'Christian Salafism': Debate rages in Egypt as Coptic women told to cover up

'Christian Salafism': Debate rages in Egypt as Coptic women told to cover up
A popular Coptic priest's calls for women to cover up more in church has shone a light on campaigns across the country for more conservative dress codes for female worshippers.
2 min read
10 May, 2019
A Coptic woman attends an Easter church service in Cairo [Getty]
A Coptic Easter sermon calling for women to dress more conservatively in church has caused a stir among Egypt's christian community, with some saying the church has succumbed to 'extremist ideology'.

Father Daoud Lamei, a world-renowned priest with a substantial social media following, chose in his Easter service to make special mention that women and girls were wearing too revealing clothes in church.

"Why are girls and women even coming to church if they're wearing revealing and inappropriate clothes?" he said during the sermon in the upmarket Cairo suburb of Heliopolis, in a clip that has been widely shared across the internet.

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"She who does, will be judged," he added. "I personally think any man, who agrees to his wife leaving her home in that way, will be judged before God."

Lamei made the remarks in an April 30 sermon marking Orthodox Easter, which is celebrated by Egypt's Coptic Christian community.

"At least during Christmas we don't have to worry about racy clothes because it's cold... we want it to be cold always," joked the popular priest.

Lamei's comments provoked a mixed reaction from Egyptian men, with some critical of his hard-line tone, while other welcomed guidelines they deemed appropriate for a place of worship.

"I fear the church has succumbed to extremist ideology," posted on Egyptian Twitter user.

But another woman, writing on Facebook, said the priest "spoke with complete respect... so they can wake up and revere the church they're entering."

The controversy has brought to light a much wider online campaign calling on Christian women to cover up more during worship.

Pictures of a poster outside a Cairo church has circulated on social media, which asks: 'Didn't you know that your bodies are are the organs of Christ?' and lists items of clothing it says are 'strictly forbidden' to wear inside the church, such as short skirts, low-cut tops and ripped jeans.

Ishak Ibrahim, a human rights worker who posted the photo, said there were similar campaigns in Upper Egypt.

"Christian Salafism is even worse and even uglier than Islamic Salafism," he tweeted.

"It is a big mistake to tie virtue with how you dress," adding that this rhetoric "excuses harassment" against women.

Egypt is one of the worst offenders worldwide for sexual harassment - endured by more than 99 percent of women in the county according to a 2013 United Nations report. 

Agencies contributed to this report.