CAIRO: A picture of a bruised face with a black posted on Facebook Monday conveyed Nehal Kamal’s message regarding her decision to take off her traditional headscarf, arguing that Egyptian women are not really free to take off their hijab.
Earlier in April, Egyptian journalist Sherif Choubachy called on women to take off their hijab in a protest in the iconic Tahrir Square. His call was largely met with condemnation from famous personalities and social media users.
Some people suggested that women who dislike hijab should simply take it off without a protest, much like women who like hijab wear it without one.
“The truth is, she who wants to take [hijab] off cannot do it as easily as she who wants to put it on. This is part of what happened because I decided to take off hijab, and only today did I have enough courage to post this picture. Do not lie to yourselves and say she who wants to take it off should go ahead and take it off. Good morning!” wrote Kamal on her Facebook with the picture.
After her post went viral in a few hours, Kamal, a vocalist with Gawy band, wrote that she abandoned her hijab three months ago, and the abuse beganabout two weeks into this abandonment. She did not write her reasons for ceasing to wear the headscarf, and called on people not to jump to conclusions.
“As if we live in a country that supports freedoms to that extent.. as if [a woman] who takes off her hijab can live in peace, and [a woman] who wear niqab can post her pictures without someone mocking her!” Kamal wrote.
Kamal’s picture received substantial feedback, with two prominent Egyptian Facebook pages sharing it.
On Society Problems, the top comment reads “the one who beat her is a [real] man, respect,” receiving 2,154 likes thus far. Replies varied between objecting and supportive men and women. The second top comment, 605 likes, casted doubt over the story, and the third, 557 likes, expressed dissatisfaction with Kamal’s appearance, writing “where is the girl again?”
Regarding the comments on her case, Kamal thanked the supportive side, and for those who mocked her appearance or wrote she deserved it she said “sorry, next time I will put on makeup for you.”
On Problem Counseling Center of Bride Group, the top comment reads “I am Christian, but nuns and Virgin Mary covered their hair. With covering the hair, they wear loose and long clothes; frankly you cannot wear hijab while wearing jeans and a skimpy top. You have to be convinced [with hijab.]” It has received 353 likes thus far.
The second top comment, with 90 likes, said that others take off their hijab without any negative reaction, and that Kamal “seeks fame.” With 80 likes, the third comment made a religious remark about adhering to religion.
Other than the top comments, hundreds of other supportive comments wondered why people who do not pray, or who smoke, are not beaten although those acts are also forbidden in Islam. Others wrote beating women is “not manly,” and that beating would not make a woman like wearing hijab.
“In the end, I know girls who went through much more than I did. So, what happened to me is nothing compared to many people. Please stop lecturing,” Kamal wrote.
Nehal Kamal sings Gawy’s “I am thirsty, beautiful”
Women in niqab also condemned
On April 19, Bike Zone Egypt posted a picture of a woman in niqab riding a bike in Cairo. The post was also widely shared, with some condemnation at the beginning, but only supportive comments remained on top. The criticism noted that her riding a bike reveals her body, which is opposite to niqab’s principles. The replies and the comments on top encouraged the woman, saying that niqab does not mean she “cannot live.”
Mohammad Tolba, cofounder of the 2011 Salafist movement challenging religious stereotypes Salafyo Costa, posted an April 17 picture of himself with his wife on a boat.
The post received tremendous feedback, as his wife wears the face veil. Some people encouraged an “outgoing” lifestyle of women in niqab and praised “the love in the picture,” and some others accused Tolba of “lacking manhood” and his wife of “defaming niqab” for several reasons, such as her bare hands, “tight” dress, and her pose.