Another turn as Egypt tunes to an all-women TV stationBy DALLIA MONIEM in Cairo | Thursday, July 26 2012 at 09:59
Egypt has launched an all-women led television station, a first in a region largely dominated by men.
Maria TV, named after one of Prophet Mohamed's wives, is an Islamic channel whose presenters are Niqab wearing women, the full face veil that covers the whole body with the eyes only showing.
The women also handle the equipment, operate the cameras, interview guests and present the shows; no men are involved in the production nor are they allowed to participate in call-in-shows.
The channel has been in the works for some time and its launch was set to coincide with the start of the Islamic month of Ramadan.
Maria TV will air on the ultra-conservative Umma Channel for six hours a day with the programmes mostly focusing on marriage, health, beauty and the teachings of Islam.
According to the head of the channel, female preacher El-Sheikha Safaa Refai, the programmes are designed to educate women on Islam. "Our message will be directed at Muslim women, to teach them the Sunna (practices) of the Prophet Mohamed."
Analysts say that the launch of the channel is an indication of how far the country has come since the Arab Spring swept through. In the past, Niqab dressed women were discriminated against for jobs, especially in the media and education sectors teaching. During President Hosni Mubarak's reign, all women wearing the more common head scarf the veil were also banned from working for Egyptian television channels.
Speaking to the local press, Refai indicated the channel will strive to feature only 'niqab' dressed guests and experts, but if no such person is available they would host a non-niqab dressed and give them two options: “either wear the niqab temporarily during the programme, or have their faces blurred out while the programme is being broadcast.”
Ahmed Abdallah, the proprietor of Umma Channel and an ultra-conservative Islamist believes that women do not need to show their beauty to the world in order to be seen. "I am broadcasting a new era for women who wear niqab, for a new kind of woman," he said, and that it's a victory for women who wear the niqab "after years of discrimination and injustice."
Egypt is undoubtedly going through a major cultural evolution, which has seen the rise in prominence of Islamists who for decades where repressed under Hosni Mubarak's regime with many facing imprisonment.
President Mohamed Morsy, a former Muslim Brotherhood member was voted in June, while both the lower and upper houses of parliament are dominated by Islamist members further illustrating their political force in the new Egypt.
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