Debate rages in Egypt as priest tells Christian women to cover up

Coptic priest in Egypt blessing two young women. (Shutterstock photo)
Updated 11 May 2019

Debate rages in Egypt as priest tells Christian women to cover up

  • Father Daoud Lamei’s comments about revealing clothing has sparked a heated debate in the Coptic community
  • Lamei’s remarks were dubbed “Christian Salafism” by Ishak Ibrahim, a researcher with the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights

CAIRO: “Why are women and girls coming to church if they’re wearing revealing and inappropriate clothes?” That was the message of the sermon delivered by Father Daoud Lamei whilst presiding over an Orthodox Easter mass, celebrated by the Coptic Christian community in Egypt.

“I personally think any man, who agrees to his wife leaving her home in that way will be judged before God,” Lamei added. “At least during Christmas, we don’t have to worry because it is cold ... We want it to be cold always.”

The priest’s comments about revealing clothing have sparked a heated debate in the Coptic community. Some have criticized Lamei, while others supported his call for modesty in religious buildings.

“He is specifically attacking Christian women, not explaining the appropriate dress code and attitude for a church in general,” said Maryan Youssef, a 19-year-old student. “Egyptian Christians wear decent clothes, and if some are not dressed properly they should be given guidance, but there aren’t that many.”

Hani Abdo, a religious teacher, said: “I fully agree with Lamei. I am a Christian man, and feel uncomfortable when I see Christian girls wearing inappropriate clothes in church. They are harassed in the streets.” He said: “Christian girls must learn from nuns. The Church is a sacred house that must be respected.”

Father Luke Rady of the Church of Marmina in Assiut, said: “We trust in our daughters and in their commitment to proper clothing.” 

Dr. Nabil William, a psychology teacher at the University of Assiut, said Christianity does not impose uniforms on anyone, but always calls for decency.

Following Lamei’s comments, an online campaign called “Cover Up” was set up by Orthodox Copts, calling on women to wear more conservative clothes when in church. In addition, a group of worshippers at a church in Upper Egypt started a seperate online campaign urging young women to dress modestly, which was vehemently criticized by Facebook users for its conservative language.

These campaigns have raised fears among some Christian women that they will be subjected to harassment for their outfits, restrictions on their personal freedom or forced to wear a prescribed uniform.

Lamei’s remarks were dubbed “Christian Salafism” by Ishak Ibrahim, a researcher with the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights. Ibrahim said such rhetoric hardened attitudes that would “justify harassment” of women simply for their attire. “There is a crisis in clerical education, and many clergymen end up tying piety to modesty,” he said.


Turkish, Iranian media outlets exchange blows on Syria

A Syrian woman carrying a child walks by, in the Washukanni Camp for the internally displaced, near the predominantly Kurdish city of Hasakeh in northeastern Syria, on February 17, 2020. (AFP)
Updated 40 min 32 sec ago

Turkish, Iranian media outlets exchange blows on Syria

  • Middle East expert believes Ankara and Tehran are locked in an information war

ANKARA: Turkish and Iranian media outlets are battling as deeply rooted tensions have resurfaced. Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency has published an opinion piece that critically discussed tensions with Iran over Syria. It said: “Turkey’s vision of regional development and integration is pitched against Iran’s regional strategy prioritising geopolitical wins.
“Ignoring Ankara’s concerns in the fight against terrorism during Operation Peace Spring, Tehran is now setting its Shiite militias in the field in motion against Turkey, who is actively endeavoring to prevent a humanitarian crisis.”
The analysis piece, titled “Idlib front, Iran’s weakening foreign operation capacity,” was penned by Hadi Khodabandeh Loui, a researcher at the Iran Research Center in Ankara.
Throughout Syria’s civil war, Turkey has backed rebels looking to oust Bashar Assad, while Iran has supported the Assad regime. However, the two countries are collaborating to reach a political solution to the conflict.
An editorial piece that was published in Iran’s hardline newspaper Entekhab compared Turkey’s military moves in Syria to Israel’s bombings of pro-Assad forces. The piece warned Ankara about a potential aggressive reaction from Tehran to both threats.
Israeli warplanes fired missiles at targets near Syria’s capital, Damascus, in early February and they hit Syrian Army and Iran-backed militia positions, reportedly killing 23 people.
Being among the guarantor states of the Astana peace process for Syria, aimed at ending the Syrian conflict, Turkey and Iran have already witnessed the fragility of their relations in October 2019 when Iran criticized Turkey’s moves to establish military posts inside Syria, emphasizing the need to respect the integrity of Syria.
Then, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan quickly accused Iran of betraying the consensus between the two countries following Tehran’s condemnation of Turkey’s operation in northern Syria against the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia.

BACKGROUND

Throughout Syria’s civil war, Turkey has backed rebels looking to oust Bashar Assad, while Iran has supported the Assad regime. However, the two countries are collaborating to reach a political solution to the conflict.

In March 2018, Iran’s Tehran Times defined Turkey’s cross-border military operation against the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia in Afrin as an “invasion.” It splashed with a headline that read: “Turkish troops occupy Syria’s Afrin.”
Over recent weeks, Ankara has voiced criticisms that the Assad regime, Iran-backed militia and Russia have violated the ceasefire in Syria’s rebel-held province of Idlib, with frequent attacks targeting Turkish troops.
Samuel Ramani, a Middle East analyst at the University of Oxford, thinks that Assad’s forces are winning decisively, and Turkey’s ability to resist them is greatly diminished.
“Assad’s forces have consolidated their control over west Aleppo, and are steadily advancing in Idlib. Turkey does not view the Iranian mediation offers in Syria as credible, especially as Iranian media outlets are justifying them by claiming that Turkey broke the terms of the Sochi agreement by harboring extremists. Turkey is insistent that Russia violated Sochi by supporting Assad’s offensive,” he told Arab News.
Regarding the media conflict, Ramani thinks that Turkey and Iran are locked in an information war over Syria, and are both trying to paint the other as an aggressor.
“It’s a way to rally public support in both countries around more confrontational posturing, in the event of a bigger military escalation that actually sees Turkish and Iranian forces in direct combat, not just Assad and Turkish proxies,” he said.