Noha Ostadh   Copyright BBC

Noha Ostadh Copyright BBC

The BBC reports that Sharif Gomaa was given three years with hard labor as well as ordered to pay a fine of 5001 Egyptian pounds ($895) for sexually harassing Noha Rushdi Saleh. This is the first known instance of a man being imprisioned for sexual harassment in Egypt. Saleh, who is also known as Noha Ostadh, went public with her ordeal even when she was encouraged not to.

However, this attack in June became the focus of media coverage after the 27-year-old filmmaker, also known as Noha Ostadh, went public about her ordeal.

She told the BBC how shocked she had been at her attacker’s behaviour, and also at the attitude of passers-by who told her not to go to the police – while others blamed her for provoking the attack.

After an hour-long tussle in which she dragged Gomaa to a police station, she says the police officers initially refused to open an investigation.

The case was taken up by the Badeel opposition daily, which blamed Egypt’s oppressive government, and “the majority of citizens who identified with the oppressor”, and “decades of incitement against women” in some mosques.

Thank you Noha Ostadh for taking a stand, pushing the government to prosecute and showing that sexual harassment is unacceptable and wrong!

Update: For more on the coverage and reaction to the ruling, read Ethar’s post at MMW. She does a great job looking at reaction to verdict from around the globe.

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We need to talk.

Having the economic privilege to spend a few summers in Cairo or to study abroad in Dubai does not give you the authority to speak about Middle Eastern culture.

Dating a Saudi guy does not give you the authority to speak about Islam. Or about Muslim men.

Knowing some Muslim women through work or as friends does not give you the authority to speak for them or the rest of Muslim women.

There are those of us who suffer. But don’t speak of us as victims if we are not dead. Don’t deny the agency with which we become survivors and active shapers of our lives. Don’t ignore the fighting we do for ourselves.

We can—and do—speak for ourselves. So stop speaking for us.

I notice a lot of condescension and arrogance when you talk to us or about us. Let me be clear: you do not know more about us than we know about ourselves, our religion, our cultures, our families, or the forces that shape our lives. You do not know what’s best for us more than we do.

So please check yourselves.

Being an ally does not mean speaking for us, making choices for us, or figuring out what’s best for us. It means supporting and defending the choices we make and the voices we use.

If we want help, and ask for it, then do only what you’re asked. Don’t invent new ways to characterize us as oppressed or agitate for the solving of problems that aren’t pressingly important. Case in point: if we want better divorce laws in a particular country, don’t agitate for the abolishing of mandatory clothing policies.

If you can’t do that, then don’t bother. It’s better to just stay out of our way. Passing judgment on and mischaracterizing our choices, our religion, or ways of life does us more harm than good; with friends like that, who needs enemies?

Sincerely,

An Islamic feminist who has met one-too-many white non-Muslim feminists that assume that they know better

Update: Before you comment, here’s some suggested reading: