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Egypt's Women and the Military

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That rarest of birds, an Egyptian female judge, is at the center of a controversy about how the military colluded with the judiciary to keep control over the reins of power even as the Muslim Brotherhood was winning the popular vote.

Judge Tahani el-Gebali told the New York Times that she had direct contact with the military rulers, advising them not to cede power without a Constitution in place. That's what's known as ex parte contact in the United States courts. I don't know enough about Egyptian law (or what remains of it in post-revolutionary times) to say whether ex parte contact is against the rules. In the U.S., it is.

Gebali, like every other woman in Egypt, has very good reasons to work for a strong secular government and against the theocracy that the Brotherhood wants to install.

"I knew the elections would bring a majority from the movements of political Islam," Judge Gebali told the Times last week. According to the Times, she said she sent the ruling generals a memo urging them to put off any votes. "Democracy isn't only about casting votes; it's about building a democratic infrastructure. We put the cart in front of the horse," she said.

The notion that 66 percent-literate Egypt was not ready for direct democracy is hardly controversial, I heard many people saying that in Egypt when I was there. But for a judge, and a female judge at that, to admit that to a major Western newspaper is astounding. And of course, the Judge is trying to erase it.

A few days ago, el-Gebali told state-run newspaper Al-Ahram here that she hadn't given any interviews to the American paper.

Gebali said that she would sue the American newspaper, claiming that it had not in fact interviewed her for the story.

Unfortunately for Gebali, the notion that a Times reporter would fabricate an entire interview is about as credible as the idea that a Muslim Brother would give any woman real power in politics, or for that matter, anywhere.

Bonus for reading this far: the Arabic word for crazy is majnoon.