April 28, 2010

Thoughts?

Across the street from our building there are some shops, one of which is a small supermarket. My 2 older kids often go to buy stuff from there and sometimes I'll send them down to get something we need. Dawood's been going for years, Zayneb recently and Salwa goes only with one of them with her. I never thought anything of it, I just remind them to look both ways and be careful crossing.

Recently, my neighbor told me that I shouldn't let Zayneb go so much. She said that there are lots of men sitting at the cafe and working at the shops there that look at her. She said they are "See3eedi", meaning they were from villages and that to them she was nearly a woman even if Zayneb is a kid and runs carefree, and doesn't understand. She even mentioned that Zayneb is "prettty and white" and the guys could bother her.

I'm a little conflicted about this now. I hate the idea of treating boys and girls differently but what she said bothered me. Of course the idea of creepy guys oogling my 10 year old is very uncomfortable, but am I supposed to keep her locked up? Because of depraved weirdos? If you've ever been to Egypt you know boys and men cat call girls/women like it's the national past time. This just seems like punishing the victim.

Today she went to go get something and I told her, as I often do, don't talk to anyone and if anyone bothers you or says anything, don't look their way and ignore it. She came back and said that some guy was psspssspsssing at her and Salwa, but that they ignored it.

 I think, unfortunately, living here, she's going to have to learn how to react to this stuff on a daily basis. That they are trying to get a reaction. A giggle, a look, whatever and if she keeps looking ahead of her and ignores them, that's the best thing to do. Thoughts?

39 comments:

  1. Salamu Alaikum..

    Im very upset to read this.. Maybe you should try sending dawood with her more often or make it well known that you are her mother and that you wont allow any sleazy comments towards her. I find it very disturbing actually that shes only 10 and they are oogling her.

    Do you know the families of these people that are doing this or are they random people?

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  2. Sara, I know it's upsetting. I guess I've just been jaded about it. I remember coming to Egypt at that age and having older boys/men make comments and stuff. It's messed up.

    We don't know them no. There are lots of young unmarried boys and men who come to work here from villages.

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  3. I feel the same as Sara. And Zeyneb confirmed that these guys are looking at her inappropriately from what she told you when she got back. I think your neighbor is right. But to go even further, in this day and age, I would watch out for my son and my daughter equally, and I would be cautious around more people than just these Sa3dee guys; so many people now are living double lives. This is so disturbing, but I am happy to hear that Egyptians are becoming more aware and proactive about these issues. I'm talking about your neighbor, I mean. May God protect us all!

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  4. Umm Omar, I really respect your opinion. What do you think I should do? I mean they go there pretty much every day.

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  5. How sad :( Some people are soo sick. It's so disgusting children have to grow up with this.
    I think if you're bent on letting her go, you need to all sit down and talk safety and plans. Get mace or something to give to whoever leaves to go there, and make them always travel in pairs. Give them a cell phone and have them call you every 5 or 10 mins., that way if something happens, you know immediately. Keep in mind people on cell phones are easily distracted, so instruct them only to use it for calling in with you. If there's someone that bothers them a lot or really creeps them out, have them take that persons pic and send it to you... Maybe you could contact shop owners nearby or police so they could do something like keep an eye on the situation. If not, you at least have their pic in case you or anyone you know, God forbid, ever need it.
    I think teaching them to be safety conscious is very important and a life skill. Just figure out what works for you and your family. Sorry you have to worry about this :( It's so unacceptable. Poor Zeynab!

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  6. Lala, It's not that I'm bent on letting her go. It just seems like something that shouldn't be a problem. The store is across the street. It takes all of 5 minutes for them to go and get something and come back. This isn't a situation, it's the way it is on every street in Egypt, sadly, so police won't do anything because nothing's really happened, in their eyes, out of the ordinary.

    I don't want to ban them from going because of this but at the same time I worry.

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  7. i think you should let them go. first off you cant lock her up because some guy might make a comment or stare at her. if so you would have to lock her up in her teenage and adult years as well. i would keep sending her - perhaps all the time with her brother.
    and as bad as it sounds - yes it is apart of the culture there for some guys to do that - so in reality it is something she will eventually have to get used to.
    the only thing you can really do is teach her that this kind of behaviour from men needs to be ignored.

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  8. Ange, Thanks, I agree.

