Friday, October 27, 2006

This Time They Have Something Right

IOL: Religious decree: Bleaching cream is a sin

Al Azhar in Old Cairo is one of the oldest universities in the world, originally a school attached to Al Azhar mosque during the European dark ages. Now, it accepts students of both sexes from all over the world and they study business, medicine, literature and engineering along with Islam. Al Azhar is the religious authority in Egypt to a large extent and is listened to all over the world. They have a service for people who write in with a question of how aspects of modern life interact with religion, and I must say that some of their decisions on various topics are not things that I can agree with. Lately someone wrote in to ask whether the use of bleaching creams by women to whiten their skin was counter the beliefs of Islam and the fatwa (decision) was that it was counter to Islam. By extension, the mufti is probably against make-up in any form...good luck on that one.

Even the pharaonic paintings in the oldest tombs have the same protocol. Men are painted brown and women are white or at least many shades lighter than the men. One could say that this shows an early understanding of the dangers of too much sun, or that it is indicative of the idea that a successful, wealthy man can show off his wealth by allowing his women to stay in the house relaxing and not working in the sun. The logic of it is one of those "whatever" issues as far as I can see, but there is a prevailing attitude in Egypt that women with whiter skin are more attractive than those with darker skin. You don't find people being denied employment or living space because they are "black" or "different" so much here. It definitely is not the same attitudes that exist in the US regarding black and white. It's much more a deeply ingrained aesthetic and it is bloody stupid.

I watch television in the evening while waiting to see if my children log onto the net so that we can chat, mostly things like CSI or if I can find a nice British crime drama or something. I'm sure this says something deep about me but let's not go there. I have a satellite connection to systems that are primarily broadcast from Saudi Arabia, the UAE and so on. The kinds of programs they broadcast and the contrast with the public morality of these countries is yet another story...I mean what do the sheikhs make of Sex and The City anyway? The thing that really drives me nuts is the fact that many of the commercials are for bleaching creams and that these commercials are made here in Egypt. A young woman is shown trying out for a position as a television announcer and failing because her skin isn't light and luminescent enough...she uses the cream and gets the job and notice from a nice young man. Give me a break.

I went to a large grocery store and was looking at moisturisers but many of them had bleaching creams added and I'm just not into that. So, I say in this case...Go Mufti. You got it right this time.


Mia said...

Ah! As I looked for sun block in a pharmacy in Cairo, I wondered why there were so many bleaching creams!! Now I know :-)

jemerocay said...

I'm an Egyptian and i don't care about the girl's skin color lol in other words i don't find the lighter skin more attractive nor less

Cairogal said...

"You don't find people being denied employment or living space because they are "black" or "different" so much here. It definitely is not the same attitudes that exist in the US regarding black and white."

That's so true of Egypt. I had two boys in my KG2 class one year: Sayf and Seif. When speaking with me, my Egyptian teaching assistant distinguished between the two by saying "white Sayf" and "black Seif", though neither child was very white or black, in the sense of caucasian or of Africa origin. Nor did she consider it a slight. It was as if she had said "Seif with brown hair" and "Sayf with blonde hair".

Don Cox said...

You can see the same dark/light male/female convention in Italian Renaissance paintings.

laura said...

Here in Korea the bleaching creams are EVERYWHERE. And it isn't just the women that use them. They have whitening creams for men, too. They all want to be white, and western looking. Plastic surgery is also running rampant here... in order to have that western look. It's a shame, really.

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mitar2a3 said...

i like the sarcasm tone, i'm egyptian and i got to read ur blog by sudden but i think i'll be reading more later on ... bye for now