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Egyptian 'Veiled Women Only' Television Stirs Controversy

An Egyptian TV channel, managed exclusively by veiled women, has stirred controversy and revived debate over individual freedom.
By Rachel Hirshfeld
First Publish: 5/23/2012, 1:39 PM

veiled Arab women
veiled Arab women
Israel news photo: Flash 90

An Egyptian satellite television channel currently, managed by a staff of fully veiled women, has stirred controversy and revived the debate over the limits of individual freedom, Al-Arabiya news reported.

Sheikha Safaa, the Marya television channel’s general manager, was quoted by Egyptian media outlets as saying that the station will be “exclusively female” and that men would not be allowed to interfere in its editorial policies or program content.

She noted, however, that the channel’s owner, ultraconservative Salafi Sheikh Abu Islam Ahmad Abd Allah, will play a “consultative” role in the programming because of his “media and scholastic expertise.”

“The work in operations of the channel will be handled by the sisters in charge of management, especially as women are the best one to talk about their needs,” she said, adding that the channel “aims at lifting injustice” on veiled women who suffer from marginalization. 

The channel’s owner said that he chose the name "Marya" for his television station in honor of Mariyah al-Qibtiyyah, a woman who, according to Islam, was gifted to the Prophet Mohammed and gave birth to his son Ibrahim.

In an interview with Masrawy, Egyptian TV host Tarek Habib denounced the idea of a TV channel exclusively for veiled women. He said it was essential to know the identity and the gender of those speaking to millions of viewers.

“I have the right to know who is talking to me on the television screen,” said Egyptian actress Athar Al Hakim. The channel’s owner clashed with Egyptian writer Nabil Sharf Eddine on an aired television discussion on May 17.

Sharf Eddine described Marya TV as “a channel of the accursed Satan.” The Sheikh responded to the allegations by calling the writer “uncivilized.”