Aliaa Elmahdy, young Egyptian blogger, stirs controversy with nude photos

The young woman, who is described as "individualistic, atheistic," appears on his Facebook account as the girlfriend of Karim Amer, an Alexandrian blogger sentenced to four years of prison in 2007

Last week, the Dubai-based Saudi TV station MBC aired a movie without cutting a scene which revealed a pair of breasts. The company received major criticism from its customers, and MBC issued an apology almost immediately.

In Egypt, a woman posts a picture of herself in full nude on her blog and Twitter becomes infested with angry comments.

Egypt’s revolution was never meant to be merely political. Egyptians by and large became tired of the old status quo and wanted change to permeate through their society. The revolution has opened the doors for a broader range of issues to come to light.

One such issue is the stark contrast noted between Egyptian society and sex, as well as Hollywood depictions of Western mentalities. In the age of near instantaneous access to information on a global scale, cultures are always coming in contact with each other and differences in culture become quite obvious to people. Egypt’s exposure to Hollywood movies loaded with scantily clad and promiscuous women (in comparison to Egypt) has helped provide steam for many people to want change in Egyptian society, but are their actions helping them get there?

Usually, society changes bit by bit as new generations come to power and bring their values to the table. As each new generation explores the fringes of society’s values, the shape of that society slowly transforms. But when individuals leap past the fringes into the taboo to challenge the status quo the results can often cause society to retreat from that area, undoing progress.

Such may yet be the case with Egyptian blogger Magda Aliaa Elmahdy, who posted a naked picture of herself in her blog in October. The picture in question shows Elmahdy completely naked and uncensored, angering many Egyptians.

Aliaa Magda Elmahdy said on Twitter that she posted the photo under her real name. She added that she took the photo by herself in her parents’ home. Her blog, which has only one entry so far, has received more than 400,000 hits.

From the 1930s until the early 1970s, Egyptian women enjoyed greater personal freedom in terms of wearing western style garments, including bathing suits. Headscarves were a rare sight among middle class and university female students.

In recent decades, however, Egyptian women have increasingly worn more “modest” clothing, such as the headscarf and even the face cover.

In Egypt’s recent history, students of fine arts were trained to draw portraits through the use of nude models. This practice no longer exists in Egypt.

Legendary Armenian photographer Van Leo destroyed his nude photographs before his death because he was concerned that they would make him a target of Islamic extremists.


The issue has become a debate in Twitter under the #NudePhotoRevolutionary hashtag. While some praise Elmahdy for being a revolutionary, most people have replied negatively to her actions.

“The lighting is awful and the composition is dreadful. Break all the social boundaries you want, but don’t call it art,” prominent Egyptian blogger Lilian Wagdy posted in the discussion.

Comments ranged from the overtly religious warnings of sin and punishment in the conservative camp, to genuine concern expressed by liberal activists. Ali Hagras, another Egyptian blogger expressed his concern for the ramifications of Elmahdy’s actions.

“Let’s just hope Salafi Sheikhs don’t get word of this. They’re going to throw it on the liberals and seculars.”

Elmahdy is a self-professed atheist since she was 16. An outspoken feminist, liberal vegetarian, she seems to tackle many controversial issues.

“Elmahdy really seems to support freedom of speech,” said Islam Kamel, an Egyptian Engineering student at the American University in Cairo, to “She is even supporting Denmark for the drawings they made.”

“#nudephotorevolutionary was the most daring conflicting act I’ve seen for a long time but was also the worst thing that happened to the liberal movement in Egypt,” Kamel continued. According to Kamel, he feels that her actions have caused more harm than good. Her actions have done “nothing but stir a debate and allow the conservatives to have one more reason to call for an Islamic state and blame liberals and seculars for this. You will probably see one of them saying this is how all women will act if Egypt isn’t saved by an Islamic leader.”

“She is very young,” Kamel added. “There is also the chance that she has a philosophy behind her actions but it is not thought out properly.”

One activist, Mahmoud Hossein, told he felt her actions were brave, but ultimately foolish. The general feeling coming from the liberal camp is that she should not have tried to be so bold. “She should think of the consequences of her actions.”

The fear is that such acts of expression are such delicate issues and any massive and sudden disruption to the way the system works will inevitably lead to more conservatism as people shy away from what ‘liberalism’ may bring.

