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Al-Hayat - January 2, 2005 by Nawal Saadawi News about nominating myself for the presidency in Egypt initiated a debate within all popular circles and political and religious authorities until Sheikh Al-Azhar Mohamad Sayyed Tantawi issued his Fatwa (religious edict), allowing a woman to become a president. Thus Al-Azhar scholars were divided, some opposed him and others supported him, including the Islamic Research Academy Secretary General Sheikh Ibrahim Al-Fayoumi. He announced his support to Sheikh Tantawi's Fatwa and assured that Islam does not discriminate between men and women in the workplace, but the choice of work is left to how much it suits the nature of each. The expression "the nature of each" opens the door for many questions: what is human nature? Is it something constant that does not change over the centuries? Does the man have a different nature than that of the woman? Is the difference in the mental, physical, biological, psychological or other differences? Is the nature of an American or European woman different than that of an Egyptian or Arab woman? Why then did Margaret Thatcher rule Britain for a number of years with an iron hand? I used to see her walking with her head up, proud, and surrounded with Arab rulers and other Presidents, Kings, or Sultans in the so-called Arab world. They used to walk behind her, with bowed heads, bent backs, or broken noses, surrendering to her English colonial decisions. Why should we go as far back as Thatcher; American Dr. Condoleezza Rice is doing what Thatcher did and more, and what Madeleine Albright, Golda Maier, and Mrs. Hillary Clinton, who was only the U.S. President's wife and not its President, did. In neighboring and far Islamic countries, women ruled in different countries including Indonesia, Pakistan, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and others. In our Arab countries, women, who are the wives of presidents, kings, or princes, sometimes enjoy equal authorities with the president, king, or prince. It is enough to remember how the first lady during Sadat's era, and even how does the first lady today enjoy different powers in Egypt, and we see her everyday in the newspapers leading the ministers, proudly heading the meeting with an authority greater than that of the Prime Minister.  This is what we are witnessing everyday; nevertheless, some religious men come to us, including Egyptian Grand Mufti Dr. Ali Mohamad Juma'ah and Dr. Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, heading the opponents of Sheikh Al-Azhar's Fatwa, absolutely rejecting that a woman could become president, why gentlemen? They say: because of her psychological nature and what she suffers from during her menstrual period.  Menstruation? Oh my God! Did menstruation prevent Margaret Thatcher from her activity? Did menstruation stop the work of Egyptian farmers who suffer in the field like men from sunrise to sunset? Did menstruation prevent young athletes in the Olympics from playing and competing with men?    Who said that menstruation stops the woman from working? Even pregnancy and delivery itself do not stop women working in fields, factories, offices, and Arab and foreign embassies!  Undoubtedly, "menstruation" seems an irregular and funny word when it comes from the mouth of those men, especially that the majority of women working in the political field or presidential or non-presidential elections are more than 50 years old, where there is no menstruation. The funniest thing was said by Sheikh Abdullah Mujawer; he said that he is for women becoming president, because the Islamic Sharia does not oppose this; however, what is important is that she does not hold a closed meeting with man!   Oh my God! How can a woman become a president without holding a closed meeting with a man? Does she have to deal with women alone? Can't she, as president, sit with the Prime Minister or with another official to discuss any issue with him?! It is really funny to hear such words from religious people who occupy high-ranking positions in the religious institutions and who are supposed to be directing the public opinion inside and outside our countries through satellites? These are only few examples of what I could follow in the Egyptian newspapers during the last few days, and since the nomination of a woman (Nawal Saadawi) for presidency in Egypt has been announced. Even the women who mounted the thrones of religious authority in Egypt put the veil on their minds (and it is more dangerous than covering the hair) and were driven behind some religious men who opposed Sheikh Al-Azhar. Since their attack against my person was more violent than that of their male colleagues, one of them, Dr. Aminah Nasir said that she opposes Nawal Saadawi's nomination for the presidency because she denies a lot of Islamic Sharia facts, and is not qualified for the post. However, in my opinion, all this is listed under the positive points of argument that arose by nominating a woman for the presidency in Egypt. It is even the main goal of nominating myself for these coming elections in the fall of 2005, I said the following in my electoral program: "the aim of my participation in this electoral battle is not becoming president, but supporting the popular movement and political and ideological debate that aims at democratic reforms and true intellectual development in our Arab countries." Perhaps what made me laugh the most is that one of this movement's opponents said: why does a writer and analyst participate in the political struggle and presidential elections? Does the president of any country need mental or military power? This leads us to ask: what are the qualifications of a president in any country in the world? For example, what are the qualifications of American President George W. Bush, and is he smart? Otherwise, I have the right to say now: I think therefore I am not qualified to become president.

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