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Lebanese TV Host Rima Karaki Cut Short Islamist Scholar Who Told Her to 'Shut Up' on Air (Video)

( [email protected] ) Mar 10, 2015 10:17 PM EDT
When an Islamic sheikh told Lebanese talk show host and university professor Rima Karaki to "shut up" during an interview last week, the woman never would have guessed that her stand against sexism would become viral.
Rima Karaki is being hailed as a hero after demanding mutual respect from an Islamic sheikh during a TV interview. Photo: Rima Karaki PR

When an Islamic sheikh told Lebanese talk show host and university professor Rima Karaki to "shut up" during an interview last week, the woman never would have guessed that her stand against sexism would become viral.

The interview took place on March 2 during a Lebanese television presentation that focused on the increase in Christians who join the Islamic State. Sheikh Hani Al-Siba'i, a London-based Islamic Scholar originally from Egypt, became frustrated at Karaki when he told the man that they were running out of time.

At one point, Karaki cut the man off to redirect the show's focus from history to the topic-at-hand, but the sheikh lashed out immediately. "Listen, don't cut me off. I will answer as I please," he said, raising his voice. "I will not answer the way you like, because I'm here to to serve the idea in which I believe."

But Karaki clarified that the show was running out of time. "Please don't get all worked up. We respect you and know you want to give a complete answer."

The tables really turned when Skeikh Al-Siba'i told the host, "Are you done? Shut up so I can talk."

"How can a respected sheikh like yourself tell a TV host to shut up?" Karaki responded.

"It's beneath me to be interviewed by you. You are a woman who ...." At that point, the sheikh's microphone cut off and Karaki got the final word.

"Just one second. Either there is mutual respect or the conversation is over."

Lebanese TV Host Rima Karaki
Lebanese TV Host Rima Karaki

The YouTube clip of the interaction quickly racked up over 5 million views with many calling Karaki a hero to women everywhere for standing up to the sheikh and his fundamentalist ideals about how a woman should be treated.

"Had I not answered, I would have hated myself, and I don't want to hate myself," she told the Guardian in an interview. "When he said shut up, it was no longer possible to shut up because I would be insulting myself and would lose everything." Karaki even wore a veil at the sheikh's request, but his continued treatment was too much for her to stand any longer.

"The studio is like a courtroom, someone has to moderate the conversation. The only difference is that it's not in the core of my profession to judge people," Karaki told the Guardian.

"But it's my job to moderate the conversation, and I felt it was my right to say that I was in charge and I decide what the subject is, and that it could not go on this way," she said. "He decided to speak in a disrespectful manner and I had to cut off the interview."

Al-Siba'i later wrote a message on Twitter demanding an apology from the television station, Al-Jadeed. He claimed that the station was biased because it tried to portray him as a friend of al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri.

"As if the friendship of Dr Zawahiri is an insult!" he said in the message. "But I am proud of it and every Muslim is proud of it! But they mentioned it as slander."

The sheikh claims that a "demon" possessed Karaki when she cut off the interview.