“The only thing she accomplished is giving the conservatives a better way to win the elections using this single blog as their method,” Kamel stressed.

Following the fall of former president Hosni Mubarak in early February, Islamists have gained influence as they are suddenly free to operate openly without persecution from government authorities. Ultra-conservative Salafis have called for applying Islamic Sharia law, while some conservative preachers have called for banning women from wearing western swimsuits.

Perhaps Elmahdy’s actions were rash, but the debate has certainly stirred many different opinions. Perhaps Egypt is a few decades away from having such expressions of freedom accepted. Until then, sex and shame are inextricably linked together, and Egypt’s sexual taboos remain firmly (on the surface) in place.

Sources from Bikyamasr, Almasryalyoum, and Lefigaro



This entry was posted in International, Media, Role model, Society. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Aliaa Elmahdy, young Egyptian blogger, stirs controversy with nude photos

  1. RE:
    Aliaa Elmahdy, young Egyptian blogger, stirs controversy with nude photos
    Posted on November 14, 2011 by eyedrd
    Montreal, CANADA, NOVEMBER 16 , 2011



    “MAY I CALL YOU “O” ?”

    Because of MAIN STREET !

    Because of WALL STREET !

    Because of the next coming January 20 2012 – while THE WHOLE PEOPLE OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA still has its eyes on YOU.

    Everyone Congratulates You to become soon democratically elected again and see that something really happen in America.

    In March 1983, one of humanity’s most famous spokesmen, Pope John Paul II, came to our country – ‘Haîti’ – and loudly proclaimed what each and every one of us had been whispering:

    “Something must change here !”

    Today, more than ever, a lot of people of The United States of America stand up, longing for something and working to make something happen.

    “Go thou America ahead and show us thy true countenance in a positive light.’ It is up to everyone to play his or her part in order to let thee regain thy mark of excellence !”

    With this letter, I am communicating with You, SIR, and with the whole people of The United States of America.

    You offer this country what it takes to be a ‘Wonderfull Land.’ Yes, let us say ‘with a great people living and working together.’

    Go thou, America, go ahead, following in the footsteps of one of thy sons who is now becoming one of thy statesmen.

    With this in mind, to whom else could I entrust this letter sent to his Holiness Pope John Paul II when he set foot on Haitian soil for the first time, as well as its acknowledgment by the Vatican?

    That letter to Pope John Paul II is intended to draw attention to the problem posed by anti-Black discrimination and its negative repercussions on the advancement of scientific progress in the West, and more precisely in the realm of Optics.

    In the Western world, according to Newton’s widely accepted theory, white is considered to be the synthesis of all colors. Actually, the opposite is true. White constitutes the analysis or ‘visible’ decoding of light or color, whereas black is its synthesis or ‘invisible’ composition.

    In other words, darkness or blackness and, we might add, “Black Holes’” – a scientific misnomer designating invisible stars or ‘Black Suns’ – are a source of energy and light. Scientifically, Industrially and Economically speaking, what an asset !

    That basic raw material of light energy culminates, in its most radiant form, in the neutralization of all the colors of the spectrum in the form of usually called “white light.”

    Therefore “absolute blackness”, the absorption of all the colors, is a divisible component of light. Needless to say, Newton’s theory gives only a partial interpretation of the notion of light, by excluding black. Our contribution aims at demonstrating that the black color is not only an integral part of the color process, but its true synthesis. Light is therefore shown to be a divisible whole comprising an intensity or color scale in which black is the invisible or ‘absorbed’ form of the energy in question.

    Allow me, SIR, in order to support my statement concerning Black Holes and radiation, to pose a question asked by Hubert Reeves, Doctor of nuclear astrophysics and Scientific Consultant to NASA:

    “What would have become of the Sun, if it were plunged into a high temperature radiance like the one that existed at the beginning of the Universe? [our translation]”

    “Instead of emitting light, it would absorb it and, in the end, it would be completely reabsorbed into the cosmic fluid.”

    The cosmic fluid is what, due to an “optical mistake”, is called “darkness” or the “blackness of Space”. We are talking about the electromagnetic flux, that immeasurable ocean in which the planets and stars are bathed, like the sea which links all the continents together. Darkness is thus “The Sea of Space.”

    “What would have happened if, instead of an ordinary star like the “White Sun”, a Black Hole or “Black Sun” were injected into that primordial radiation?”

