You have to admire this guy's guts: In a country where an estimated 80 percent of women wear veils, Egyptian Culture Minister Farouk Hosni publicly called the veil regressive this week. He also wistfully remembered the days when "our mothers went to university and worked without the veil." He then added, somewhat cheaply, "Each woman with her beautiful hair is like a flower, and should not be concealed from the view of others."
Laughable argument that women should be unveiled for others' viewing pleasure aside, Hosni's stand is refreshingly controversial and exactly the type of internal criticism and debate that the Muslim world sorely needs. But don't expect any kind of rigorous debate just yet. Already in response to Hosni's comments no fewer than 130 MPs have signed a petition calling for his ouster. And Saudi Arabia's Grand Mufti, Sheik Abdul-Aziz al-Sheik, angrily declared: "It is a calamity that struck Islamic lands and contradicts the teachings of the Quran. It is truly painful to hear such declarations from within Islamic lands, from people who are considered Muslims."
It's pretty maddening to hear such outrage from a Saudi Muslim leader when it comes to criticizing certain Islamic practices concerned with "protecting" women, since the country is pretty accepting of sexist, inhumane rulings that do anything but protect women. Take the recent case of the so-called Girl of Qatif: The 19-year-old went to court with her claim that she was gang-raped by seven men -- and was then sentenced to 90 lashes. Why? She'd admitted to being alone in a car with a man who was not her husband prior to the rape.
This event makes us especially glad that an international group of Muslim women is forming a female council to issue its own fatwas. Here's hoping they make real headway.