HOORAY! ‘HAGS IN BAGS’ TV comes to Egypt

Nothing says democracy like Sharia-compliant TV. I wonder if the $1.5 billion Barack Obama just gave the Muslim Brotherhood is helping to fund this first ever Egyptian TV channel featuring full face-covered women only? Even better, it’s due to launch on July 20th, the first day of Ramadan. I guess we won’t be seeing any cooking segments for awhile.

Ahram (H/T Susan K)  The channel will be named “Mariya” after one of Prophet Mohamed’s wives, who was a Coptic Egyptian slave. A full niqabi film crew will manage and operate the channel, including TV presenters, producers, directors and correspondents.

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 (full-face veils) and married life. The channel will be exclusively managed by women. Men will be prohibited from working in or appearing on Mariya, and even participating in phone-ins during live programmes.


El-Sheikha Safaa Refai, a preacher who will head the channel, said that Mariyaprogrammes aim to educate Muslim women about their religion. “Our message will be directed at Muslim women, to teach them the Sunna (practices) of the Prophet Mohamed,” Refai told Al-Ahram Arabic news portal Thursday.

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. 

She indicated that Mariya plans to feature only niqabi pundits. However, if the channel airs a programme about an issue and cannot find a niqabi expert, they will host a non-niqabiand 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.

The head cover (hijab), the more common hair-covering Islamic attire in Egypt, was banned on Egyptian TV channels during the Mubarak era.  News about Mariya caused shockwaves across the Egyptian media sector. 

Even 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. She added that Mariya’s concept seems more appropriate for radio.

Since the fall of Hosni Mubarak in February 2011, Egypt has witnessed an ongoing Islamist ascendency. During the Mubarak regime there were heavy crackdowns on Islamists, with the Muslim Brotherhood, the largest opposition group, officially banned, though tolerated. 

Members of the Brotherhood were routinely detained, their properties regularly confiscated, and they were often banned from running for political office. Islamists have since enjoyed a predominent presence in the political sphere, with the Brotherhood and the Safafist El-Nour Party winning 47 and 23 per cent of parliament seats respectively.