During a debate on premarital sex broadcast by the Egyptian Al-Nahar TV on February 5, lawyer Issam 'Agag irritated the other guests and the TV host when he asked: "How can a girl possibly live with a man, or live her life without boundaries in a 'responsible' manner?" When the host pointed out that "this kind of talk is reactionary," 'Agag countered that "anything without boundaries will lead to permissiveness and promiscuity." Social activist Hadi Ahmad said that the brother "is allowed to do anything, but his sister's [honor] is the most important thing to him, because his masculinity is dependent upon it," calling this "the epitome of shallow and primitive conduct." Women's rights activist Nada Abdallah talked about the "objectification of women and girls," calling to "stop using the discourse of 'paternal authority' over girls," and saying that "girls are rational and capable human beings, who do not need anybody to tell them what they should or shouldn't do."
Hadi Ahmad: "As a brother, I have no guardianship over my sister, and no authority to talk about her freedom. I have no authority to talk about anything like that. She is a citizen who enjoys full freedom in that kind of matter. If I were to intervene in her life, it would be in the form of advice, nothing more. I wouldn’t like if she said: 'Do this,' 'Don’t do this,' 'You must do this,' or if she hit me or took away my phone. Our girls often leave their parents’ home in a state of emotional wreck, because of her mother and father, and especially because of her brother. Her brother lives however he likes and does all the bad things he wants, but thinks that his honor and dignity are manifest in his sister only. He is allowed to do anything, but his sister’s [honor] is the most important thing to him, because his masculinity is dependent upon it. This is the epitome of shallow and primitive conduct."
Issam 'Agag: "How can a girl possibly live with a man, or live her life without boundaries in a 'responsible' manner? We are an Oriental society. Let's be frank – are you aware that families that allow their daughters to serve tea to the guests are considered by some to be liberal? In most families from rural areas and from Upper Egypt, the daughters are hidden from the eyes of the guests. If she enters... You don't even hear her voice. You hear a knock on the door, and someone gets up and picks up the tea and coffee."
Host: "May I remind you what year it is?"
Issam 'Agag: "Even so..."
Host: "How can you say such things in 2018?"
Issam 'Agag: "I'm governed by religion and by morals."
Host: "Forget about living with a man. Let's talk about a woman's freedom to travel, to love, and to have a romantic relationship with a young man."
Issam 'Agag: "Let me tell you something, so you will not think me narrow-minded. If we presented this issue to..."
Host: "The example you gave about the girl who serves tea... With all due respect, in 2018, this kind of talk is reactionary."
Issam 'Agag: "It's said that freedom is choosing the right path, the straight path, and the right way to behave, within boundaries, and that this will lead to happiness. If I choose the other path, it will not lead to happiness. Anything without boundaries will lead to permissiveness and promiscuity."
Nada Abdallah: "What you are saying is considered objectification of women and girls, in that they are considered the property of society. No. Girls are rational and capable human beings, who do not need anybody to tell them what they should or shouldn't do. They can act with responsibility and do whatever they want in their lives. The notion of right and wrong is a matter of education within the family.
"The second, very important, point is that we should stop using the discourse of 'paternal authority' over girls, out of the notion that they are nothing but objects in the home, and can be told what to do, because they have no awareness, no thoughts, and no brains. No. Girls are complete human beings..."
Issam 'Agag: "This is what our religion tells us. [A hadith says]: 'All of you are guardians and are responsible for your wards.'"