An Egyptian satellite television channel currently on test transmission and managed by a staff of women in niqaab (fully veiled) has stirred controversy in the country and revived the debate over the limits of individual freedom.(Marya was a Copt; Mohammed is said to have freed her.)
Marya channel’s general manager Sheikha Safaa was quoted by various Egyptian media sources as saying that the television will be “exclusively female” and that men would not be allowed to interfere in its editorial policies or program content.
Sheikha Safaa noted that the channel’s owner, ultraconservative Salafi Sheikh Abu Islam Ahmad Abd Allah, will have a “consultative” role to play because of his “media and scholastic expertise.”
“The work in operations of the channel will be handled by the sisters in charge of management, especially as women are the best one to talk about their needs,” she said, adding that the channel “aims at lifting injustice” on veiled women who suffer from marginalization.
The channel’s owner was quoted as saying he chose the name Marya for his television in reference to Mariyah al-Qibtiyyah, a woman who was gifted to the Prophet Mohammed and gave birth to his son Ibrahim.
No men or non-veiled women will be employed says Sheikha Safaa , the manager of the channel.
Even though these employment plans might be considered sexist, Sheikha Safaa seems to think otherwise. She has made it quite clear that the objectives of launching this channel is to offer veiled women the chance to appear on the screens and to empower other veiled women by activating their roles. She claims veiled women suffer marginalization.
Sheikha Safaa explained that the staff of the satellite channel will be all women, and men are not going to interfere in its general policies or programs quality. Even the owner of the channel will have only a consultative role based on his experience and skills in the field of media, she said.
“The affairs of the channel will be handled by the sisters who will be running the television channel, since women are more qualified to address and talk about their own needs”, she added.
Sheikh Abu Islam Ahmed Mohammed Abdullah, the owner of the "Al Ummah" channel and the new “Maria” Channel, said in a statement that "God willing, the channel will employ Muslim women graduates of various departments of media collages and institutions. This project aims at protecting women from temptations by finding them suitable work opportunities ."
Sheikh Abdullah explained: “We plan on hiring all our staff of veiled women and finish that within three months. We have already hired women, filming professionals from other television channels to train our all women team on production, filming, and other skills. But for the technical skills we have to rely on men because we were not able to find skilled women in this field yet”.
Here's an apparent screen shot from a test broadcast: