In Arab and Muslim communities, men and women are judged based on two entirely different systems. Women are policed every step of the way and their lives are dissected under a patriarchal microscope. Men, on the other hand, are hardly scrutinized at all. They are rarely held accountable for their shortcomings, which are often brushed off with little to no consequences.
Star Egyptian footballer Mohamed Salah is a case in point.
The Liverpool forward recently starred on the cover of GQ Middle East alongside Brazilian model and television personality Alessandra Ambrosio. The shoot stirred quite the debate online, having captured the model with her arms around the Muslim footballer. While the pose looks rather friendly and does not seem to hold any further insinuations, it raises plenty of questions regarding double standards in the region.
"Like Ronaldo and Messi he is a talismanic presence in his national team, willing them, almost single-handedly, on to victory. If he's feeling the pressure, he isn't letting it show," the magazine wrote.
Widely hailed as a devoted Muslim, Salah has regularly been described as a Muslim icon and an ambassador to the West for Arabs and Muslims. So much so that earlier this month, a fan of Salah revealed the footballer had inspired him to convert to Islam.
Did Salah actively decide to assume such a role? Probably not. Still, the implications of his conduct and the way he is perceived by the public cannot go unnoticed.
Arab and/or Muslim women know very well how challenging it is to go under the spotlight scot-free. Egyptian actress Rania Youssef faced up to five years in jail over a see-through dress that revealed her legs, her fellow Egyptian actress Dalia Mostafa endured heavy backlash after posting a photo of her upper body in a one-piece bathing suit, Muslim blogger Dina Tokio received death threats after she stopped wearing the hijab, and the list goes on...
Now, let's take a look at how the public deals with male celebrities' indiscretions. Egyptian footballer Amr Warda and Moroccan singer Saad Lamjarred have faced multiple sexual assault allegations, yet it has been business as usual for them both, thanks to their oh-so-forgiving fans.
As for Salah, he has posed shirtless on multiple occasions and shared revealing photos on social media, but he is yet to be accused of "public obscenity" as Youssef was. Plus, let's not forget the time he ruled Warda's sexual misconduct as "mistakes" and called upon his followers to "believe in second chances."
These are only a handful of examples of the hypocrisy and double standards that come into play in the region, yet the disparity between how men and women are treated couldn't be any clearer.
This is not to say Salah is not entitled to present himself the way he feels most comfortable with, rather than be restricted to the "ideal Muslim" persona. All we are saying is that Muslim and Arab women should be extended the same sense of flexibility and unconditional support as their male counterparts.