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Meet the Columnist

Columnist, Sheila Moss, is humor writer from  Tennessee. She writes  a weekly human interest column about daily life and the funny things that happen to everyone.

   She has written for  the Daily News of Kingsport,   Griffin Journal, Oakridge Now, Atlanta Woman Magazine, Aberdeen Examiner, Angleton Advocate,  and Smyrna AM, a supplement of the Murfreesboro Daily News Journal. She has been published by Voyageur Press, McGraw Hill, and the good folks at Guidepost Books.  Her articles have appeared in numerous anthologies and other publications, both in print and online.

    She is a former board member and past  Editor of  the Columnists.com, website of  the National Society of Newspaper Columnists, the oldest and largest professional organization for columnists. She is the Web Editor of Southern
Humorists.com
  and  a founder of the Southern Humorists writers' organization. She is writer, editor, and webmaster of HumorColumnist.com

    To carry her weekly column in your newspaper, or to republish an article, please contact her. It's that easy. 

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The Egyptian Series

Frequently Asked Questions

We had a question and answer session one evening and were free to ask the difficult questions -- and did. We were surprised that our Egyptian guide was willing to freely answer our questions; however, he was. While some cultural bias was probably unavoidable, he was in tune to American attitudes, having lived in the US as an exchange student, and from working with American tourists professionally. We felt that he tried to answer honestly and to the best of his ability, even when the questions were tough ones.
 
We first asked about the Egyptian government and found that it is controlled by one party, the National Democratic Party, which is larger and has more votes than all the other parties combined. Elections and voting are just for appearance. There is authoritian rule and the national government sets all laws and policies as there are no states. Police or military are used to enforce law and rules set by the governing party. Police presence is apparent everywhere and police carry automatic weapons. 
 
Health care is a hot issue in America, so naturally we asked about that. The government provides health care there, which is low cost and available to all for about $10 per visit, including medicine. There is a high demand for the free services and it is usually hard to get in for something like surgery. Some people go to private clinics and pay to get in sooner so they don't have to wait. While large corporations may provide health insurance for employees, most people are self-employed or work in cottage industries and are dependent on government health care.

One of the most sensitive issues in the Muslim world is the issue of women's rights, so naturally we had to ask. A Muslim woman chooses whether or not she wants to wear the hijab (headscarf), however, we assume there is probably a lot of social pressure to conform. Only a few women still wear the burka, a garment that covers the entire body and head with only a slit to see out. These women appear to be older and probably are still more comfortable in traditional garb.

Women can work outside the home if they choose and many we met have started their own businesses. Those we met, seemed to drop out when the children came along to become a traditional housewife. We met archaeologists and other professional women who left their professional career for their children. It is not really that different from the way things were in the US until not that many years ago, although we don't like to admit it.

One time in Cairo, we saw a group of men who were going to a funeral which led us to ask about the funeral customs. Women go to the wake or help prepare food, but only the men go to the burial. Muslims are customarily buried quickly after death according to their beliefs and are not embalmed. I wondered if only men go because they actually bury the deceased, but I never had the opportunity to ask about it.

The man is considered responsible for providing for his family. If the woman makes money, or has money or property, it is hers. The man does not even ask how much she has. A woman keeps her own last name when she marries and does not take the name of her husband. Our guide feels that women actually are superior to men because they are respected, well treated, and taken care of by men. Of course, that is not the American idea of equality for women.

Waiters were male, hotel maids were male, and the guards at tourist sites were all male. Although women can be police or in the non-combat army we are told, we did not see any females actually working in these jobs. Women are seen at bazaars shopping or at shops working, and along the roads waiting for buses. I have the impression that woman still accept a traditional female role, but appear to be making tremendous gains toward equality of the sexes.

I wonder why I hear so often that Muslim women are suppressed, not allowed to go in public, and prevented from getting an education, when it is apparent that this is not true. I believe that Americans have generalized the oppressive conduct of the Taliban in Afghanistan to all Middle Easterners. I believe the idea of a male-dominated society comes more from the women's wearing of the hijab (headscarf) than anything else.

 


Copyright 2010 Sheila Moss
 
 



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