By Mohamed Khairat, Founder, EgyptianStreets.com
All bars and night clubs in Egypt should be shut down. If these alcohol-serving locales continue to ban women from entering on the sole reason of them wearing a head scarf (hijab), then no Egyptian Muslims should be allowed to enter.
Recently, readers of Egyptian Streets, social media users on Twitter and many others have expressed their support for the banning of hijab-clad women from entering bars and clubs where alcohol is served. The issue was brought up recently when a young girl in her 20s was refused entry to The Lemon Tree & Co. in the up-scale district of Zamalek.
The reason for the refusal was blunt and discriminatory. “No hijab is allowed after 6PM,” boomed the manager and the ‘bouncer’ at the entrance. The girl, her group of friends and others who witnessed the exchange all decided to leave, disgusted at the clear discrimination.
Yet, many have argued “If she is wearing the hijab and she is a Muslim, then why would she want to enter a place that serves alcohol?”
Muslims in Egypt consist of 90 percent of the population. Meanwhile, the expatriate population has quickly dwindled as political and social turbulence continues to rock the country. That means the majority of those attending clubs and bars are Muslim men and women.
Still, a woman dressed in a head scarf is not allowed to enter due to her faith – but all other, equally Muslim, women are. It is as if people are forgetting that the head scarf does not necessarily symbolize your piety: a woman without the head scarf can be just as religious (if not more) than one who wears it.
This is beyond the fact that the head scarf has recently been more of a cultural trend than a religious one. Decades ago, the hijab was almost non-existent in Egypt. It was migration of Egyptian workers to near-by countries in the Gulf that led to the mass introduction of the head scarf.
Egypt is a country where the majority of women, believe it or not, wear the head-scarf due to both cultural and religious reasons.
So, why should a hijab-clad Muslim woman not be allowed entrance, while another Muslim without a head scarf is allowed in?
“It’s a dress code,” argued other supporters, including a club and events manager on Twitter.
This argument is flawed: a woman with a scarf covering her hair can still adhere to the ‘dress-code’. A head-scarf is not the same as wearing sneakers or jeans to Cairo Jazz Club or other bars and clubs. Some women feel more comfortable with a head-scarf or feel that it is part of their identity.
One reader argued that in Australia, you cannot wear ‘thongs’ (flip-flops/sandals) to a club and that you would be refused entry. Yet, that reader failed to recognize that the head-scarf is not the equivalent of wearing shorts to a club. In fact, if a bar was found to be refusing entry to hijab-clad women in Australia, a media storm would ensue.
“But, a woman in a hijab would make those drinking and serving alcohol feel bad, and it is just morally wrong for her to even be there,” claim other Facebook and Twitter users.
If you suddenly feel guilty that you are drinking or serving alcohol just because you saw a hijab-clad woman in the bar, then you are the one who has moral issues. This argument basically states that it is okay to serve alcohol and drink with Muslims, as long as we are not reminded that they are Muslims.
Moreover, who are you to tell her what is morally right or wrong? She could be there as part of an outing with a large group of friends (and, guess what, they do sell non-alcoholic drinks). She might have gone out to listen to music, dance and sing.
Who are you to tell her that, just because of her head-scarf, she cannot freely meet and mingle with others who do not adhere to the same religious beliefs? More importantly, who are you to tell her what she can or cannot do?
Preventing a woman from entering a bar just because of her head scarf is a crackdown on her right to freedom of movement. If bars and clubs feel that it is morally wrong to allow a hijab-clad woman from entering due to her piety, then you might as well shut them all down.