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Women, Christians battle Islamists for rights in Egypt

ICC Note:

“Liberal Egyptians and many in the Christian minority fear the Brotherhood is hiding an intention to suppress individual freedoms and force its conservative brand of Islam upon society,” Reuters reports.

By Shaimaa Fayed

6/7/2012 Egypt (Reuters) – The head of Egypt's state council for women has accused resurgent Islamists of seeking to roll back female rights on such issues as divorce and custody and undermine the council as a discredited remnant of the Hosni Mubarak era.

"They are trying to take away rights that women attained in compliance with Islamic sharia," said Mervat Tallawy, head of the National Council for Women, adding that criticism of the council was an attempt to erode female rights.

The Muslim Brotherhood, whose Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) dominates parliament, has dismissed the council as an institution that was "a weapon of the former regime to break up and destroy families" in a statement on its website.

Association with ousted leader Mubarak and his first lady Suzanne, an outspoken but disputed advocate of their cause, has made it harder for women's rights campaigners to counter what they see as a threat from newly empowered Islamists.

Liberal Egyptians and many in the Christian minority fear the Brotherhood is hiding an intention to suppress individual freedoms and force its conservative brand of Islam upon society.

Tallawy said she was in a battle with Islamist MPs calling for the repeal of laws such as the "khulu", which allow a woman to divorce her husband if she returns money and belongings she received from him.

The MPs only backed down last month, she said, because of coordinated pressure from her council, the ministry of Justice and Al-Azhar, Egypt's highest authority on Sunni Islam.

Tallawy said she had also intervened against attempts by MPs to revise a law that allows women custody of their offspring until the children reach 15.

"There are many quarrels between me and parliament," she said.

FJP officials have said their party supports the khulu and custody laws.

But Tallawy says interpretations of Islamic text pushed forward by the FJP and other Islamist groups in Egypt derail women's progress. She accused the Brotherhood of failing to recognize treaties that Egypt has ratified on women's rights.

"My message to parliament: if you want a modern Egypt, you have to push for modern legislation that ensures empowerment of women, half of your human resources," she said.

[Full Story]

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