harassed.
Well, perhaps not so obviously, but let's leave that alone. However, I have to say the alacrity with which Egyptians stare at the perceived foreigner (Khawaga in the ugly dialect of Cairo - well elsewhere as well) was an interesting introduction I have to say to something more or less similar to the unabashed leering of the lumpy bastards at women generally.
There is, generally, I think something deeply unhealthy about Cairo society in general, but I shall have to ponder more to comment further. Dickensian perhaps.
Second, I agree with our Moroccan amigo supra, Ibn Kafka, that this sort of thing is well-nigh unimaginable in a comparable city in the Maghreb. The pretext of Western influence causing this is simply bizarre and typically Egyptian. Rather, I'd call it something associated with the rather nasty vein of truly misogynistic commentary in Egyptian media across the board. At least as I recall reading it when I was living in Egypt. A kind of women are the origin of all sin commentary in advice columns etc that I have never seen in the Maghreb nor do I recall in the Levant (although perhaps I wasn't paying attention).
Egypt is not a healthy society, and I would lay a large dollop of the blame on a grotesquely exploitive government and socio-political system.
Posted by: The Lounsbury at November 10, 2006 01:04 PM