A Norwegian Muslim woman has filed a complaint with her embassy in the Egyptian capital of Cairo after a beach resort banned her from swimming in the pool because she was wearing an Islamic bathing suit.
Caroline Boston vowed to never return to Egypt after she went to spend her summer vacation in the Muslim country, where she says she was insulted and disrespected.
"When I was heading to the swimming pool with the headscarf, the hotel security stopped me," she told Al Arabiya in a phone interview. "They said that according to the rules I was not allowed to be in the pool with the veil."
Caroline, who was staying at the Carlos Hotel in the Mediterranean city of Marsa Matrouh, went to the hotel administration where she was told that the rules are from the Ministry of Tourism and that only women in Western style bathing suits are allowed in the pool area.
"It is very ironic that in Norway and Sweden I have no problem swimming with the Islamic bathing suit. How could they stop me in Egypt which is one of the most important Muslim countries in the world, the center of moderate Islam, and the place of al-Azhar?" she said referring to the world's leading university of Sunni Islam.
When I was heading to the swimming pool with the headscarf, the hotel security stopped me
Ali al-Morshedi, a Norwegian businessman of Egyptian origin, said Caroline is his friend's daughter and his family was hosting her in Cairo.
"When she was about to enter the pool area, the security told her that there is a swimming pool for veiled women in the hotel. When we went to this other pool, she refused to swim there," Morshedi told Al Arabiya.
"The pool was surrounded with brown glass and looked like an animals' cage," Caroline said. "This is against humanity and that is why I refused to swim in it."
Caroline has vowed to never go back to Egypt after what happened.
"I was shocked and I feel insulted. How come Muslim women are free in European countries and are restricted in a Muslim country?"
Caroline added that the Islamic bathing suit she uses, which covers all the body, prevents bacteria and contaminated water from entering her body.
I was shocked and I feel insulted. How come Muslim women are free in European countries and are restricted in a Muslim country
Designed for Europeans
Morshedi said the hotel's administration told them they were following the ministry's rules, which force five-star hotels to ban veiled women from entering pool areas designed for Europeans.
"The hotel administration gave us an official document to submit to the Norwegian embassy," Morshedi said. "We called the ambassador and he promised to discuss the issue with the Egyptian government."
Morshedi expressed his surprise that in countries like France veiled women are allowed into the pool and some places even designate special 'woman only' days to cater to all.
"To ban the swimming of veiled women altogether is unacceptable, especially in a Muslim country like Egypt," he said.
(Translated from the Arabic by Sonia Farid)
To ban the swimming of veiled women altogether is unacceptable, especially in a Muslim country like Egypt