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Sex And The Arab World

Sex and the Arab world. Shereen El Feki takes us from behind the Saudi veil to the rough streets of Cairo.

Two veiled women look at the scantily dressed woman featured in a clothing store billboard in Beirut, Lebanon, Aug. 10, 2004. (AP)

Two veiled women look at the scantily dressed woman featured in a clothing store billboard in Beirut, Lebanon, Aug. 10, 2004. (AP)

The Arab Spring may be sputtering.  They’re still in the streets of Cairo, but lately it’s been for sectarian standoffs and, too often, the abuse in the streets of women. Sexual abuse.

Pay attention to that realm, says Shereen El Feki. The realm of sex and power. Michel Foucault described sexuality as a “dense transfer point for relations of power,” El Feki reminds us. And it’s as true in the Arab world as anywhere else. But often less seen.

In her new book, “Sex and the Citadel,” Shereen El Feki puts it right up front.

This hour, On Point: sex and society – power – in the Arab world.

-Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Shereen El Feki, author of “Sex and the Citadel: Intimate Life in a Changing Arab World.” (@shereenelfeki)

From Tom’s Reading List

The New York Times “Ms. El Feki, who is of both Welsh and Egyptian descent, became drawn to her book’s subject matter while serving as vice chairwoman of the United Nations’ Global Commission on H.I.V. and the Law. She was knowledgeable and curious about sexuality, but how hard would she rock the casbah?”

The Economist “The Arab world today is widely criticised for its sexual intolerance. Women hide their charms under dark billows of fabric; girls have their genitals mutilated by elders determined to keep their desires in check; gay men are arrested and then raped by their jailers. Once upon a time things were different. The Prophet Muhammad urged his followers to satisfy their partners in the bedroom.”

Excerpt: ‘Sex And The Citadel’ by Shereen El Feki

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  • anon

    I’ll reserve my judgment until I’ve heard the interview, but I’ve read another interview with the author (and the excerpt from her book), and as a Muslim woman living in the Arab world (not in Egypt), I was not impressed. “If you really want to know a people, start by looking in their bedrooms?” Please…

    In the other interview I read, most of the discussion centered on female circumcision. It should be pointed out that this is an African – not an Arab – custom. Since it is not practiced in Arab countries outside of North Africa, it is irrelevant to the sexual lives of most Arab women.

    Ms. El-Feki is an outsider (notwithstanding her Egyptian father), writing for outsiders. And those outsiders seem to be fascinated with the sexuality of Arab women…

  • albert Sordi

    A bit of a tangent on the topic, but I’d like to point out the correlation of the dramatic increase of females in the US
    military, with the US invasion of the sexually restricted muslim world.

    There is always the usual noble facade on every aspect of American culture: such as free markets, patriotism, democracy, gender equality…etc..  But there is always a more sordid reality. 

    Since it was certainly anticipated that women in muslim countries would not provide companionship and entertainment to US soldiers, as in other previous occupied
    countries like Vietnam, it is obvious to me that increased military enlistment of US women was as planned a strategy as was the neocon PNAC (Project for a New American Century) which used 911 as a way to destabilize a string of ME countries which is now still in play in Syria.

    The morale of US male soldiers (those that do the real killing) is greatly enhanced with the presence of women… even those in uniforms.
    But not to discount the sincere intentions, commitment, valid contributions and skill levels of women soldiers, I do
    contend that the unofficial MOS of female recruits is the release of pheromones and  eye candy.

    Although Asian and Eastern European women are regularly flown into Iraq and Afghanistan, this still hasn’t
    stopped the epidemic of sexual assaults on US female soldiers.

    • Gary Trees

      So…

      What you’re saying is that you believe, in a roundabout way, that the reason that we have more female soldiers in the US military, is for the male soldiers to sexually assault them? Really?!

      It could always be that the levels of enlistment in the miltary have fallen off greatly over the past 60 years and that combat is becoming more and more an engagment done from a chair instead of a bunker.  Or that our country is starting to see gender as a non-starter for just about any occupation…

      but no, no.  You’re probably right.  I’ll show myself out.

    • 1Brett1

      Is it just a coincidence that a visiter here is “alsordi”? Or (and I noticed this with all of your other comments in the past week) are you just creating another persona to “like” your own comments?

      • alsordi

        yes

    • anon

      I’m not sure that I ever made such a direct correlation, but that has crossed my mind, too. I was in the military many years ago, and women were routinely harassed. It seems like it hasn’t gotten much better in all that time… and in places like Iraq or Afghanistan, men don’t have easy access to women as they did in the Philippines, for example. When soldiers get some R&R in Kuwait, they mostly party with other military men and women.

  • J__o__h__n

    It is obviously the women’s fault that barbaric men can’t control themselves.  More burqas!

  • Ellen Dibble

    Does Shereen El Feki compare Egypt to other parts of the Arab world, of the Muslim world?  It seems to me women are trying to organize in opposition, maybe in England, but I’m not sure how to track that, where it is international.

        I missed some of this hour earlier, and may miss the end, so I hope the book helps.  

    • BryWal

      I never listen to the show while it’s happening.  I log onto http://onpoint.wbur.org to listen after it has aired.  You can listen to the whole show anytime you like this way.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1408098372 Mari McAvenia

    Not to minimize the plight of Muslim women in Egypt, I have generally observed that where there are mobs of angry men there is violence. Introduce women to a mob of angry men & there is sexual violence. This is to be found everywhere in the world, to greater or lesser degrees.

