The media has been all over a ‘revealing’ dress worn by Egyptian actress Rania Youssef at the Cairo Film Festival last week, a move she almost went on trial for, after heavy public criticism, including from the Actors Syndicate. For Egypt’s op-ed writers, the issue continues to be an interesting topic.
Writers in the state-owned daily newspaper, Al-Ahram, debated the issue of personal freedom. Sherif Abdeen, who described the dress as “cursed”, condemned the debate that was trending on social media, and picked up by international media, criticising those who used the cause of personal freedom, to call for a renewal of conservative religious discourse. Abdeen called instead for the reinforcement of religious fundamentals, to face those who promote debauchery.
On the other hand, Al-Ahram’s Ahmed Abdel Tawab directed his criticism to those who ‘revolted’ against the dress, wondering if they react in the same way to a woman wearing a swimsuit on the beach, and wondered why they do not instead take action against corruption, or defend detained intellectuals and artists. Abdel Tawab also criticised the syndicate’s position, which allowed for some to file a lawsuit, imposing guardianship in the name of society.
Al-Ahram’s Ashraf Sadek wondered when those commentaries and comments will come to an end. As he presented the views of both the ‘extremists’ and the ‘enlightened’, Sadek brought back the case of a Coptic woman who was stripped off her clothes, during a sectarian incident in Minya, which he argues did not cause so much uproar. According to the writer, what this issue has really exposed, is those who are superficial and selective in their accusations of debauchery.
Emad El-Din Hussein, editor-in-chief of the privately-owned Al-Shorouk newspaper, wrote about it more than once this week. The dress, which ‘exposed most of her body’, is not an insignificant topic for the public opinion, despite other major topics on their minds such as health, education, and economic troubles. The dispute was not only about which parts of her body the dress revealed, but also on the crucial debates on the difference between morals and laws, the double standards of the Egyptian mentality, and the struggle between liberalists and conservatives, he wrote.
Meanwhile, Al-Shorouk’s Sameh Fawzy opinionated that the issue highlighted how polarised the society has become; between those who completely want to cover women, and those who want to expose her body completely, which means that society isn’t moderate anymore, and cannot find a balance.
Lastly, film critic Tarek Al-Shenawy wrote an article in the private newspaper, Al-Masry Al-Youm, in which he argued that this sort of moral guardianship doesn’t work in current times, criticising the monitoring role of some state institutions on the art scene.