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  9. Salam Mona - When I read this post, I feel angry and embarassed at the 'national pasttime' of these Muslim men who should know better than to behave like idiots.. but its not punishing the victim to keep our daughters safe. Having daughters of my own, I would not let them go anymore - my rationale is simply because protection is better than sorry...here in England and Netherlands where I am based, the news of paedophelia makes mothers think twice about letting our children go anywhere alone - hence in Britain no children is let off from school on their own until they are older- everything is done for safety reasons - not punishing anyone, besides, we ourselves would not go to a place where there could be trouble would we? There would be plenty of opportunities for our girls to exercise their human rights - but I'd keep them safe for the moment... my two cents worth.

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  10. Off topic, I like the way your blog looks!

    I dont know how I would handle this. It isnt fair that the girls end up being punished for the men's behavior, on the other hand you want them to be safe.

    What does your husband say?
    Do you know the shop owner?
    Do you think it is likely anyone would do anything to her, or is it just uncomfortable attention only?

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  11. What's worrying is that some places, children are eyed up and snatched. It really is awful that in this day and age, children can't walk across the street without some sort of worry.

    Men will always oogle women, wherever in the world you are. It may vary with how they react though.
    Here, I've had the wolf whistling and some men do grab you.

    I think some people have made some good points here, maybe get them to call you if they are worried that someone is following them etc or to try and take a picture on the sly so you can show shopkeepers etc.
    I think your daughter handled the situation very well. Keep encoraging her to react like this.

    PS...on a happier note, I love your blog :) xx

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  12. I grew up in Egypt and had no brother to go out with. I used to run errands for mom a lot. I've seen a lot of weirdos in my life, but yes, they go for the WHITE meat. It's an Egyptian double standard. Women learn to protect themselves in various ways (don't go out late at night alone, look for red flags before taking transport, etc)

    It sucks for women in Egypt because LITERALLY we are pieces of meat.

    I got felt up by random dudes a couple of times in Egypt. One time I told my parents and nothing happened.

    My mom NEVER let us go anywhere and these things happened to me. Imagine carefree mothers who let their kids go out alone a lot.

    I think where you live things shouldn't be as bad, but I agree with above commentators maybe have her go out with Dawood more?

    :(

    One of the reasons I would never want to raise my kids in Egypt. It's not safe!

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  13. That is so messed up. I've always thought that it's the perpetrator and the attitude that this behaviour stems from which should be changed rather than the victim, but if you can't change it (or in the process of) what can women and girls do except protect themselves?

    I'm not a mother so I can't really comment, but would walking with her brother help? Would they still do it if she was with him? Maybe they could always go together, and Dawood would also have to have Zeinab with him so that she doesn't feel like it's because she's a girl. Or if you think that's an unsuitable rule to impose on a boy his age you could tell Zeinab it's because he's older that she needs him to go wit her.

    Even though she wouldn't be hurt by these guys, you probably don't want her to grow up thinking that it's normal to treat girls and women this way and although I'm sure your household teaches the opposite, experiencing stuff like that everyday from the age of 10 sticks in your mind.

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  14. Thanks all for the input.

    My neighbor noticed I was in a weird mood when she came over to cook her rice because her gas ran out. I told her I was feeling icky ever since that convo. She said that it's no big deal. It's how girls are raised here. That we have to let the boys go out to get whatever, to protect their sisters and that the girls in return were to take care of him at home. IE ironing his clothes and making him tea. I was so not having that. I gently told her I disagree and that I think she has to learn to deal with this. She said, just tell her not to run and make sure she has half sleeves at least.

    Sigh. This whole situation has me feeling so yuck.


    Stylomom, When I read what you wrote it made perfect sense and I was in total agreement. Then I think about till when? To what extent? I'm leaning towards going less often, with her brother, and with good instructions.


    Khadra,Thanks for the blog compliment. Well E was away for a few days so we havn't had the chance to sit and talk about it yet. My brother said to have E break their thumbs. I think him going over there a few times with the kids would be good. He's a big guy and could intimidate.

    There are several shops and E is acquainted with a couple of them. Honestly I believe the liklyhood of something happening is slim, and the main worry is uncomfortable attention. But then there's the paranoid mom side of me that thinks what if there's some guy that goes to that coffee shop each day and sees her day in and day out, one day thinks he should approach her..ugh...I hate to think of it but the best thing is to teach the girls how to handle things.

