A stroll in any of Egyptian town shows clearly that the vast majority of Muslim women wear the Islamic headscarf hijab, and many wear niqab, the full face veil. Christian women are very easily identified by their uncovered heads. Apart from that, however, they are more often than not modestly dressed in longish skirts or in trousers and shirts or blouses.
Yet Christian women have come under fire for the manner in which they dress. A Coptic Orthodox priest, Father Shenouda Mansour, was last week hosted by the TV talk show al-Ashira Masa’an on Dream Channel during which he criticised Christian women for what he termed their immodest dress. He especially noted the dresses they don in weddings or on Christmas and Easter Midnight Mass, which he said were too revealing.
Fr Shenouda’s declarations aroused the wrath of Copts in general and Coptic women in specific, who all felt deeply offended at his remarks. “Are we supposed to wear hijab, otherwise we would be branded as immodest?” many Coptic women angrily asked.
The day following the airing of the show, Pope Tawadros II issued a papal decision suspending Fr Shenouda from his clerical work, until an investigation into the matter would be conducted by a clerical council.
The spokesman of the Coptic Orthodox Church denounced the slur directed at Coptic women, apologising to them for the offence. He insisted women were the precious daughters of the Church who served her well. He said that the Church was proud of her women and confident that they conducted themselves with admirable decency. If a few of them strayed off the path of modesty in dress, he said, it was the pastor’s responsibility to gently draw their attention to that shortcoming in a spirit of caring and teaching.
The talk show host, Wa’el al-Ibrashi who is among the most prominent media men in Egypt, also came under fire from the Copts. Mr Ibrashi is famous for hosting guests and provoking them into making outrageous remarks. The Coptic activists Naguib Gabrail of the Egyptian Organisation of Human Rights and Fady Youssef of The Coptic Coalition, as well as many Copts alleged that Mr Ibrashi had been accustomed to devoting his talk show to maligning Copts. But Mr Ibrashi insisted it was not so. He reminded of several instances in his shows in which he defended the rights of Copts. He cited samples of these shows, including one during the time of former President Hosni Mubarak, in which he tackled the issue of the ‘kidnap’ of Coptic underage women, luring them into conversion to Islam and marrying Muslim men. Mr Ibrashi said that President Mubarak had then responded by directly ordering his Interior Minister to allow no such conversions or marriages unless the women are of age and legally eligible to take such decisions.
10 May 2016