    • BryWal

      An exception to this pattern were the lynchings of African Americans in the south.  One can find old photos from the 1930′s of white mobs around the base of a tree with “strange fruit” hanging.  The white mobs have grannies and babies. . . . horrible. 
      Mostly violent mobs consist of young men, truly mostly, but not always.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1408098372 Mari McAvenia

        Black women were frequently raped by similar gangs of rogue white males. More often, their own kin & neighbors raped them, too. It wasn’t much fun to be a Black girl in the American South anymore than it was to be a young Black male. Read some Maya Angelou sometime. 

  • Gregg Smith

    Well we know from Achmadinijad there is no gay sex in Iran because there are no gays.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1408098372 Mari McAvenia

      Interesting remark & oddly enough, one that was reinforced by my old Womens Studies professor ( a Nigerian Muslim woman) who swore that there are no lesbians in Africa, either. I disagreed with her, quite vocally, and received a B+ instead of an A for the course.

      • Gregg Smith

        You were robbed!

    • J__o__h__n

      Iran has an interesting policy on transgendered people:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transsexuality_in_Iran

    • Ray in VT

      They probably rounded them up, fenced them off and let nature take it’s course, thereby allowing the whole population to die out, never to be replenished again.

  • Ellen Dibble

    What is the ratio of educated women to educated men in various parts of the Arab world?  Just scanning around Facebook, there seem to be many, many young professional women, with thousands and thousands of “friends” stretching across the Muslim world.  These young women obviously have the kind of influence that their ambition and success affords them, and a willingness to reach out quite broadly.  

         I  have to wonder what women like myself who are in a far more liberated society might do to help.

    • anon

      In most Middle Eastern countries (including Saudi Arabia), there are more women attending universities than there are men. In at least some countries, more women than men hold advanced degrees, too.

      But Ellen, while I assume that you have good intentions, the first thing you can do is lose the attitude that you’re better off and that they need you to rescue them…

  • BHA_in_Vermont

    “Can’t find a job, depressed, what do you expect”????

    Given that attitude, I expect castration.

  • Ellen Dibble

    It should really be a shame to the men who abuse women, not to the women.  It dishonors a man who cannot respect women.  In the world I know, the men as well as the women pretty much determine that in public spaces I feel safe.  If someone gets out of line, anyone who notices gives the perpetrator a “look,” and pretty soon all the men in the vicinity are standing at the ready to stop the misbehavior.  Women too.  We know when to draw the line.  

         Once out of public view, things happen, and women have to defend themselves, on buses, on streets where no one else happens to be there, that sort of thing.  But there is broad agreement that certain things we don’t let it happen.

    • glenn keefer-mcgee

      A “look”?  Only if that “look” is given standing right in front of the offender.  If you see a guy trying to overpower a woman, you move in.  When I saw one of the privileged sons of Boston grabbing his obviously scared girlfriend at a park, I asked one of the grandmothers to watch my boy to go confront the kid.  That’s what you do.  No “looks” unless you are ready to break the guy “Ender’s Game” style.

      • Ellen Dibble

        I think it’s a cultural thing.  A guy who knows he’s been noticed, will behave himself, or reframe what he’s doing.  I can’t  even imagine what being out in public would be like without this sense of social “brakes” on all sides.  In India, I’ve seen a video where a woman is defending herself, and about 40 nearby men just look on.  The comment is good for the woman, that’s how women should defend themselves.  Here, all those men would be closing in, not backing up to admire the fight.  That’s where I live.

        • glenn keefer-mcgee

          Not if he’s protected and entitled enough.  He’ll keep on doing what he is doing until he is called out by more than an admonishing look.  Confrontation is the best way to deal with this.

  • politicalsci

    How are boys being raised, with so much indoctrinated disrespect for women?  Upbringing is a huge factor, and mothers are equally guilty as fathers.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1408098372 Mari McAvenia

      No name, I see. Blame the mother, equally, eh? That’s the same old song & dance guys have always used to excuse bad men for bad behavior. It’s B.S.

      • politicalsci

        Personally witnessed it in many parts of the world… mothers treating daughters as “2nd class” while sons are treated like kings; daughters even eat less than sons, this is well documented.

        • politicalsci

          In many patriarchal cultures women help perpetuate the patriarchy by raising boys with such sense of self-importance over daughters.  Girls are brought up to “serve” boys.  I’ve seen it, even lived it.  The speaker in the program mentions it too.

          • glenn keefer-mcgee

            So yeah.  Women raised to be second class citizens raise their daughters to carry on the current ideal.  There are women/homosexuals/african americans/latinos in the republican party, too.  Do you see the connection?

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1408098372 Mari McAvenia

            I see the connection but it’s not universal. I was raised to be proficient at the womanly arts ( housekeeping, child-rearing, cooking, etc.) but encouraged my own daughter to follow her heart & mind as a natural scholar. When she grew angry at me, while a teen, she threw out this line: “I DON’T want to end up like YOU!” To which I replied, “Good! Don’t.” That’s how big changes start. One daughter at a time.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1408098372 Mari McAvenia

            Disempowered & systematically abused women have little choice but to raise their children as directed by the dominant males at the top of their societies. It would be “nice” to believe that all women are free to raise their children as they please but we know that this is not true. Equally not true even here in “free” America.

