Oprah does Egyptian Marriage, Divorce & Premarital Sex

by Anisa Benmoktar on April 26, 2010

Oprah Winfrey: Icon, idol and household heroine for girls around the globe… America’s best loved talk-show dame recently interviewed Egyptian women about marriage, as part of a series on women in different parts of the world.

The female guests on this edition of the popular talk show were as follows: Ms. Injy Elkashef, a 37-year-old journalist who wears the hijab; Ms. Heba Shunbo, a 33-year-old interior designer who doesn’t wear the hijab; environmental economist Dr. Hala Abou-Ali; and Dr. Heba Kotb.

Dr. Kotb

What did they all have in common: these ladies are all Egyptian and have been married. What’s more with the exception of Dr. Kotb, the other three Egyptian ladies are divorced. The show was narrated and moderated by Danish Muslim, Nanna Norup.

From the hijab to equality, marriage and sex

The first part of the show focused on Egyptian women’s perceptions of the hijab, but by the second, discussion had diverted to marriage gender (in)equality regarding divorce and premarital sex.

Tensions simmered and Dr Kotb in particular seemed to feel that Egyptian women’s views on dress, marriage, divorce and sex were misrepresented thanks to inappropriate editing when the show went on air.

A particularly contentious point for the Doctor was the issue of divorce and money paid in settlements.

The Morning After the Night Before

As our good friends at Muslimah Media Watch revealed, the day after the show aired in Egypt, Dr. Kotb appeared in the press, attacking the other guests and citing Oprah’s intentions to make Islam “look bad.”  The Doctor insisted that “Oprah wanted to tarnish the image of Egyptian women from the start.”

Interestingly, Inky Elkashef, who also  appeared as a guest on the show saw the conversation on Oprah as fascinating, as she commented:

“The world now has a clearer perception of today’s Egypt. My wish is that my fellow countrymen, briefly in the global spotlight by proxy in every home around the world that watches the Oprah Winfrey Show, would seize this opportunity to take an objective glimpse at themselves through the answers provided on the show — whether they agreed with them or not — by attempting to answer them themselves.”

Whether you loved or loathed the episode, it seems to have shed remarkable light on sensitive issues on marriage and divorce faced not just by Egyptian women but also by many of us around the world.

Check out the show on Youtube here

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