    “According to Einsteinian Physics, a Black Hole is a place where gravity is so formidably intense that nothing can escape it, not even visible light. Such a hole should suck in and absorb radiation and increase its own mass: E=MC2, always.”

    “But after Einstein came Bohr, Heisenberg, and Quantum Physic. From then on, nothing was the same as before.”

    “The Einsteinian version of the Black Hole is equivalent to a statement that the matter inside the Black Hole is definitely there to stay, in that volume of space. Let us quote Hubert Reeves: “Such an absolute statement is thus contrary to the “Quantum spirit”, affirming that nothing is definitely localized in one place. There is always a probability of escape. If the enclosing wall is too high, a tunnel will be dug; if the prisoners are patient, they will escape. One has only to wait.” [our translation]

    “According to that principle, Black Holes “evaporate”. Matter constantly escapes as radiation. Black Holes “shine!” Their surfaces behave like those of any body heated to a certain temperature and that radiation endlessly feeds that marvelous “Cosmic Fluid” which, wrongly and in bad faith, people keep calling “Darkness.”

    Nigra sum “sed” formosa ! (as said the Latin form for that sentence, without any kind of prejudice in the use of the word Nigra).

    Yes, but should we not say instead, I am black “and” comely? (Like in English).

    Darkness, which is both source and vehicle of light, does not have to defend itself for being the beautiful and infinitely discreet raw material of the Universe. Darkness is the “Mother of the Universe.”

    Also, beautiful and discreet art thou, Haiti. Discreet, yes, but never outshone! Just like the Black Virgin who inspires and sheds her love on thee from the hilltop and even beyond Cité Soleil (Sun City).

    Our purpose was to offer a more constructive approach aiming at correcting the abusive traditional, so-called scientific, theories of Optics.

    It’s like to say that in the exceptional circumstances in which we live today – in the point of view of FINANCE and ENERGY – no exploration in the mid or long term, by the american expertise , of an additional source of energy, at the same time safe and economically profitable, should not be ruled out.

    That is why, we wrote to that authentic witness to the signs of this age, His Holiness Pope John Paul II, the prophet of the new era.

    Congratulations to You, Sir, and congratulations to the PEOPLE of The United States Of America – for having made it possible for this day of January 20 2009 – to mark the beginning of a “New Era of Hope !”

    Lucien Bonnet (His interest led him to carry out research on Western concepts related to the study of color – by the way of Newton’s Theory of Colors – as following):

    Newton’s Theory of Colors !

    First of all, what is Newton’s Theory of Colors? Let me remind readers that
    the concept of “color” that stems from scientific experimentation is based
    on the demonstration in 1665 by the well-known scientist Isaac Newton.

    This experiment consists in running a visible light ray called “white light”
    through a prism in a dark room, breaking down that light into a continuous
    spectrum encompassing all the colors.

    Newton thought he had there by proven that white light is broken down by the
    prism into a series of seven refracted rays which produced the colors from
    red to violet on the screen on which they are projected. He therefore
    concluded that white light contains various lights, each one of which is
    darker than the white light itself and each of which is part of the whole.
    And the darkest of all (real blackness), according to Newton, is simply an
    absence of light.

    My point of view, which is shared by many scientists, is that when the dark
    room, which is actually black, is penetrated by the “visible light ray”, it
    turns into an area with a mixture of darkness and white light, so that it is
    no longer a “dark room”. This is the origin of “Newton’s error”, which is
    the result of an incorrect observation.

    In other words, the basic elements of his experiment are not what he thought
    they were: in the course of the experiment, we are actually dealing with a
    quasi-dark or quasi-white room. Consequently, the prism in that quasi-dark
    room reflects the real situation; that is to say, the prism itself is
    already under the influence of this mixture of white light and darkness.
    That fact escaped Newton’s notice.

    In fact, the prism in the dark room where the experiment was carried out
    receives darkness from one angle and a beam of white light from the other.
    The prism thereby puts these two elements into action. The incident light
    ray is transformed, softened under the effect of the surrounding shade.
    Acting as a wave mixer, the prism integrates the white light and the
    darkness. It synthesizes them in vitro based on a given degree in the
    well-known “Gray scale” used in photography and color television. Under the
    effect of the incident ray, which acts like a projector, the refracted, very
    subtle gray ray passes through the prism. The continuous spectrum of all the
    colors is formed in a quasi-dark room on a quasi-white screen, given that
    the spectrum was born of both white light and darkness.

