Following are excerpts from a debate on Egyptian TV which aired on Faraeen TV on June 27, 2011:
Egyptian cleric Sheik Abdallah Rushdi: One must believe that every creature in this world has its own role to play. I can fulfill my role in a way that you cannot, right?
Sheik Abdallah Rushdi: Similarly, you can fulfill your role in a way that I couldn't, if I were in your shoes. The same goes for my colleague, and vice versa. This is not a political matter, but a division of roles according to the abilities grand us by Allah. Let me give you a simple example. Let's say I have two cars – one is a 2011 Porsche, which costs over 2-3 million Egyptian pounds, and the other is a plain truck or semi-trailer. One is a beautiful car, and the other is an ugly truck. Is it conceivable for me to use the beautiful, expensive car, to transport cement, block, or sand? It is inconceivable, because it is not equipped – in mental, engineering, or practical terms – to carry out this mission.
Cairo University lecturer Dr. Midhat Hafagi: First of all, let me start with the last thing you said. You drew a comparison between a Porsche and a truck. Aristotle, 2,300 years ago, said that comparison is deception. You cannot compare an apple to an orange, because all conditions must be the same in order for us to draw a comparison.
Sheik Abdallah Rushdi: Sir, God created the husband to be the guardian of his wife. He is her master, her man, and she obeys him. So how can my wife possibly be president of a republic? Will she listen to me or to the populace? Let's assume that a woman becomes the country's president, okay? The country is in a critical state – just like it is right now. Then her husband says: Either you resign and sit at home, or I will divorce you. What will we do then? You tell me. Should she lead her home to destruction or resign? The president cannot be subordinate to any other citizen. He must have the final say.
Interviewer: What if she is divorced, Sheik Abdallah?
Sheik Abdallah Rushdi: She might remarry. Are we supposed to stop her from getting married again?
Interviewer: What if she doesn't want to? She might be an older woman, who is not about to get pregnant, or give birth, or get married.
Sheik Abdallah Rushdi: If she is older, she cannot serve in this position. Egypt is in need of a very strong president.
Dr. Midhat Hafagi: Today, to be a president does not require strength. Only in Greco-Roman wrestling and in boxing do you need to be strong. To be a president one must have brains and the ability to talk.
As for the question of divorce, no one should obey a human being in defiance of the Creator. If her husband forces her to do something that is against the interests of the people, it is also against the Creator. In addition, not all men and all women are qualified. Whoever has the qualifications is suitable for the position.
For another thing, throughout history, have you seen a woman president who failed? From Bilqis to Hatshepsut – they have been failures. When Thatcher left her position after 11 years, along came John Major and ruined everything. Egypt had [13th-century ruler] Shajar Al-Durr, of course. Golda Meir was politically stronger than the Egyptian president, and she was not a failure. On the contrary, she was successful.
Unfortunately, men are afraid of the women's competition. That is the truth. Besides, there is no clear-cut text in Islamic law that prohibits the woman from becoming president.