Men and Women
By Ali Ibrahim
One of the striking features that distinguishes the Arab World is that -
contrary to what is supposed to happen - the authorities or governing bodies
are more willing and desirous of taking steps towards modernization with
regards to social issues, while the genuine [social] powers or pressure groups
in society are against taking such steps. In most cases these groups make
claims that this government or that is bowing to Western pressure or is seeking
to polish its image. In most cases, such confrontations end with the government
or the concerned authority retreating and choosing to take the safe path rather
than initiating direct confrontation. This results in a lack of development or
modernization, especially with regards to women.
An example of this is the battle to appoint female judges to the Egyptian State
Council, which is a judicial body that settles administrative disputes. This
was taken to the Egyptian Supreme Constitutional Court; this case saw the
governmental side trying to push through female judges' acceptance to the
council, with the majority of council judges being against this decision. This
can be seen in that an overwhelming majority of 334 of the council's 380 member
General Assembly voted against this during a meeting held a few weeks ago.
Amidst the pretexts provided by those objecting to the decision, and which
seemed like a national battle against an invasion [by women], included many
arguments that disparaged women's capabilities. It is strange and unbelievable
that such arguments can be put forth today in the 21st century. Without going
into details, those who made such arguments need to reflect on the implications
of this, especially if such arguments are made by the [social] elites, or
reflect a strong current or trend in society.
A closer examination of the implications of this is required because there is a
genuine need to understand this phenomenon and how to resolve it, and also
because a government cannot ignore the way that that the public, the
electorate, and the social elites think. This is because - rule - in the end is
a social contract between the government and the people, and this does not
exempt the government from the responsibility of finding a way to lead society
towards modernization and to correct social misconceptions, even if such
misconceptions represent a public trend. The aim of this is to catch up with
the rest of the world otherwise the only alternative is [social] breakdown and
following the path of the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Any decisions or laws, no matter how strong, are nothing more than decoration
in the absence of public opinion engaging with it, and can soon be reversed. An
example of this is the issue of women running for elections and standing for
parliament, this is something that takes place in the Arab world only through a
quota system with a number of parliamentary seats being designated specifically
for female candidates.
This raises the question of the role of Arab governments in educating and
enlightening the public, including shaping and mobilizing public opinion to
support and understand the need for modernization. Of course the best way to do
this is to modernize education, as there can be no progress without good
education. This is the source of the current problem with regards to many
outdated ideas that are enthusiastically promoted by their advocates.
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