    We therefore find that the continuous color scale, as we know it, is
    constituted by the breaking down, not of white light, but a mixture of white
    light and darkness – that is, of “gray”. As the German scholar Johann
    Wolfgang von Goethe wrote: “This is the proof of the existence of the law
    where by light is nothing else than a mixture of light and darkness, to
    different degrees.” [our translation] Thus, Newton’s theory of colors proves
    to be completely false.

    Nevertheless, the techniques used in industries dealing with photography,
    cinematography and television are still based on that erroneous theory.

    In photography, laboratories are quick to discover in their work that the
    sum of the colors of the spectrum is gray, not white. That is why they are
    compelled to introduce the black color to obtain the white. There you have a
    demonstration in reverse that black is an integral part of light and color
    processes. Remember that this fact completely escaped Newton’s notice.
    Unfortunately, even though, in their use and application of the color scale,
    photo labs notice Newton’s error and correct it in practice, they still do
    not make the error more widely known.

    Why ?

    Some people might say that big industries using color processes – printing,
    photography, movies, television and even microprocessors – keep to that
    erroneous theory for the sake of major financial interests, especially
    concerning patents and trade secrets. In addition, certain anti-Black
    prejudices, deeply rooted in Western culture as well as in the field of
    optics, have to be taken into account at this “phase of rest and almost
    stagnation, rather than theoretical progress”.

    It is then up to the scientific world today – researchers, university
    professors, etc. – to overcome such hindrances and correct Newton’s theory,
    in order to free the way for progress.

    Lucien Bonnet

    Article published in the Montreal daily newspaper Le Devoir on April 15, 1986. The author of the article, a
    Haitian-born Montrealer, has made a movie entitled
    ”Where are you Headed, Haiti?” and makes mention of that concept:
    The incorrect observation of the experiment and the origin of “Newton’s error”.

    — Lucien BONNET

  2. eyedrd says:

    The controversy and the courage of the young woman has caused a hit on the web and the story has been picked up by international mainstream media. In less than 72 hours, it has generated more than 1.4 million hits to a total of 1.8 million hits on November 17.

  3. Indika Perera says:

    If you stop reacting for a moment, read through my comment, and try to understand the underlying philosophy of what I say, here is something that can bake ur noodles:
    I have no problem with God or Allah being the supreme one and creator of the universe.
    But in his infinite wisdom he created Adam and Eve, and they were naked in Paradise. That doesn’t seem to have troubled God, Adam or Eve, any of the angels or any other being that inhabits Paradise.
    Everything seems to have been ticketyboo with nudity until the biting of the proverbial apple, after which all hell broke loose. There-on everyone started having an issue with the hereto non-sensational nudity.
    If NUDITY wasn’t a problem before what made it a problem now (after the apple scenario)?
    Well my thoughts are that it isn’t nudity that was the issue. Nudity seems to have been fine for a very long time in Paradise. But after the “eating of the apple” knowledge of good and evil became part and parcel of mankind, and he began making choices, and enacting the requisite action/s to bring those choices in to fruitation. At times the choices are made based on the good and pure and you call it holy, at times it is done on pure temptation and you call it evil, whereas earlier the default condition was strictly good and purity.
    No my friends, the problem is not with the NUDITY, be it Aliaa Elmahdy, a playboy bunny or anyone else. If it was, then God or Allah would have created Adam and Eve fully clothed, yes? The problem is the evil that is now within mankind. Each time a person goes berserk in the face of another’s nudity, he/she simply acknowledges that evil within, which all started when that “apple” was eaten?
    Generally no human goes berserk at the visibility of the genitalia of Elephants, monkeys or camels do they? (If they do then there are more problems than I seem to have acknowledged! ) The shapes and sizes may differ, but in principle the functionality of the animal genitalia is the same as that of the human. No one tries to put these animals in Hijab do they? And, in his infinite wisdom God did create the animals naked, and the humans as naked if not more so than the animals didn’t he?
    Nope! I think one shouldn’t try to forcefully put women in Hijab. That defeats the purpose. For what does it mean if a man doesn’t go berserk in the presence of a woman in Hijab, but that he will go berserk if the Hijab (and all other items of clothing) was to fall off that woman, and spontaneously make her NAKED?
    No, don’t worry about the man or woman, naked or otherwise, rather worry about your own internal defilements.

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