Disappointing Times

Dear New York Times,
I hope this message finds you well. I don’t read you as much as I used to, although I have been meaning to sign up and pay for unlimited access. You guys do write some great articles, like this piece you did on Ms. Bothaina Kamel and her pioneering campaign for president. As you noted, Ms. Kamel is being hailed as a true reformer who wants to move Egypt toward a more democratic future, and most significantly, she is the first Egyptian woman to compete for the presidency.

Given that no woman, of any religion, has ever sought the Egyptian presidency, I am dying to know why you felt it necessary to title this article “Muslim Woman Seeks Egyptian Presidency.” It is estimated that nearly 90 percent of Egyptians are Muslim, and the past four Egyptian presidents have been Muslim, so it can’t be that shocking that another Muslim is throwing her hat in the ring. Similarly, as you mention in your article, Ms. Kamel is the first Egyptian woman of any creed to run for this office, so it’s not as if she is the first Muslim woman to do so, but third woman overall.

My understanding of journalism is that titles should be short and sweet. Adjectives should be few and significant. As explained, in this case the adjective “Muslim” is not significant, so the purpose of its presence is unclear. The only explanation I can conclude is that you decided to throw it in because you were slightly surprised that the first woman to be running for president in Egypt was a Muslim, despite the fact that they are the majority. You thought this despite the fact that there have been female Muslim presidents and prime ministers in Turkey, Pakistan, Bengladesh, and Indonesia, and Muslim women parliamentarians throughout the Arab world. Despite all of this, you were surprised. Why? Perhaps it’s because you, like many ignorant people, have a erroneous perception of Muslim women as more disempowered than their Christian counterparts. Unfortunately, your title not only reflects this pernicious stereotype, but it also reinforces it.

Therefore, I suggest you reconsider the title of this piece. Titular words come at a premium, and you have one word which is not serving a purpose. At least not one that you should be proud of.

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