Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmed Al-Tayeb Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmed Al-Tayeb

Al-Azhar stands by women’s rights, rejects sexual harassment

Fri, Aug. 31, 2018
CAIRO – 31 August 2018: The world and Egypt’s top Sunni Muslim authority, Al-Azhar, has issued a statement on Monday expressing its full rejection to sexual harassment and opposing all attempts to blame women for the phenomenon.

In a country whose capital Cairo was described as the world’s most dangerous megacity for women according to a report by the Thomson Reuters Foundation in 2017, the Al-Azhar’s position was remarkable.

Despite different government and non-government initiatives and efforts in recent years to combat the abominable phenomenon, the situation has only grown worse and women in Egypt became subject to harassment on a daily basis.

The statement comes following a series of sexual harassment incidents recently in Egyptian society where some claimed the women and their attire were the reason behind sexual assault.

“Al-Azhar has closely followed up the reports of sexual harassment incidents recently circulated by the mass media outlets and social media networks including harassers’ violent attacks on those who oppose them or try to protect women from assault,” the statement said.

“Some claim that women’s clothes or behaviors may justify this offense or see women as partners in this sin. In this context, Al-Azhar stresses that sexual harassment in all its forms - verbal or physical - is sinful and deviant act prohibited by all religious codes,” the statement added.


{Al-Azhar: harassment is religiously forbidden and (socially) condemned behaviour that cannot be justified}

"Criminalizing sexual harassment should be absolute with no condition that justifies sexual harassment in regards to the actions or clothing choices of girls, which represents a misunderstanding of the nature of harassment as an attack on a woman's privacy, freedom, and dignity" the leading institution asserted.

Al-Azhar used verses from the Holy Quran and Hadiths of Prophet Mohamed about how women should feel safe whether in their life or travel in Islam.

It also called upon media “to stop broadcasting any material that promotes harassment or make the harasser appears in any form that encourages others to imitate him.”

Al-Azhar demanded the activation of all laws that punish sexual abuse and called for efforts to raise social awareness.

Some 60 percent of women in Egypt said they had been victims of some form of sexual harassment during their lifetimes in a 2017 report from UN Women and Promundo.

Three-quarters of men and 84 percent of women polled said that women who "dress provocatively deserve to be harassed".

The institution’s remarks come days after a man was killed allegedly while defending his wife against harassment at a beach in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria. The incident triggered an outcry in Egypt.

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Fifth Settlement's harassment incident


Public debate over harassment intensified in the country over a video posted on the internet by an Egyptian woman showing a man making unwanted advances on her in Cairo’s Fifth Settlement district.

The footage of a man approaching a woman to go for a coffee went viral and drew wide-ranging reactions online.

Some commentators said it was definitely a harassment incident given the fact that sexual harassment refers to persistent and unwanted advances. But others described the approach as normal, using “supply and demand mechanism” to justify the man’s behavior.
 
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