          • politicalsci

            Yes true, but it goes beyond that, it becomes a psychological reality in certain cultural contexts: in other words, women begin to believe that they are actually inferior to men, hence the need to carry on that mentality and belief to their daughters.  Again, seen it and heard it over and over again.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1408098372 Mari McAvenia

            Well, that lesson didn’t sink in with me & not for a lack of early psychological training. The greatest lesson I’ve learned about society & gender is “If you can’t be their equal then avoid ‘em at all costs.”  I practice this in daily life & it works just fine for me. Your experience may vary. 

    • anon

      Indoctrinated disrespect for women? Have you ever seen how Arab/Muslim men treat their mothers?

  • glenn keefer-mcgee

    NSFW – F me in the A*# Because I love Jesus.  I think it applies to the Muslim world too.

    Don’t click if you can’t take it.  I warned you.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zQ36S3d1CaU

  • Louise212

    how can we navigate cultural relativism when it comes to what is happening in the arab world? how can feminists in america aid women in the middle east without offending islamic culture?

    • anon

      I would suggest that you worry about women in America and leave the rest of us alone. Or get some accurate information about how women live in other parts of the world, and then go help the women whose lives are much worse than those of Arab women.

  • glenn keefer-mcgee

    Man, the is a proponent of vigilantism, and in this case, I agree. And it doesn’t even have to be fathers uncles and brothers.  If you see this sort of thing on the street, you ask a woman to hold your glasses and get in there with overwhelming force.

  • debhulbh

    We are trying to understand a culture who kill their own daughters- ‘honor killing’- how can we possibly understand the psyche of a people who would kill their own children?

    See Banaz…a love story…(murdered by her own father and uncles)..
    In this case the family had no interest whatsoever in the investigation. Even after the fact… It was/is an absolute outrage that this girl was missing and nobody cared. Murdered and her family…well it is mind boggling…
    How can we try to even begin to understand this mentality…? 

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=520953059 Nadia Al-Absy

      I don’t think its fair to turn this into an “us versus them” mentality. There are a lot of arabs fighting against honor killings too. 

      • debhulbh

        Thats wonderful…can you cite examples for me? and where I can find evidence of same, names of organizations etc. tku

      • Kathryn Postema

        I’m very curious about this too. Are there the equivalent of “battered women shelters” in the middle east to help these women who are at risk?

    • anon

      I don’t know where you live, but if you happen to be American, you should look at the statistics on violence against women in your own country. An average of three women a day are murdered by current or former husbands or partners. Often it’s because the woman left or has a new partner; if their names sounded Muslim, these would be called honor killings. I live in an Arab country, and it is much safer than the US. So should I ask how anyone could understand your mentality?

      • debhulbh

        Yes, of course murders and violence against women occurs in the US and I vehemently condem it. However these cannot be described as honor killings where tacit approval is given by the silence of the family or the extneded family or community. In the USA justice can be sought in the court for the victims and it is usually sought by the family for the victim. There is a world of difference. Any society, be it in America , the middle east or any part of the world, which tolerates or condones violence against women should be unequivocally condemned. Citing cultural differences as an excuse for such violence is also unacceptable.

  • creaker

    not the Arab world – but I thought this was pretty crazy – 6 months in prison in NC for a nipple slip:

    http://now.msn.com/rayne-brown-gop-lawmaker-in-north-carolina-wants-to-make-exposing-a-nipple-a-felony

    • glenn keefer-mcgee

      NC is pretty close to the same ideals accoding to womens rights.

      • Ray in VT

        There is some kooky stuff going on down there these days, but at least I guess that they aren’t going to pass the law that says that they can establish a state religion.

  • J__o__h__n

    “grope” was probably the wrong word.

    • glenn keefer-mcgee

      I think it was probably the perfect word, J_o_h_n.

  • Scott B

    This is “male entitlement syndrome” and twisted theocracy,  not to mention ignorance.

  • JBK007

    2 quick points:

    1) rape and mob sexual assault is different from sex via love or desire – it is the ongoing subjugation of women in fundamentalist and paternalistic societies (see this occuring in India as well – so not necessarily an Arab or Muslim phenomenon).

    2) to the mother who called about the safety of her daughter traveling to Egypt – the key point, not mentioned in the reply, is to respect local culture as far as the appropriate clothes to wear etc..  And yes, keep her wits about her…..

  • Ellen Dibble

    Shereen is talking about sex as an instrument of control, in creating a submissiveness to a nation/culture/society.  She speaks of sexual torture, rather than pleasure.  Hmm.  I think any kind of torture could create the same kind of rule by terror.  Sex as a way of defining oneself and creating deep bonds — and connecting that to pleasure — hard to understand how the patriarchy can do that without diminishing returns, so to speak.  After a while, the pleasure principle gets diminished by being forcefully attached to things the woman doesn’t want at all, concession upon concession.  Until at last, the woman considers herself as neutered as a torture victim, beyond pleasure, and the patriarchy is toothless.  Here’s to the women over whatever age that is.  They transcend it all.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/David-Fechter/100001457278019 David Fechter

    Ask Shereen what percentage of girls have “female circumcision”?????????????
    (90%+ ……………. this is horrific!!!!)

