Posted by: mulrickillion | November 19, 2011

Arab freedom of expression: The right to be hidden

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Some women want the right to be veiled, others to be seen naked

Nov 19th 2011 | CAIRO | from the print edition, The Economist

SOON after the liberation of Tripoli, the Libyan capital, this correspondent met a woman sporting a niqab, or face veil, along with a floor-length black dress and black gloves. Her eyes, all that could be seen, gleamed as she revelled in a new-found freedom. For 40 years under what she disdainfully termed the “liberalism” of Colonel Muammar Qaddafi, the niqab had been forbidden. “But now we can wear what we like!”

Aliaa el-Mahdi, a 20-year-old university student in Cairo, has found a very different way to celebrate the Arab spring. She recently posted an alluring photograph on Facebook, Twitter and her personal blog. It showed herself standing unclothed, bar thigh-length stockings and a pair of bright-red shoes.

The public airing of a nude self-portrait, an act of almost unheard-of daring in a conservative Arab country, stirred instant controversy, as well as more than a million page views. Ms el-Mahdi, who describes herself as an atheist, says she meant to echo “screams against a society of violence, racism, sexism, sexual harassment and hypocrisy”. Her detractors have, predictably, damned her as an attention-seeker, a disgrace or a pervert.

Such starkly contrasting notions of freedom find expression in politics, too. As elections loom in Egypt, puritanical Salafist parties, which believe women should wear full veils and stay at home, have found unusual ways of abiding by a law requiring them to field female candidates. . . .

Arab freedom of expression: The right to be hidden | The Economist

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See also Nude Blogger Riles Egyptians of All Stripes

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