    Make-up Addict, Exactly. The world is scary and I now know why my parents were so strict with us. Thank you.

    Organica, I believe you. We came here in the summers and it was the same. Sad but true.

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  15. Jaz, we were posting at the same time. I agree, that's my conflict. I don't want to succumb to the mentality that girls are to be home and that boys will be boys. Thanks for the advice. Good point about him being older. It will be a change now but inshaAllah for the best. Sometimes I have to be the bad guy.

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  16. Well I can understand why you're in a dilemma.

    One on hand you want her to learn how to deal with such situations because this is the real world. On the other you want her to feel safe.

    I think that she should go with her brother because it's just better to be on the safer side. When it's too late... it's too late. I'm not trying to scare you but I would hate for anything to happen to her. She is so sweet and pretty, mashaAllah! May Allah protect her and your other children always.

    It was nice of your neighbour to alert you. Take it as a sign from Allah =)

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  17. A'salaamu alaikum sister. Just a thought (I know you've gotten many of them!) but perhaps your daughter could wear an abaya when she runs out to the store, whether with her brother or sister. Just cover up a little more what those men are inappropriately looking at. Insha'allah that might deflect some of their attention, allahu alim.

    I am not advocating punishing our daughters for the misbehavior of men, but if it makes her safer and feel more comfortable, maybe it would be a positive thing.

    May Allah keep all our children safe, aameen.

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  18. Shahira Elaiza, Thanks, yea. I know what you're saying. It's better to err on the side of safety.

    Umm Aminah, I think your idea is a good one. I'm not entirely sure it would work but it's worth consideration. Ameen to your duaa and thank you for your advice.

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  19. Ugh,what an utterly sickening situation. The other sisters have offered such wonderful advice. I can see it either way. I guess if it were me, I'd probably have her go with her brother until she get's a little older and able to defend herself a little more. I definitley wouldn't totally forbid her to go, but at the same time it's wise to take some precautions.

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  20. This is not just about Egyptian culture. There is a growing problem with pedophilia everywhere in the world-including Muslim countries like Egypt and even, Saudi Arabia. And these perverts are not just targeting girls, they're going after boys, too. It's a sign of the times.

    I think every girl will be on the receiving end of some kind of sexual harassment/abuse in her life. And it's sad when young girls being felt up or psssspssssd at is normal. My daughter, only 7 years old, has already been hit on by her 10 year old cousin in Egypt. When she told me what he did and said, I was shocked, but then realized, this isn't something that just happens to a few people like most crimes; most girls will be victims of this type of stuff, so it is absolutely vital that parents become proactive about protecting their chldren against it.

    What I would do in this case, Mona, is first establish clear communication with my children about what this problem is and what's not acceptable and what to do if anything happens (tell you). And this isn't just a one-time conversation, this convo needs to happen all the time. I know you've done this already. I see what you're saying about the store being so close to your house, and it just takes them 5 minutes, etc. I wouldn't make them stop going altogether, but I would try to reduce the number of times they go, and take precautions for the times they do. I agree, letting her carry a cell phone is good. I might even ask Zaynab to put on a long skirt. Always go with her brother during daylight hours. Tell them to avoid walking directly past a group of men sitting on the street. That kind of stuff. But then again, we don't want to give them or ourselves a false sense of security. ie. "over there isn't safe, but here is" We always just have to be vigilent and aware. And finally, I've enrolled my daughter in martial arts and plan on enrolling my son as soon as he's old enough. Martial arts is not just good for learning how to physically defend yourself, but it teaches children to use their voices to self-empower, how to feel in control of a situation, how to handle encounters with strangers...it builds self-esteem & self-confidence. Really, the benefits of martial arts are amazing. I would recommend it to all parents.

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  21. I talked to my husband and he agreed that she should go with her brother, less often and know what to do when the jerks try to get her attention.

    Stephanie, I think that's what we'll do.

    Umm Omar, I think the difference is that I'm not sure we're about pedophilia. Is a 17-20 something year old calling to a girl "ya 3asal" (honey) considered pedophilia? Because even if it is, It just doesn't happen in the US. Not on this rampant regular, everyday level. Yes there is sexual harassment but it wouldn't happen to a kid. No man would dare go up to a girl waiting for the bus and toussle her hair and chat her up like it happens here. People tell me it's innocent but I can't accept it.