    • BryWal

      The first I learned of “female circumcision” (clitirodectomy would be more precise, I should think) was by reading Gyn/ecology by Mary Daly; a very painful book and difficult to read.  It came out in the late 1970′s.  It brought this issue out of the closet, but only to a small percentage of readers.  A decade or so later Nawal el Sadawi came out with “The Other Face of Eve; the Arabic Woman”.  Slowly, slowly, this issue has come to world wide public attention.  Sadawi was the Egyptian Minister of Health under Abdul Nassar (was he a feminist? I guess so. . . )  She was also a medical doctor; unusual for an Egyptian woman now and even more unusual back then.  The opening chapter of her book recounts her own clitirodectomy at age 6; a terrifying and excruciating experience.  She and her 4 year old sister, all unprepared, were awoken and dragged out of bed in the middle of the night and subjected to this by a cluster of aunts and adult female cousins.  At first Sadawi thought she was being kidnapped; until she recognized her relatives.  (It is common place for patriarchal female mutilation to be carried out upon girls by older female relatives.  This applies to the foot binding of pre-communist China and the rib-cracking girdles of the 1900′s in middle class USA.  There are lots of examples that fit this cultural pattern, but two are sufficient.)  It has taken a long time; more than 40 years, for this to become public and open to discussion.  Your shock is understandable.  I was shocked when I first read Mary Daly’s book 40 years ago.

      The shock is healthy.  It is a shock from a loss of innocense.  I do believe that people are basically good inside, and that human “evil” is a product of each generation passing its wounds onto the next generation.   The shock comes from expecting better of people and being so dissappointed.  Slowly, slowly we grow.  The growth in human culture takes time.
      Consider this paradox.  The individual parents who arrange clitoridectomies for their daughters love their daughters very, very much.  Sadawi’s book reveals this. Mary Daly’s tone is that of rage.  She’s not part of that culture.  Sadawi soothes.  “Now it is not medically healthy to do this to our girls.  Really it’s not.  I’m a doctor; I know.”  Of course that’s not verbatim; but it is the gist.  Mary Daly’s rage made me uncomfortable, and that it would be so wide spread was such a shock to me, I discounted that book as being untrue.  A decade later, Sadawi’s tone was so matter of fact, and she went through it herself, that I realized everything I had read in Daly’s book was true . . . .

      Don’t lose hope.  Take the big view.  Once beating children was commonplace in our culture.  “Spare the rod spoil the child,” used to be a saying, a cliche.  So many people got beaten during childhood that everyone thought it was normal.  (Go to Alice Miller’s work to corroborate this.  She was a Swiss (? I think) shrink.)  True bullshit, but society didn’t know better.  It took a few generations for the idea that beating kids was child abuse to come out of the closet, gain widespread social discussion, to make that saying mostly disappear.  This doesn’t mean violence towards children has completely stopped, but it has lessened, a lot, and child abuse has come to be seen as dysfunctional behavior all around; wounding for the perpetrators and wounding for the victims.
      Treasure and cultivate your innocense.  Shock  may hurt but cynicsm makes no room for healing.

      • TomAshbrookSucks

        DUDE,DUDA ARE U STILL OUT OF JOB.
        OY VAY

    • anon

      But just to be clear, that is in Egypt (among Muslims AND Christians) – not across the Arab world.

    • TomAshbrookSucks

      JUST WATCH THE DESPERATE HOUSE WIVES
      DRAMA AND SHUT UP YOU SHALLOW DOUCH BAG

  • ribonucleic_ray

    Questions for the Author:  Are there notable differences between Sunni and Shia communities?  What about non-Muslim arabs such as Coptic Christians?  Do these finding apply at all to non-arab middle eastern Muslim communities such Iran and Turkery?

    • glenn keefer-mcgee

      This is a good question.  I’d like to know this, too.  Pretty nuanced.

    • anon

      If you read up on Coptic Christians, you will find that it’s not exactly a ‘liberal’ religion. For one thing, there is no divorce, which is why Coptic women sometimes convert to Islam (where divorce is allowed) to escape miserable marriages. (And then their families claim that they were kidnapped and forced to convert…)

    • TomAshbrookSucks

      THATS DUMBEST Question. you are another SHALLOW
      DOUCHBAG OY VAY

  • http://twitter.com/hillels hillels

    What about sexual relations between Muslim men and non Muslim women and vice versa?  

  • Judy Steffel

    The idea that “husbands,fathers, brothers, uncles, sons” should be the ones to avenge – or protect – the women in their families is just another aspect of patriarchy.  It continues to perpetuate the belief that the men in the family own the women and have a strong vested interest in the perceived value of “their” women.  The word “rape” means “a taking” and was originally intended to describe the “theft” of a woman’s value/honor from the men in her family.

    Read “Against Our Will:  Men, Women, and Rape” by Susan Brownmiller.  It is about 40 years old and still a definitive work.  Political and military use of rape is anything *but* new…

  • Ellen Dibble

    What I can understand about honor killings is that it relates to a family’s power/wealth.  A family that is well organized and well controlled will not have a daughter who falls between the cracks like that.  She will always be accompanied by protectors, if not immediate family members, then the whole “village” will be always protecting her.  If this fails, it is the failure of the family, and a shame to them.  I do understand that.  But it is pretty medieval.  I don’t know many villages, I don’t know many families, that are like that.  It’s hard to imagine.

  • David_from_Lowell

    Tom is shocked by the percent of FGM in Egypt, saying we have no comparison here. What percent of infant boys have parts of their genitalia cut off for religious or inertial reasons in the West?

    • Ellen Dibble

      it seems to me boys would have to lose their testes in order to compare to a woman losing her clitoris.  Maybe the prostate would suffice?

      • David_from_Lowell

        It seems to me we shouldn’t be comparing the importance of which genitalia parts get removed, but rather why we are removing genitalia parts. The guest said we need to raise boys to value women, which is obvious. Maybe we should let those boys themselves choose which parts of their sexual organs they can keep, not their parents. In the same way we all think girls should be allowed to choose to keep their clitorises (clitori?). Further, the sensitivity of the sexual organs of the opposite sex is not something easily judged or valued, or even for other individuals of the same sex.

