An Egyptian satellite channel that will be operated exclusively by women wearing a full face veil (niqab) is scheduled to be launched 20 July, the first day of the holy month of Ramadan, local media reported.
The Al-Ahram daily's website said the channel, named "Mariya" after one of Prophet Mohamed's wives, who was a Coptic Egyptian freed slave, will be managed by a full crew of women – including TV presenters, producers, directors and correspondents.
The website said men will be prohibited from working or appearing on the channel, and will even be barred from taking part in phone-ins during live programs.
'Niqab is a red line'
El-Sheikha Safaa Refai, a preacher who will head the channel, said its programs will aim to educate Muslim women about their religion.
"Our message will be directed at Muslim women, to teach them the Sunna (practices) of the Prophet Mohammed," she told Al-Ahram, adding that one of the station's programs - "Memoires of a woman" - will discuss marital infidelity, with the focus on women cheating on their husbands.
Refai said the channel is the brainchild of El-Sheikh Abu Islam Ahmed Abdallah, the owner of the Umma Channel, which aired several programs featuring women wearing full face-veils.
Speaking to Al-Ahram, Refai labeled any woman who does not wear the full face veil as "uncovered," adding that the niqab is a "red line" that cannot be crossed.
She stressed that while Mariya plans to feature only niqabi pundits, in case the channel airs a program about a certain issue and cannot find a niqabi expert, it will host a non-niqabi expert who will either be willing to wear the niqab temporarily during the program or have her face blurred out while the program is being broadcast.
Refai explained that Mariya aims to bring back the dignity of niqabi women who were oppressed and fired from their jobs over the past few decades.
During the secular regime of ousted President Hosni Mubarak, women were forbidden from appearing on television wearing full-face veils.