Fearlessly naked in Egypt
It takes guts to stand up for what you believe in when you live in a repressive country. While we in the West enjoy the freedom to post nude photos of ourselves whenever we want, there are some countries – in this case Egypt – where doing so can get you in a lot of trouble. It was in the spirit of protest that Aliaa Magda Elmahd posted naked pictures of herself on her blog to highlight the fact that the country has no artistic representations of the female form. With Mubarak out of power, the country is in turmoil as the “liberals” try and fight off the growing power of religious fundamentalists, and Aliaa’s nude posts has divided a nation that is still struggling with deep rooted Islamic “values”
Her move comes as Salafis have been pushing their attitude that women should be kept out of the public eye, promoting Saudi Arabia-style segregation of the sexes. On Salafi parties’ campaign banners, photos of the few female candidates are replaced by drawings of a flower.
It’s no mystery that Islam has a serious problem with women’s bodies, and their sexuality in particular (why else would you smother them in a giant bed sheet?). As far as they are concerned, women should be out of the public eye and remain both submissive and ignorant. Aliaa’s moves has made the liberal camp nervous. Conservatives were quick to accuse liberals of corrupting morality, and while they’ve tried to distance themselves from her, the very values they espouse makes it difficult to condemn. This is still a country where women wear headscarves and almost never show off any skin. To display one’s naked body is tantamount to pornography there.
It’s difficult to ascertain how this will play out, but I worry for the safety of this young women. Honor killings are not uncommon in Egypt, and she’s already received threats on her life. No doubt some violent young man would like nothing more than to make an example out of her. I fear that the cost of such bravery may be too high.