        • glenn keefer-mcgee

          David, if get this right, you are wrong.  Removing the clitoris removes a great deal of sexual pleasure.  The clitoris is pretty important.  Yes the boys should be raised to value women, but the definition of “value” is important.  Value as a child bearer and rearer?  Or as an equal in society with rights as a free enfranchised person? One lets you arbitrarily cut off her clitoris, the other means she gets to choose.  Or own property.  And Drive. 

          • David_from_Lowell

            Clearly women should have the same rights of property and enfranchisement and driving as men. And clearly if I had to choose which unnecessary and unconsenting form of “surgery” to undergo, it would be to remove the clitoral hood or foreskin, rather than the clitoris itself or the male glans itself. But what an absurd and diverting debate, which parts of your genitals you would rather have removed without your consent. The comparison I was trying to draw is that through thoughtless inertia, both practices continue. One is obviously more extreme, but if you want to consider why the more extreme one endures, consider why we ourselves allow the less extreme one to endure here in the West.

      • glenn keefer-mcgee

        If I remember physical anthropology correctly, boys would have to lose their penis, not their testes, in order to compare to the loss of the clitoris.  Boy were losing their testes for generations throughout the middle east.

        • 1Brett1

          This would indeed be a more accurate comparison. During the age of the castrati for the purposes of preserving boys’ voices for the higher-ranged, traditionally-male roles found in opera before the 20th century, many boys were castrated (in Italy in particular). This process or removing the testes doesn’t interfere with orgasm as does the mutilation of the clitoris. 

      • J__o__h__n

        No one of either gender should have their body mutilated until they are 18 and can choose for themselves.  Female circumcision is more extreme but comparing them is as valueless as most comparisons of who suffered more instead of addressing the suffering. 

    • myblusky

      Circumcision, declawing cats, docking the tails of dogs….Can humans just stop cutting the parts off other beings?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/David-Fechter/100001457278019 David Fechter
  • creaker

    Sexual repression is a standard tool of control for religions and governments. And much more so if the government is doing it through religion.

  • Wahoo_wa

    “Groping” to a democratic state…LOL  What an unfortunate phrase!

  • 65noname

    what’s wrong with this guy and his guests?  First, the guest presents a horrific picture of the acts of sexual terrorism that is happening across the board to women, espically non-traditional women, in Egypt, describing an egypt where women are being assaulted as a matter of course simply for being women, not to mention what happens to a women who dares to dress untraditionally or who dares to be politically active, or who dares to even date.  Then someone calls in and asks whether she should be worried about her college student amerikan daughter’s upcoming trip to egypt. 

    The so-called expert says, sure, it’ll be alright because there really isn’t very much sexual assault going on and that most egyptians will be really glad to see her.  It seems that the so-called expert is unwilling to actually  be critical of egypt.  And then, demonstrating the height of spouting nonesense in tthe guise of ”expertise”, the guest says that the caller’s daughter will be safe because the guest is sure that the daughter is a very sensible person.

    HUH?  How can the guest know anything about someone will act or behave in egypt when she has never met, never spoken to the person, with the only thing that is known about her is that she is a college student.

    At long last, doesn’t this program have any sense of decency?

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/David-Fechter/100001457278019 David Fechter

      DO not send your daughters to Egypt!!!!!

      • TomAshbrookSucks

        u. jew bastard they could get laid there
        without VIAGRA OV VAY U. SCHMUCK

        • http://www.facebook.com/fkjuliano Fabio Juliano

          You are a paragon of Muslim intellect and kindness. Alhamdulillah!

    • http://twitter.com/e_iannuzzi Evan Iannuzzi

      I was thinking the same exact thing on my drive into work…I do, however, really appreciate Tom Ashbrook’s shows.  I think this was the exception and not the rule with his guests.  In my opinion, she still has a very strong tie to Egypt, that tie means strong family ties which translate into not belittling your culture or country.  Sexual abuse is a symptom, not the core issue, to this Arab way of thinking.

    • BryWal

      Any woman anywhere faces rape anytime.  The danger is never completely absent.  How much danger is just a matter of degree.  These are the unspoken dynamics underneath what you experienced as cognitive dissonance in the discussion.  (I don’t understand what you mean by “decency”.  Never mind.  Some vocabulary is very personal, and I don’t want to expound on that choice of words.  You are afraid for the daughter’s safety.  That is very kind of you.  Her mother shares that fear, and that’s why she called.)
      You can’t let the possibility of danger always stop you from doing what you want.  If you carry that to an extreme noone would ever leave their home.
      The daughter of the caller will be on a tour with a professor who knows Egyptian society.  Someone from her university.  She won’t experience Egypt as an Egyptian woman participating in a demonstration (unless she stumbles on one) or as a young Egyptian woman who wants to date and has to contend with an Egyptian father and brothers after.  If the daughter was an irresponsible young woman the mother would have put her foot down beforehand.  A few snippets of the mother’s choice of words revealed the mother respects her daughter’s capacities.
      The degree of danger was exactly what the mother was asking about.  The expert had just the expertise the mother sought.  The risks for her daughter will be far, far less than the risks for an Egyptian woman who decides to be a political activist.

