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Den kjente egyptiske feministen Nawal Al Saadawi føler seg presset til å forlate Egypt. Sheikene ved Al Ahzar-universitetet har anlagt sak mot henne på grunn av hån av islam.

En meget oppbrakt Saadawi mottok nyheten i Belgia hvor hun for tiden bor. Det er et teaterstykke hun har skrevet som har falt de lærde tungt for brystet. De mener stykkket er blasfemisk. Selv er Saadawi sterkt bekymret for islamistenes voksende innflytelse.

It was in Belgium that she learned that Al Azhar University, Sunni Islam’s premier institution, is filing suit against her for the play God Resigns at the Summit Meeting on the grounds that it insults Islam.

Saadawi vehemently denies that she fled Egypt because of such threats, preferring to say only that she was seeking «peace of mind» and plans to stay away for only six months to a year so she can attend conferences and teach at a US university.

«I have not fled – I will return to Egypt to confront them,» she said.

«Corruption, the dangerous economic recession» and an «intellectual class that flatters the Muslim Brotherhood and the regime because they are scared» are reasons to put distance between herself and Egypt right now, she added.

Like many fiercely secular intellectuals, Saadawi sees appeasement of the Muslim Brotherhood leading to increased religionism in society, despite the fact that the government is jailing large numbers of the group and freezing their assets.

«Egypt has become a backward country – politically, economically, and culturally – under pressure from the security services,» said the author of dozens of books, both fiction and non-fiction, some of which have been translated into 30 languages.

Saadawi, a psychiatrist by profession, became known for dealing with women’s issues, especially sexuality, in a frank and open manner that was practically unheard of in Egypt.

Two of her books, her autobiography and the play God Resigns at the Summit Meeting, were pulled from the shelves of the state-organized Cairo international book fair in January.

«Al Azhar has always been under control of the regime,» she said, denouncing the institution’s attempts at «revenge» against her.

Saadawi has long been a thorn in the side of Egypt’s political and religious establishment, campaigning against the Islamic veil, inequality in inheritance rights between men and women, polygamy, and female circumcision – all condoned by Al Azhar clerics.

In 2005 she even ran for president in a short-lived campaign that included a proposal for the sheikh of Al Azhar to be elected by popular vote rather than being appointed by the president.

She eventually abandoned her presidential bid, citing interference from security forces who would not let her hold rallies.

Saadawi’s writings and outspoken views have repeatedly landed her in hot water, including a short stay in jail in 1981 when then president Anwar Sadat rounded up all intellectuals and tossed them into prison.

In the 1990s, it was the turn of Islamist militants to target her, putting her name on their infamous death lists that also included Nobel prize-winning writer Naguib Mahfouz who was later stabbed.

In response to these threats, Saadawi became a writer in residence at Duke University’s Asian and African Languages department in the US between 1993 and 1996.

In 2001, not long after her return to Egypt, an Islamist lawyer filed a case to divorce her from her husband on the grounds that her beliefs made her an apostate so she could not be married to a Muslim.

A similar tactic drove revisionist Islamic scholar Nasr Hamed Abu Zeid out of the country in the 1990s. But Saadawi stayed and managed to defeat the measure in court.

Saadawi er såvisst ingen uttalt venn av USA. Likevel er det til dette landet hun nå søker, for annen gang. Også andre ser på hennes flukt som en målestokk på hvor ille det holder på å gå.

The independent daily Al Masri Al Youm defended her in an opinion piece that said to convict her would be a sign of a victory for Islamists in Egypt.

«I never thought that one day I would find myself defending Nawal Saadawi,» said the writer, «but the first blow against her would mean an Islamic state has become reality.»

Egypt’s most prominent feminist shuns homeland
Ines Bel Aiba
AFP