Reporters on the Job

Women and Veils: When staff writer Dan Murphy moved to Cairo from Indonesia two years ago, he immediately noticed how different the veil culture is in Egypt.

While in Indonesia, where the hijab is less common, a woman who covers her hair is almost always making a statement about her piety; in Cairo, he saw girls in stylish head scarves and tight Lycra tops. He met young women who said their parents were more comfortable in allowing them to go out at night with their hair covered. He also wondered if they were some of the same people he saw holding hands and kissing in the shadows along the banks of the Nile. It became clear to him that rather than being a symbol of male control or oppression as it's often simply viewed in the West, women were adopting Islamic fashion here for all sorts of reasons, and arousing all sorts of controversy.

"What's really interesting now is that women with hair coverings are showing up in music videos and being represented as hip and modern," Dan says. "A lot of women I know here – PhD students, physicians, journalists – get furiously offended by suggestions that they're being forced by men to cover their hair or are somehow accepting second-class status by doing so."

Twice Married, Once Recognized: The flipside of no civil divorce in Israel is that there is also no civil marriage, says staff writer Ilene Prusher. "I know several people who have married in the past year here. They were married by rabbis from the more progressive streams of Judaism – Conservative or Reform – but after the wedding, they still weren't legally married. Israel only recognizes marriages performed by Orthodox rabbis. The next step: take a trip to nearby Cyprus – or the US – and get a civil marriage. Israel has to recognize marriages performed in other countries, so this is their loophole," says Ilene.

David Clark Scott
World editor

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