      A mirror experience for a man would be the desire to explore, for the first time, a big city that has very, very dangerous areas.  If he found someone who could show him the ropes, and there were things in that city he really wanted to see, he could navigate around the dangers with much, much less risk to himself than the danger experienced by those who live in those areas.

      I found their exchange on this topic of the degree of danger for the daughter completely understandable.

    • anon

      She exaggerated the danger in the first place, which is why she felt perfectly comfortable telling the woman to send her daughter to Cairo.

  • jlapidus

    I just came across this: Iraqi woman recruited army of female suicide bombers by having them raped… then told them martyrdom was only way to escape shame http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1134976/Iraqi-woman-recruited-army-female-suicide-bombers-having-raped–told-martyrdom-way-escape-shame.html

  • Julie Christensen

    Thank you for this show.  It’s jarring to hear this topic revisited so soon after your show on the Stubenville.  The rapes in Ohio are an important reminder that our country also has a problem with men who think it’s okay to sexually assault women. 

    • Lynne51

      Not so sure we can equate the two (though I guess it was surprising to hear so many newscaster saddened at the jail sentences of the perpetrators).  A main difference: women in the US have actual and real legal channels, a variety of media that supports vindication for women, and women who are part of every sector the public sphere.  A very different world from the Middle East.  A world without crime will undoubtedly never exist. To over generalize misses the point.

      • anon

        Actually, a woman in the Middle East is much safer than a woman in the US.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=520953059 Nadia Al-Absy

    I LOVED the show today. As an Arab American woman, I really appreciated Tom shedding light on this issue and I learned a lot from Shireen’s insights. 

    I’ve lived in Morocco, Jordan, and Palestine and so many times during the program I found myself just thinking “yes, she has it spot on!”

    Very good job! 

    • TomAshbrookSucks

      b.s u are a zionist douchbag. lier

      • Vigilarus

        Okay now, take it easy- don’t blow up with anger…

        • http://twitter.com/jiao_tu Winston

          Guy is a troll. His name says it all.

  • Anthony Amiewalan
  • BryWal

    Tom asked Shereen what about the kind of power people can have independent of economic power; the power of people relating to people.  There is a subtlety in patriarchal societies which needs an explanation.  Women get far more support for “being women” in patriarchal systems than in emancipated societies; support for being mothers, for giving birth, etc.  When they fit into traditional roles they get lots of power, within that role, but they get whomped on big time when they leave that society’s definition of what it means to be a woman.
    For example; I heard a radio interview (NPR of course, and of course I don’t remember her name or which news show) with an incredible Iraqi woman, some years ago.  This woman had two adult sons who were on Saddam Hussein’s hit list and she hid them from the cops and the army, in her home.  Everyone knew the authorities would probably come by, sooner or later, to search the house, and that if her sons were discovered, the whole family could be killed.  The news show didn’t give details on all the siblings.  The two hidden sons, the oldest, were the only ones who spoke English.  On her own she hatched and executed a plot to keep them safe.  She went down to police headquarters and cried at them and at screamed at them that she knew they had her sons and she knew her sons were tortured to death and she wanted their bodies, and she wanted their bodies now.  And on and on the way a mother in mourning would carry on.  She did this every single day for several consecutive years (I don’t remember how many).  The cops had disposed of so many they probably assumed that they had killed her sons.  The cops and the army never searched the house, and the family was interviewed after we invaded Iraq and Hussein was killed.  The husband and sons of this woman sang praises; of how smart she was and how courageous she was; of her heroism and strength; praise and respect she richly deserved.  But, what would happen if she wanted to go to school or get a job?
    This applies to all patriarchy.  In India, mostly Hindu, a woman gets to rest for a full month after giving birth, unless she is amongst the poor.  Middle class working western women could easily envy the gentle treatment new Indian mothers get.  (But I wouldn’t change places with them.  The freedoms are too important to me, personally.)

    • anon

      Do you actually think that Arab women don’t go to school or have jobs? In most Arab countries, there are more women than men in university. The vast majority of Arab women that I know (including Egyptian women) are professionals (engineers, doctors, etc.).

      • BryWal

        The purpose of my choice of that specific story was to demonstrate power and courage in a traditional Arab woman.  I made no statement referring to the percentage of educated women in any country.  My opening sentence refers to a question Tom asked Shereen.  When she said women had no economic power Tom asked what about other kinds of power.
        In the story I retold, one son, the elder, was 35 ten years ago.  I wrote that I heard the story after shortly after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.  (I was actually inaccurate when I wrote I heard the story after his death, which occurred three years later.)  I don’t remember the age of the younger of the two, but he was in his thirties, too.  The elder son would be about 45 now.  How old might his mom be?  The education level of young Arabic women was completely absent in anything I wrote.
        The author specifically said in this interview that more young Arabic women are in college now than Arabic men.  I think that’s great.  We are of similar attitudes; you and I, when it comes to how wonderful it is that education becomes more and more available to women world wide.  Your response to me shows me that you have made assumptions about my thoughts; inaccurate assumptions.
        I am in my 60′s.  A good friend of mine is a Pakistani Muslim woman who started the only co-educational primary and secondary school (so she tells me and I believe her) in the history of that country.  When she wanted to retire she tried to pass the school on to another, but no-one took on continuing the school, so she shut it down.  She tells me former students of hers came to her as adults, weeping, begging her to keep the school open., so their children could attend.  Of course she could not retire and keep the school open at the same time.
        She has a university education, as do her daughters.  In general, in contrast to young Arabic women, there are less freedoms to get an education for young Pakistani women now than there was 20 years ago.  My friend sent her daughters to the US for their university education. She would be on the Taliban hit list were I to name her and were word of her name to spread.  Had someone taken over her school many years ago, it would have been shut down by now, anyway.
        You are young, and angry, and I respect your anger.  There is good cause to be angry.  (You remind me of myself when I was young in this way.)  There is so much injustice in the world anger can make us strong when we try to challenge the abuse of power.
          