    I'm not surprised about your daughter and her cousin, as disgusting as that is. It's truly sickening and I'm just now getting the gravity of it. My husband says it's normal here, but It's not right.

    You gave me some great advice on talking to the kids about this. Thank you.

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  22. Umm Omar, That sentence should have read : I'm not sure we're talking about pedophilia.

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  23. Hey sis I tagged you

    http://nailz-in-aus.blogspot.com/2010/04/beautiful-blogger-award.html

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  24. Salams Mona,

    I had to come back and give my own advice. I strongly think you should go with Zaynab a few times and give them a MASSIVE threatining look!!!

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  25. I have to say that is the one flaw in young arab men (not all but some), I had the unpleasant situation where everywhere I went there were guys "pssssping" at me.
    Sister I seriously hope there is a window where you can watch them from, that is freakkyy. What if they just snatch her and run for example (but may allah protect her from that). Sit down and try to explain to her that these guys are disturbed etc.. Insha'allah she understands cuz lol when I was her age and my mother told me "don't talk to strangers" it wasn't something i cared about. But in this case if you tell her why she will understand.

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  26. Mom of 212:25 AM

    I think her elder brother would be of a great help till she learns how to deal with that on her own..and dealing with that is exactly as u 've said"ignoring".Strict facial expressions and faster steps is recommended too..

    One friend of mine rushed to hijabify her daughter as soon as she started complaining about these stuff but HERE you might be covered from head to toe and still get these "Pssspsssing "thing at any age just cuz u r white and have a slim figure ..so that wasn't the solution..

    Just always remind her of rule number one :never utter a word to stop them..just ignore and move fast.

    I know having just boys is a blessing in this world full of jerks!!

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  27. Skye, Thanks, I'll do that soon.

    Sara, My friend said the same thing. Assuming the offenders wouldn't dare w/me with her, I dunno but I'll definitely be on alert!

    Perfectly.imperfect, I can't see that side from my place but I thought of looking from my neighbor's to see what goes on. I'm having a more in depth talk with her soon. I want her to be aware with out scaring her, inshaAllah.

    Mom of 2, Yea not sure hijab is the solution here but you're right. I think it's best to keep a serious face, purposeful walk and ignore the jerks. Sad that it has to be taught at her age.

    Thank you all for your great advice and concern. You've all helped me get through this in my head. May Allah reward you.

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  28. I'm not sure what you mean, Mona. Yeah, guys don't whistle at kids here as they're walking home from school, but they do all sorts of other crazy things to them.

    Looking at kids in a sexual way consistently over time is pedophilia, and if some dont think it is if they don't act on it, well, I don't think any one can argue that at least, it's how it starts. That's what I mean when I say this isn't about Egyptian culture; I think there is a much bigger problem here than a lack of etiquette. Anyway, thanks for making us all more aware of this. Insha'Allah, I'll have another talk with Iman as a result of the reminder!

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  29. UmmOmar, I see what your saying. I just meant that for here it's a constant thing in any girls life here.

    I always knew it was this way here, I guess I never really thought about it in terms of my kids until now. Thanks again.

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  30. This is disgusting that this is the norm in a Muslim country. And these people go on about how homosexuals, Westerners and feminism are destorying the world. If this happened in the West, those dirty men would be thrown into jail.

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  31. Naseem, I know. It's a whole different mentality. A normal guy in the US, heck anyone wouldn't dare talk to someone else's kid like that.

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  32. Mona you're getting some pretty good advice from the sisters who posted above, mashaAllah.

    But i understand where you're coming from and also understand how Zeynab must be feeling. Living in the Emirates as a child, i remember being oogled and called names when we went to visit my cousins in Al-Ain. And what's sad is that these men were also Sa3ayda.

    In the beginning i didn't understand what they were saying, or what it meant, but my cousins explained everything to me. I ran and told my mum, and she said ignore them. And i'm glad she didn't lock me in, or stop me from going to the shops alone. According to my mum i had to learn to ignore such indecent attempts by men because as i grew they would have also increased. And they did.

    One think my mum (and aunty) did was sometimes they'd send us with one of my older male cousins, other times they'd go with us. And when they did let us go by ourselves they followed us and stood in clear view of these men when we went into the shops. I think the message they were trying to send them was that we were not alone. There was always someone watching us one way or the other.

