What Does This Photo of Men and Women Praying Together in Tahrir Square Signify?
by Nancy Rosenbaum, producer
On February 1st, this photograph was posted on Twitter with the caption:
“In Tahrir Square in Cairo, men and women pray together just like at the Haram in Makkah, gender boundaries have been transcended and the only thing that matters is that they are Egyptians who want freedom!”
To see Muslim women and men praying next to each other in an Egyptian public square is worthy of noting. We wonder what it suggests about bigger changes afoot in Egypt? We reached out to commentators Melody Moezzi and Mona Eltahawy via Twitter for some context and perspective.
Moezzi replied: “In the time of the Prophet, men and women prayed side by side. Today in Mecca, men and women pray side by side. This should be good enough for the rest of the world then — to end segregation in mosques and in prayer. That’s what the comment is getting at.”
Eltahaway reached out to her broad sphere of followers on Twitter. One of Eltahaway’s Twitter followers added (with a smiley emoticon appended to the end: “The segregation angle comes into play only when you are inside a mosque. Believe it or not, Islam is a flexible religion.”
What do you see in the photograph that might add to our understanding? Do you have other insights that might train our eyes to see differently? Are there details to which we should pay greater attention, which, in turn, would add to its meaning and significance?
(photo: S. Habib/Twitpic)
The square has emptied out since the afternoon but it’s still a great atmosphere, a sense of solidarity, and very well-behaved – people are sitting around bonfires, or walking around picking up rubbish. Crowds who find occasional looters drag them over to the soldiers and hand them over. And no sexual harassment – which is not the norm downtown, especially when there are big groups gathering! We’re happy to be eating koshary – thank goodness vendors are still selling street food because we’re starving.