        I enjoyed reading your other posts.  What you wrote about Coptic Christianity, for example, was educational for me.  I don’t know any Coptic Christians and I have never researched that religion. 
        Good wishes to you, Anon.

        • anon

          Sorry – I was responding to this: ‘But, what would happen if she wanted to go to school or get a job?’ which seemed to imply that this was not a possibility.

          And thanks, but I’m not young at all!

          • BryWal

            Thank you for your answer.  And yes; but it was a neutral question.  I was conscious it was a question and conscious I did not know the answer.  But I see your first interpretation now; it’s subtle and might very, very easily be interpreted as an indignant question.
            It might easily be interpreted as indignant when you read all the posts that are very emotionally messed up in this blog.  I had strong emotional reactions to some of the most extreme and I noticed I put an angry gloss on some ambiguous stuff I read afterward because of still carrying the reaction from the extreme stuff.  I had to reread some of it because of that.
            It would be especially easy to interpret my question as being indignant side by side with my comments that only the sons spoke English.
            So sad and frustrating; the ones who want to bash and don’t want to discuss.  They make it hard on the rest of us. . . .
            Good wishes to you Anon.
            BryWal

          • BryWal

            Hi Anon; it’s me again.
            I just reviewed the whole blog and found the worst stuff has been taken out.  It seems they clean the blog up within about a day and a half, if this last clean up is standard timing for them.  It makes sense that they can’t keep their eye on it all the time.
            It was all from one person; the yucko stuff they took out.  (Thankyou WBUR staff person.)  The whole page is much nicer, and much more useful, now.  

          • anon

            Sometimes it’s hard knowing someone’s intention when you just read the words, with no context… Best wishes to you, too. :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/David-Fechter/100001457278019 David Fechter

    This is the state of Women’s Rights in much of Egypt. The guest “whitewashed” the reality. Please do not try to equate male and female “circumcision”. The two are in no way equal. Male circumcision is perhaps stupid and unneeded but female circumcision is different ……………….. one is clipping fingernails and the other is removing the hands.
    http://bulletinoftheoppressionofwomen.com/category/countries/egypt/

    • anon

      David, I could fill a blog with stories of rapes, murders, sexual assaults, etc. from the US. I would need a large team of people to keep up with them all. And would that give a fair representation of the US? I grew up in the US and later moved to the Middle East. I am safer BY FAR here – and that includes in Egypt. 

      • http://www.facebook.com/gconsciousness Green Consciousness

        could you fill a book with stories of genital mutilation in the USA ???  only with the influx of Muslim immigrants did we get this brutal practice especially in the Somali immigrant community

        • anon

          I was talking about sexual assaults, not ‘FGM’. But that is an AFRICAN custom – a custom practiced by those who have Christian, animist and other beliefs as much as it’s practiced by Muslims (in Africa). So you would see the same thing with Egyptian Christians and with other immigrants from those areas of Africans, even if none of them were Muslim.

        • Dana85

          Ground control to Green Consciousness… Ground control to Green Consciousness… Are you conscious?

          The US is the industrialized world’s number one medical-industrial complex/ government sanctioned genital mutilator with 35 percent of its population victimized.

    • http://twitter.com/stormscloud Michelle Storms

      “Clipping fingernails”? Really? Last time I checked fingernails grow back and there is no pain involved with cutting them as they are basically composed of dead cells. There is a reason baby boys scream until they turn blue in the face when circumcised here in the U.S. Because it is intensely painful. I know because I performed this medically and culturally sanctioned mutilative procedure on baby boys while in residency training. Why don’t you volunteer to have part of your genitals removed without anesthetic? The only effective pain relief for this procedure is by using general anesthetic. Neither gender should have their genitals altered without their consent. All forms of forced genital alteration/mutilation are to be abhorred because it symbolizes a loss of one’s basic right to bodily integrity and personal autonomy. It is all about power and control not respect and love. Most types of female circumcision are less invasive than male circumcision. Removal of the clitoris does not prevent orgasm or sexual satisfaction, but is certainly not a positive thing. Most of the clitoris resides below the surface of the skin, which is left in place even in circumcised females. The males I see circumcised today are losing almost 1/2 their penile skin system right after birth. This will indeed impact their ability to function sexually (and even function in other ways as well), which will adversely impact sex for the male and their female partner. Those who continually try to downplay the relevance of male circumcision are products of their cultural bias. I have seen the harm to males first-hand and believe infant/child male circumcision to be disgusting child abuse. It very well may account for much of the sexual violence in the U.S. Recent scientific study points to the plasticity of the human brain and the impact of early stress on developing brain function. 

      • TomAshbrookSucks

        u are a shallow douchbag.

    • http://www.facebook.com/fkjuliano Fabio Juliano

      Female circumcision is indeed like cutting off hands, but male circumcision is more than clipping nails. It’s more like cutting off the pinky fingers. One’s hands are almost as fully functional without the pinkies, as is the male apparatus without the foreskin, but amputating either body part without medical reason is certainly a mutilation.

