Sparking controversy, a female candidate is seeking to head the political wing of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood. She has denied that her candidacy is a smoke screen to distract from criticism that the movement is discriminatory towards women.
Sabah al-Sakkari, a female member of the Muslim brotherhood’s political wing – the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) – is running to replace the outgoing chairman Mohamed Morsi, the current president of Egypt.
Her appointment comes at a time when women’s rights in Egypt are facing international scrutiny. The London Based Human Rights Watch published a report Tuesday, saying that discrimination had increased since the fall of Hosni Mubarak last year.
The Muslim Brotherhood’s attitude to women has earned it fierce criticism from around the world, amidst accusations of discrimination and sexism.
Al-Sakkari has so far denied that the move is a bid to avoid further similar accusations.
“I will never accept that the party uses me like a decoration so that people can say Freedom and Justice was the first party to nominate a woman for chairmanship,” she told the Saudi owned television news channel Al-Arabiya.
She stressed that women do play a major role and are not just used as figureheads to convey an image of modernity and tolerance.
“We have a political role and we are serving the country through the party exactly like men do. Woman in the party are strong and will never allow anyone to strip them of their rights,” she said.
Al-Sakkari continued that she will do her best to push through the policies she believes are needed in the party.
“I pay special attention to women and youths, whom I believe should get the chance to occupy the highest positions in the party. Women in particular are very important, since the progress of any society is closely related to them.”
When asked if her bid for the chairmanship of the party was successful, would she then go on to run for the presidency, she replied that Muslim scholars differed on this subject.
“What they all agreed on is that a woman cannot be a caliph, but there is nothing to prove that she cannot rule over one state within the Muslim nation,” she emphasized.
But she then said that if members of the party agree to her nomination she would indeed run for presidency, adding, “It is also important that the culture of the society changes so that people can accept a female president.”
In response to reports that she had to seek her husband’s approval, Al-Sakkari pointed out, “I would never run for or assume any position without telling my husband, but in this case I consult him rather than seek his permission as long as he initially approved my work in politics.”
Al-Sakkari is married to a professor at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and herself is a graduate of the Faculty of Pharmacy. She has four children.