By Syed Ubaidur Rahman (NVONews.Com)
From July 20, most likely the first of Ramadhan, the first Egyptian satellite channel completely operated by women wearing the full face veil (niqab) will be launched.
Named Mariya, after one of Prophet Mohammad’s wives, who was a Coptic Egyptian freed slave, converted to Islam, it would have a full niqabi film crew. It will manage and operate the channel, including TV presenters, producers, directors and correspondents.
According to Al-Ahram on line the channel will air its programmes through the ultra-conservative Islamic Umma Channel for six hours every day. The majority of the programming will focus on the niqab and married life.
As it will be exclusively women managed channel men will be prohibited from working in or appearing on Mariya, and even participating in phone-ins during live programmes.
Al-Ahram Arabic news portal quoted El-Sheikha Safaa Refai, a preacher who will head the channel as saying: ”Our message will be directed at Muslim women, to teach them the Sunna (practices) of the Prophet Mohammad.”
She pointed out that this is not the first time niqabi women work in the media, adding that they have already been working as presenters in several religious channels over the past few years.
She insisted that the niqab is the proper Muslim attire as stipulated by Islamic Sharia law. Refai went on to label any woman who does not wear the full face veil as “uncovered,” stressing that the niqab is a “red line” that cannot be crossed.
However, if the channel airs a programme about an issue and cannot find a niqabi expert, they will host a non-niqabi and give them two options: either to wear the niqab temporarily during the programme, or have their faces blurred out while the programme is being broadcast.
However, Refai added that this does not mean that they will be “excluding anyone” explaining that Mariya aims to bring back the dignity of niqabi women who were oppressed and fired from their jobs over the past few decades.
Among the programmes that will be featured on Mariya is “Memoires of a woman,” which will discuss marital infidelity, with the focus on women cheating on their husbands.
The channel currently has 30 niqabi TV presenters. They also have a temporary male director, Mohamed Dunia, who will be replaced with a niqabi woman soon, according to Refai. Similarly, the “uncovered” camerawomen Mariya has hired for the timebeing will also soon be replaced.
It needs to be recalled that the head cover (hijab), the more common Islamic attire in Egypt, was banned on Egyptian TV channels during the Hosni Mubarak era. It was, however, common in a variety of religious satellite channels.
Meanwhile, differing with the concept Al-Jazeera TV anchor Mona Salman, who is also Egyptian, says that facial expressions are an important tool used by TV presenters when programmes are being aired.
“They are vital tools in connecting with your audience, including eye contact,” Salman said adding that Mariya’s concept seems more appropriate for radio.
According to Refai, the idea of the channel was presented in 2005 by El-Sheikh Abu Islam Ahmed Abdallah, the owner of the Umma Channel. Abdallah began by producing several niqabi only programmes on his channel, before coming up with the idea of creating a channel exclusively for niqabi women.