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EGYPT - July 30 - Feminist Defeats Court.

Cairo's family court rejects the case brought against Nawal Saadawi, the country's leading feminist, and her husband, which sought to have them divorce on the grounds of apostasy. The case was brought by a lawyer who claimed comments made by Ms. Saadawi, who has long campaigned against female circumcision and what she says are discriminatory Islamic inheritance laws, made her a non-believer. The plaintiff, Nabih Al Wahsh, who has brought previous cases against high-profile individuals in Egypt, claimed Ms. Saadawi's husband, Sharif Hetata, should divorce her because as a Muslim he could not remain married to a non-believer. The court rejected the claim on the grounds that only Egypt's public prosecutor, who has found that there is no case to answer, can bring so-called Hisbeh cases. The stipulation that only the public prosecutor has jurisdiction was introduced after an earlier case in 1996 succeeded in forcing a university professor, Nasser Abu Zayd, and his wife into exile in Holland. Ms. Saadawi had said, in an interview with the Midan newspaper last March, that the Islamic practice of kissing the Kaabah, or black stone in the holy city of Mecca, was a pre-Islamic practice, as was the wearing of the veil, as now practised by Muslim women. But she told the FT before the verdict was announced: "The journalist distorted what I said because he did not understand Sufism, which is the tradition from which my family comes. Why should people kiss a stone? Why should people borrow money to go to Mecca? They (Islamic extremists) wanted to make this provocation. I've been writing for half a century. I have published 35 books. My ideas are very different from those of religious leaders because women are inferior in all religions". (Ms. Saadawi's profile is perhaps higher in the west than Egypt, where she is viewed as something of an eccentric. But the rejection of the case will come as a relief of hard-pressed activists disturbed by the authoritarian instincts of Mubarak's regime. Most recently, 52 homosexuals, detained in club on a river boat in Cairo, face a trial that has also attracted international condemnation. The men are accused of "using Islam to spread deviant ideas, contempt of religion and falsely interpreting Koranic verses". Human rights groups are angered not only by the substance of the case but by the fact that several foreigners also at the club were not detained, that the names of the accused have been published in local newspapers, and that the case, although ostensibly criminal, is being heard in a court established under Egypt's catch-all emergency laws. The case follows the sentencing in May of Egypt's leading civil society activist, Saad El Din Ibrahim, to seven years' hard labour for forgery, embezzlement and receiving funds from overseas without authorisation. Most analysts think Ibrahim had overstepped the mark by writing about a tendency in Arab countries fore the sons of autocratic rulers to succeed to power and by planning before his arrest to monitor parliamentary elections in autumn last year).
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Publication:APS Diplomat Recorder
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:7EGYP
Date:Aug 4, 2001
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