  • anon

    Ms. El-Feki goes to meet Arab women to talk about sex and then says that women are talking about sex all the time! I sit with Arab women all the time, and we don’t sit around talking about sex.

    It is true that the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and Islamic scholars throughout the centuries have written and discussed sexual issues. They discussed many things, including the Prophet Muhammad telling men to please their women (specifically mentioning foreplay). There are also counselors on TV, etc., now. My children – in a very conservative Muslim country – learn about sex in their religion classes, and there is no controversy about that.  

    The discussion of sex among Muslims is not like the discussions on American talk shows, though. The actual relations between a husband and wife are private and are not to be broadcast, although problems can certainly be discussed with medical personnel or counselors, etc.

  • http://www.facebook.com/gconsciousness Green Consciousness

    Where are the fathers and brothers?  they are blaming the rape victim and may kill her to preserve the family honor — women are blamed for attacks against them — dressed immodestly means only that she is not in a shroud – this guest is sugar coating the reality for women in Egypt — she is NOT in their world and not telling how it is for women there.

  • Dana85

    Here we go again: the complete exculpation of religion -in this case Islam- as the source and foundation of sexual repression of humanity and subjugation of women in particular. Is it the politically collect cultural relativist stupor of NPR, Ashbrook and the mainstream media in general that prevents them from being honest or their fear of reprisals from the henchmen of “The Religioin of Peace®”?

    Most shamefull of all is Shereen El Fek’s whitewashing of the paedophile prophet Mohamed who married a 9 year old child, one of his 11 (eleven) wives, by presenting him as the paragon of sexual freedom.

    This kind of double-talk is precisely what keeps us in bondage to myth based bronze age and medieval superstitions in the 21st century.

  • TomAshbrookSucks

    was long time listner to tom’s radio as of today tom had that
    sheree shiree racist lier gal talking about the ‘arab world
    or muslims she was full of it AND she had all of her little friends
    calling in and telling a bunch of phony stories
     yeh thats really good let create more enemies for america
    and its SHAME ON YOU TOM for having such a racist based topic

  • TomAshbrookSucks

    tom your radio quality is getting worst. daily
    same think happened to the OTHER Old man
    neal conan WILL HAPPEN TO YOU Racist tom

  • TomAshbrookSucks

    tom suck

  • TomAshbrookSucks

    tom you too is an islamofob.

  • TomAshbrookSucks

    tom you are as ALWAYS BORING AS HELL
    AND NOW RACIST BASTARD. YOU LITTLE FAT
    CLOSTED HOMO

  • TomAshbrookSucks

    Tom ashbrook little radio is nearly out of biz
    so now he gets those shallow, racist ‘guests’
    like shiree the zionist lady who use to live
    in Egypt to fill in his desperate little crapy
    radio prog. oy vay

    • wwilfox

       ”Zionist”? It’s like the guy in a clip from the show calling certain women “Crusaders”. Ms El Feki is of Arabic-Welsh ancestry.

    • jefe68

      Grow up.

  • wwilfox

     I once heard a report-on NPR-about a Palestinian woman who was crying because her son was being bullied for not having sex with a girl. The boy was 10 years old.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mona.munroeyounis Mona Munroe-Younis

    Hi Tom and Shereen,

    Thank you SO MUCH for addressing this critical and often silenced topic of sexual abuse in Egypt. I am Egyptian-American and was publicly sexually harassed or assaulted in nearly every city I visited when I visited Egypt as a naive 15-year-old in 1994 (Cairo, Alexandria and Luxor) – the only place I felt safe was when I was just with my family in my grandmother’s rural village, Kafr Kila. The rate of sexual abuse in the U.S. is also staggering and I have numerous friends here in the U.S. who have been sexually assaulted. From what I’ve read, there is not a very wide gap in the rate of sexual assault of women between the U.S. and Egypt;
    however, the difference in Egypt is that men brazenly sexually abuse women publicly, and the women have no chance of recourse.

    I love Egypt and its people; it is an integral part of me. At the same time, I find this aspect of Egyptian society absolutely appalling. Too many women are suffering. On some level Egyptian men have to know that they are assaulting other people’s sisters, mothers, aunties, daughters, etc. (no matter how they rationalize it away) – so sexual abuse must be damaging for men as well.

    I look forward to reading Shereen’s book, and your program has given me hope that this issue is getting real attention
    (finally!) and that women in Egypt are feeling strong enough to speak out and mobilize. 

    To other readers who have accused Shereen and the On Point program of being racist – they are absolutely not. They
    are speaking truth, and if you feel uncomfortable with it, more self-reflection is needed. THINK: why are you unwilling to take a hard look at this serious issue and work for social change?

  • jefe68

    What is going on with this forum and that idiot who keeps posting all the nasty comments?

    Where are the moderators?

    • http://twitter.com/jiao_tu Winston

      That user is being quite vile and non-constructive who claims others are bigots which is probably true of the user.

    • debhulbh

      Yes, re the idiot…some deep seeded hatred (towards women too) coming through loud and clear in these posts…I believe it encapsulates the issue…. Uneducated, ignorant, inability to engage but rather act in such a deranged, deluded manner…and resorting to calling names, testy, cantankerous and capricious, to put it mildly…a major pain…

    • J__o__h__n

      I oppose censorship but those posts are just poorly written graffiti rather than controversial comments. 

  • Regular_Listener

    False advertising – I thought this was going to be a discussion of sexuality in the Arab world, not a discussion of sexual assault in the Arab world (which is not to say that is not a real problem.)  But I didn’t stay tuned.

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