‘Veiled threats’ from Egypt’s nightclub owners
Alarmed at the country’s growing religious tilt, some businesses in Cairo are creating ‘hijab-free’ zones to attract a different clientele, reports Trends.
January 17, 2010 3:34 by Ashraf Khalil
But a look below the surface reveals a more complicated dynamic, with a small backlash brewing among secularists and a healthy dose of cultural confusion. The latest sign of what Safty calls the “schizophrenia” about religion here: A number of upscale Cairo bars, restaurants and nightclubs have essentially established themselves as hijab-free zones, banning veiled women from entering the premises.
“They always give you the ‘There’s going to be alcohol’ reason,” said the woman who tried to make the reservation. “It’s mostly that they don’t like the look of it. They want to maintain some sort of prestige.”
The ban is more open in some places than others, but seems to apply to at least a half dozen different venues. The practice highlights a revealing aspect of Egypt’s steady drift toward religion: Some Egyptians feel alarmed and besieged by the trend. In order to establish some sort of comfort zone, the segment seems willing to embrace the kind of steps that would prompt cries of religious discrimination if they were attempted outside the Middle East.
“We’re actually more judgmental to muhajjabat [veiled women] than they would be in the West,” said Ethar El-Katatney, a young veiled journalist and regular contributor to the “Muslima Media Watch” Web site, which tracks global issues relating to Muslim women.
Depending on whom you ask, the idea is either to shield muhajjabat from “sinful” environments or to shield the regulars from having to look at muhajjabat.
“It causes a lot of discomfort and doesn’t create the atmosphere I need to make money,” said one manager of a posh Cairo nightclub. “I can either make my regulars comfortable or I make the other 1 percent comfortable.”