Egyptian Presidential hopeful Hazem Saleh Abu Ismail has angered women in Egypt by saying he would force women to wear the hijab if he is elected as President.
The ultra conservative Ismail, long affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood but no longer a member, advocates the Salafi brand of extreme Islam that seeks to impose Sharia law.
According toAlarabiyaIsmail said he would enforce the veil on women opposed to wearing it, and "if they do not want to wear, they have to change their 'creed.'" He went on to state "this is Islam. Does she want to be a Muslim and not obey Allah's rules?"
Ismail has adopted a harder line than the one he used when he first announced his plan to stand as President in May 2011. Islamopedia noted at that time Ismail was not speaking of imposing his policies with force, but rather he said the “return to Islam should be done softly...should happen gradually.”
Bikyamasr reported that Egyptian women are angered by the intention to force the niqab on them. A group of Cairo University students have taken a stand by forming a women's alliance organization to protect their freedoms. They say “this forcing of women to do this or that is not Egyptian.” One member of the alliance stressed “the veil is never forced, or it shouldn’t be, so these people who are trying to do so are going against Islam. There is no obligation in religion, Islam says.”
Ismail represents a growing worry faced by moderate Egyptians that conservative hardliners will impose changes on Egyptian society that will stifle freedoms. The case of Egyptian businessman Naguib Sawiris, on trial for blasphemy against Islam, is another example of the gradual erosion of freedom as extremists gain more ground.