Cairo, January 10 For the first time in the history following a grueling court case, a verdict allowed that female television hosts and anchors working on Egypt's state TV have the right to wear Hijab. Although the ruling was announced just recently on December 4, the number of TV hosts in Hijab has notably escalated, ending the repression of freedom of attire formerly enforced by authorities.
The case of TV hosts in Hijab goes as far back as 1970, when Kariman Hamza wore the Hijab while presenting her TV show. The number increased in 2002 when 5 TV hosts working on the Alexandria channel 5 were prevented from appearing on their shows because of their Hijab. In 2003, six female hosts in Hijab were also banned from appearing on air including two from the Nile News Channel, and two from the English Nile TV channel. All in all 24 TV hosts in Hijab were banned from appearing on the screen before the revolution.
Since 1965, state TV had maintained a secular look, not allowing female anchors to appear with any religious symbols despite no written statement banning the Hijab. Many hosts in Hijab were reduced to roles behind the camera for wearing Hijab working on audio, while others handed in resignations for being denied the right to appear on air wearing their Hijab. State television and radio had banned the hosts such as Kamelia el Araby from appearing. Former chairman Hassan Hamed had announced that any contracts would be annulled in the case of TV hosts choosing to wear the headscarf.
In reality, 95% of graduates from those majoring in radio and television in journalism in Egypt wear the headscarf, causing a gap in the number of those able to be part of the work force.
According to reporter Dina Zakareya, the court ruling restored the TV hosts in Hijab rights following years of repression after they were banned to express their religious freedom. She stated: "I have been banned from appearing on television because of my headscarf and for being affiliated with Ikhwanul Muslemoon (Muslim Brotherhood). I then turned to Islamic satellite channels which accepted Hijab but was also prevented from appearing because of my political tendencies. I felt it was unjust. Following the revolution things changed and TV hosts in Hijab began appearing on state-run television.
"Wearing the Hijab does not stand between the woman and her work, nor does it pose any obstacles since the Hijab covers the head not the mind, stereotyping the hosts appearance prevents those who are truly capable from appearing and this is unfair."
For her part, TV host Duaa Farouk praised the revolution which restored the rights of hosts allowing them to appear more on the Egyptian screen and not just on religious programs.
Dina Higazi from channel three welcomed the decision to allow her colleagues in Hijab to return to the channel. She stressed: "Although I do not wear Hijab, I believe the verdict was just and a victory. Not allowing hosts to appear on television simply for covering their hair was a clear tilting of the scales especially as there is no charter stipulating this."
She wondered what the Hijab had to do with the hosts ability to efficiently do the job. "Any channel that rejects the host for wearing Hijab is simply choosing hosts on their looks rather than their skills. It's simply following the former regime's policies. I have many friends who are TV hosts who wore Hijab following the revolution and the verdict and were encouraged to appear with their headscarves."
Channel two host Eman Nabil denied that the Hijab made her less chic adding she was able to continue presenting her program after the revolution and the ruling.
She added: "The Hijab has not prevented me from interacting with all sectors and religions in fact during one of my programs while I was interviewing a priest he congratulated me on air for wearing Hijab". She stressed that viewers and guests were more interested in what the host was saying rather than how she was dressed.
Mona Al-Wakeel pointed out that when she first wore Hijab, she received many phone calls on air congratulating and encouraging her. She refused to be categorized as the' TV host in Hijab' stressing: "People should not be measured by their attire as it has nothing to do with how well a job is performed. Wearing the Hijab is in compliance with Islam's teachings and nothing else".
Neveen el-Gendy narrates that she was banned from appearing on TV because of her Hijab and recorded programs using her voice after being prevented from working on channel 3. She stated that the decision to ban hosts wearing Hijab came from higher authorities and had nothing to do with the Hijab.
Following the revolution she met with Colonel Tarek Al-Mahdy who acknowledged their right to appear on television since they were an important element in society adding that both his wife and daughter wore the Hijab. He gave her permission to appear on TV on March 18 and since then TV hosts in Hijab have appeared on state TV and the court verdict announced in December ensured them the right to officially appear on TV with their Hijab.