Mona Eltahawy (Arabic: منى الطحاوى, [ˈmonæ (ʔe)t.tˤɑˈħɑːwi]; born August 1, 1967) is a freelance Egyptian-American journalist, and social commentator based in New York City. She has written essays and op-eds for publications worldwide on Egypt and the Islamic world, including women's issues and Muslim political and social affairs. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, The New York Times, Christian Science Monitor, and the Miami Herald among others. Headscarves and Hymens, Eltahawy's first book, was published in May 2015. Eltahawy has also been a guest analyst on U.S. radio and television news shows. She is also acknowledged as one of the people who spearheaded the Mosque Me Too movement through the usage of the hashtag #MosqueMeToo.
Eltahawy has also spoken publicly at universities, panel discussions and interfaith gatherings on human rights and reform in the Islamic world, feminism and Egyptian Muslim–Christian relations in addition to her other concerns.
Eltahawy was born in Port Said, Egypt. Her family moved to the UK when she was 7 and then to Saudi Arabia when she was 15. She graduated from the American University in Cairo in 1990 with a bachelor's degree and in 1992 she earned a master's degree in Mass Communication with a concentration in Journalism.
Eltahawy was a news reporter throughout the 1990s, and a correspondent for the Reuters News Agency in Cairo and Jerusalem. Eltahawy has written for The Guardian, The Washington Post, the International Herald-Tribune and U.S. News and World Report.
She moved to the United States in 2000 and gained American citizenship in 2011.
From 2003 to 2004, Eltahawy was managing editor of the Arabic-language version of Women's eNews, an independent, non-profit news website that covers women's issues from around the world.
She wrote a weekly column for the Saudi-owned, London-based international Arab publication Asharq Al-Awsat from 2004 to 2006 before her articles were discontinued by editor Tariq Alhomayed for being "too critical" of the Egyptian regime.
On November 24, 2011, she was arrested in Cairo while covering renewed protests in Tahrir Square. She was held in custody for 12 hours and accused those who held her of physical and sexual assault. Her left arm and right hand were fractured.
On September 25, 2012, Eltahawy was arrested for spraypainting over an American Freedom Defense Initiative advertisement in a New York City Subway station that read: "In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad".
Eltahawy's first book, Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution, was published in the United States on April 21, 2015 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. The book is based on a piece about misogyny in Arab society which she wrote for Foreign Policy in 2012, entitled Why Do They Hate Us.
Politics and views
Eltahawy was a board member of the Progressive Muslim Union of North America, during its existence, from 2004 to 2006.
Eltahawy has been a strong critic of both the regime of Hosni Mubarak and the Egypt-based Muslim Brotherhood, referring to both as "old, out-of-touch men." In an interview in February 2011, she also expressed certainty that the Muslim Brotherhood could not "gain the support of the majority of Egyptians." In November 2011, Eltahawy faced repercussions by Egyptian security forces as a result of her outspoken criticism. Eltahawy was covering the protests at Tahrir Square when she was brutally beaten and sexually assaulted by Egyptian riot police, breaking both of her arms.
In 2009, The Economist said that Eltahawy used the phrase "the opium of the Arabs" referring to Israel, describing, as the magazine elaborated, "an intoxicating way for them to forget their own failings or at least blame them on someone else. Arab leaders have long practice of using Israel as a pretext for maintaining states of emergency at home and putting off reform."
Eltahawy speaks out on behalf of women's rights in the Arab world, including attacking female genital mutilation. In a May 2012 article in Foreign Policy, she wrote, "Name me an Arab country, and I'll recite a litany of abuses [of women] fueled by a toxic mix of culture and religion that few seem willing or able to disentangle lest they blaspheme or offend." She described herself as "a secular, radical feminist Muslim" in a 2011 interview.
Awards and honors
- 2005 – Muslim Leader of Tomorrow by the American Society for Muslim Advancement
- 2006 – Distinguished Visiting Professor at the American University in Cairo
- 2006 – Cutting Edge Prize, for distinguished contribution to the coverage of the Middle East by Next Century Foundation
- 2009 – Samir Kassir Award for Freedom of the Press, for opinion writing by the European Commission
- 2010 – Special Prize for Outstanding Contribution to Journalism, Anna Lindh Foundation
- 2012 – number 258, among Power 500 2012, Arabian Business
- 2012 – number 30, among "100 Most powerful Arab women" in 2012, Arabian Business
- 2014 – Women's Media Center Speaking Truth to Power Award
- 2019 - number 54 in The 100 Most Influential Africans, The Africa Report.