If you’re familiar with Egyptian movies and television, you know about Abeer Sabri. She’s a television and movie star who announced in 2002 that she would quit acting, start taking religious classes, and start observing hejab. She did not stop acting, and I don’t know about the classes, but she did wear hejab. Until recently.
In September, she appeared without hejab when she showed up at al-Ahram Studios for a drama series she was filming. Some Egyptian blogs claim she announced in August that she would no longer wear hejab, but I couldn’t find any news stories to verify that.
I know that was almost three months ago. But I’ve been sitting on this post for awhile, for several reasons:
- I wanted to see fans’ reactions to this news
- I wasn’t sure how to approach this topic: should I look at the public’s reaction? Should I look at her defense of her decision?
But I wasn’t able to really look at her fans’ reactions or her public statements,
mostly because I couldn’t find any of these things (the few fan reactions I could find in English were interspersed with Arabic transliterations).
So I put this news story aside and came back to it…two months later. And it hit me: why is this even in the news? It was in several different Arab entertainment news outlets. Why did all of these entertainment outlets run this story (that she had taken off hejab)? Why is this even relevant? I didn’t see any reports of male stars’ wardrobes. It says a lot about society when gossip equals news. Who cares what Sabri wore or didn’t wear?
It didn’t matter that Sabri wore or didn’t wear a piece of cloth. The only reason it made any difference is because she decided first to wear and then not to wear a symbol, not some fabric. The introduction of this piece of clothing to her wardrobe was news because she promoted it as a symbol of her faith. But, if she made no press release stating that she was removing hejab for a particular reason, then why is it news? She did not claim to make a statement by removing her hejab, so why do some people (mostly on message boards) see it that as a statement of her lack of devotion to Islam? The only reason it was news is because people equate lack of hejab with lack of religious faith.
There were also some rumblings online that accused Sabri of wearing hejab solely for publicity. This led me to think: if a woman can only get publicity by wearing a symbol and then taking off said symbol, it shows that her talents are not valued as highly as what she wears or promotes through her clothing.
*Note: I included a picture of her with hejab because I was unable to find pictures of her without; the inclusion of hejab in the photo is not an oblique statement.