    I'm not wise person, but being careful is a must, because we do not know what's in those men's hearts. Alhamdulillah for your friend, her alerting you was incredibly nice.

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  33. Anonymous6:30 PM

    May Allah protect all your daughters from any insane men out there. All I can say is that there should be some kind of "Child Rights" organization in Egypt or those men need to learn how to behave themselves or something. I can see your dilemma. What bothers me is that men in the west would rarely flirt with a girl at the age of 10, but here in the Middle East, most men are deprived of seeing women so they act like they never seen one before when they do see one. Well, at least here in Saudi. If Zayneb is uncomfortable and so are you, then the only thing left to do that will inshaAllah solve this issue is to pray to Allah (STW) to avoid such abhorrent acts. Also, just like Ange said, all girls go through this stage at some point in their lives so its a good thing she's experiencing it now so she will be acquainted with this in the future. Do you see what I'm trying to say? Anyways, your husband should hopefully shake the rudeness and ignorance out of them if this happens again. Its so annoying how these Sa3eedi men have nothing else in their lives but to do such things, why don't they look at girls their own age and politely get married already! This is so sadistic. I hope Allah guides the young men of our future to the right path and allow our daughters to marry respectful and suave men. Anyways, InshaAllah Allah won't let anything bad happen to her if you teach her and pray to Allah everyday to shun evilness.
    Good Luck Mona,
    Lameese D.

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  34. Amina, I agree that no reaction is the best reaction, and I think you are wise.

    Lamees, Yea, I wish there were laws in place here for this rampant a problem. I heard a teacher in Cairo was suspected of molesting kids and he just got transfered. TRANSFERED!

    As much as I know this is a problem, and I'm not trying to put blinders on, but I am just worn out on this topic and keep getting angry thinking about it.

    Ameen to your duaa and everyone elses.

    Thanks again.

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  35. Assalamu Alaikum,

    My (egyptian) husband told me that his mom started to get suitors when she was 9 years old, but I wasn't aware that this kind of crud was going on!

    How about sending your husband with her a few times, and having him give these men a tongue lashing?

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  36. Rahma, Yea I wonder if this happens a lot in other countries.

    He will, inshaAllah. Thanks.

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  37. Anonymous5:09 AM

    where's your husband? why can't he escort her a few time and have a "chat" with those men,isn't that his responsibility??

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  38. Anonymous5:10 AM

    Mona, E. knows some of the shopkeepers? It might be a good idea to have E. stop in one day and say to the owner of one, with your daughters and say, these are my children, they are always watched and if those men start yelling and fussing with them, I would find out and would be very very upset that you let such men even hang around your shop and even think of yelling at or touching my daughters! After I dealt with such men, I would be back to deal with you for allowing it.

    Not sure how that would go over, but it lets the shop owner spread the word that these are girls that are not to be trifled with or considered targets of ANY kind. E is not a little man, many I am sure know that you were raised in the states and sometimes the not so great US reputation can be useful! ;0) A really good threat from a father is nearly as good as a broken thumb or two if it is made to someone that would also suffer loss of business/reputation if a girl were severely harassed or God Forbid, harmed.

    My father would also have done the exact thing, but still allowed me to go to the store, with all the rules about never speaking back, never acknowledging their shouts, or looks. We also had training in self defense and how to injure a man if you were ever grabbed at, etc. My father was a huge advocate of women being able to protect themselves and being willing to and knowing that fighting back is OK if someone tries to harm or touch you. Often girls are so afraid to make a scene, they don't fight as hard until it is a bit farther along than is really safe/wise. They need to trust their instincts. If there is a man that makes them feel funny, or scares them, they should tell you, not be alone, run to the designated shopkeeper or neighbor to call you, something!! Have a plan for is something scares them. This is good for all of your kids. This is advice from detective, who would probably have actually broken a thumb or two..hehe

    P.S. I know that it isn't the true nature of Islam to make threats, but these men are not behaving in the true spirit of their faith either!

    Blessings,
    Lizzegrl

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  39. Anonomous, Yes, I already discussed that, thanks.

    Lizzegrl, You know, I really love this idea. I think it's one of many ways to combat this. I agree, and I told E as much. He has a way of commanding respect whether it be by his stature or not.

    Thank you, all so much for your thoughtful advice, comments and prayers.

    I'm closing comments on this post, I just feel all conversation on this topic has been exhausted.

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