CAIRO – Long deprived of their right to go on air while wearing a full face-veil. A new Egyptian channel is giving niqab-wearers a chance for a new place in society.
"It's unfair to deal with veiled women as a standard religious housewife," Abeer Shahin told Reuters.
"No, she can be a doctor, a professor and an engineer."
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Graduating from the prestigious American University in Cairo, Shahin had dreamed of becoming a TV anchor.
But her hope had never been realized because of her face-veil (niqab).
But now, her dream is becoming a reality after a TV channel exclusively run by veiled women went on air at the beginning of Ramadan this week.
"I was told that it (TV anchorwoman wearing niqab) won't work because of the body language," Shahin, wearing a loose black robe and a black niqab, said.
"Well, the tone of my voice can convey my emotions and reactions."
Launched on the first day of Ramadan on July 20, Maria TV is exclusively run by only niqab-wearers.
Stationed in a small apartment in the working class district of Abassiya, the channel is named after a Coptic Christian woman who was married to Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing be upon hi).
Three veiled women sat in a salon earlier this week waiting to submit their job applications, while others were receiving television training ahead of the launch.
Shahin hopes that the new channel will help change perceptions about niqab-wearers.
She says she hopes that the channel will let people know "that there are successful women wearing niqab".
Though Egypt is a deeply conservative and predominantly Muslim society, niqab-wearers have cited discrimination in the job market, education and elsewhere.
There have been instances where some were even prevented from sitting their university exams.
Maria TV broadcasts for six hours a day on al-Ummah channel, a religious station run by Salafis, who have emerged as a potent political force since the ouster of president Hosni Mubarak in a popular revolt last year.
"I am sure it will be attacked," Shahin says.
"They will say: 'Why didn't they start a radio station instead?'"
"This amounts to the exclusion of a sector in society that shouldn't be excluded."
While hijab is an obligatory code of dress for Muslim women, the majority of Muslim scholars agree that a woman is not obliged to wear the face veil.Scholars believe it is up to women to decide whether to take on the niqab or burqa, a loose outfit covering the whole body from head to toe and wore by some Muslim women.
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