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‘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
Egypt’s complicated class dynamics seem to play as much a role as any sort of religious struggle.
“I’m sure there’s an element of class warfare,” said one socialite. “It’s a remnant of the old days when the hijab was considered low class.”
Egypt’s elite Westernized classes traditionally regarded the hijab and other signs of overt piety as the province of the lower and middle classes.
That has changed in the past 15 years due to a number of factors, among them a crop of newly wealthy Egyptians who made their fortunes in the Gulf and returned with more stringent interpretations of Islam. The recent rise of populist preacher Amr Khaled drew so much attention partially because his pro-hijab message spread so quickly among Egypt’s elites. He is credited (or blamed) for almost single-handedly sparking a wave of veilings among upper class Egyptian women.
“We want to be like the West and the hijab is regarded as a throwback,” Katatney said.
“The people who go to these places are a certain segment of society. In this segment, the hijab is considered tacky.”
The restrictions extend beyond Cairo’s nightlife. Several upper class beach resorts along the Mediterranean and Red seas ban veiled women from swimming at their private beaches. At a vacation compound in Ain Sukhna, a real estate agent recently showing a villa to this writer boasted the compound’s ban on swimming muhajjabat as a selling point.
The secularist backlash against hijab has even prompted its own counter-backlash. Popular actress Hanan Turk, who veiled several years ago and briefly retired from acting, recently sparked a controversy by opening a combination coffee shop and hair salon that allows veiled women only.