Op-ed: Hypocrisy or religion?
BY REHAM BARAKAT
There was, however, a woman who was wearing a long coat to conceal her body and was fully veiled, who, out of the blue began a critical monologue about the fact that women in Egypt don’t know much about religion “because they do not attend classes in mosques”. She then continued to proceed to judge those who are not veiled and even those who she believes were not veiled correctly because they wear head scarves but tight clothing.
It was not a lucky day for this woman. My moderate acquaintance lost her temper in the middle of the engagement party and proceeded to lecture her on the fact that from her perspective Islam is not about judging people for what they wear, neither is it applicable to women who attend classes in mosques. She then informed said that according to her, religion is about mannerisms and how you treat people and that the women she was busy judging were the daughters of Egypt and should be respected.
“How do you know whether they are good people or bad people,” she asked, adding that such judgment should remain with God and not with individuals on this earth.
My moderate friend was then supported by other women at the party including women wearing the niqab, but when she was telling me the story a day later, she just couldn’t hide her rage.
“I don’t get it. I don’t understand how people think. From now on I have decided that I am going to answer back and fight people who have such judgmental opinions so that they would stop spreading false definitions of what Islam is about,” she said.
This is not the first time that I have heard such views. They were echoed in a conversation about controversy over a clause in the draft constitution which proposed bringing the marriage age down to puberty. The debate triggered a deluge of dark humor targeting the ultra-conservatives and their “perverted” and “pedophilic” thoughts, or perhaps inclinations.
Someone recently asked me to write an piece about the fact that in Egypt people are so crooked they try to dilute it with religion.
What drove me to write this article was a comment by someone on Facebook who said that if he could he would have no problems harming those who pretend to be religious if no one was looking, so to speak.
Obviously there is a problem.
There seems to be a struggle between those who believe that religion is about the concept of “live and let live” and others who want to stick their nose in everyone’s business. There seems to be a problem between those who believe that women and girls have rights and should not be treated merely a sexual objects. This was confirmed to me when I saw a photo of a veiled girl and the caption beneath was: “I support the uprising of women in the Arab World because the society sees my head veil as more important than my education.”
There seems to be a problem between those who believe in the simplicity of religion and the subtleness of its message and others who spew judgmentalism. There seems to be a problem between those who believe that if you are religious you should be ethical and represent your religion in a positive way, not project an image of falsehood and hypocrisy. There seems to be a problem with those who see no conflict between religion, science and modernity and others who they believe are still stuck in the middle ages.
It would be naïve to assume that everyone can believe and agree on the same thing. But it saddens me that we have reached this tipping point, where as an outsider looking in on religious discourse, all I see is conflict, disagreement, judgments, anger, insults being hurled whether directly or indirectly about a topic that is supposed to bring about peace and understanding.
Reham Barakat is a Cairo-based commentator and creative writer.