A Coptic priest’s comments about women’s clothing being too revealing in churches has sparked a heated debate this week among Egyptian Christians, the largest religious minority in the Middle East.
Father Daoud Lamei, a well-known parish priest in an upmarket Cairo suburb with a sizeable social media following, lambasted Christian women for attire that he deemed immodest.
“Why are girls and women even coming to church if they’re wearing revealing and inappropriate clothes?” he said in a widely-shared video.
“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 comments 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.
Coptic Christians make up around 12 percent of the conservative country’s population of 100 million, which is predominantly Sunni Muslim.
Lamei’s remarks sparked a mixed response from women in Egypt, with some criticising his stringent tone while others praised the priest for giving worshippers guidelines.
“He is condemning these women… instead of explaining the appropriate dress code and attitude in church in general — for everyone,” said Sandra Awad, a 22-year-old student who has attended Lamei’s church in the past.
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.”
‘Cover up’ campaign
The debate comes in the wake of a controversial online campaign calling on Christian women to “cover up, so we people can pray”.
A parallel drive urging Egyptian women to cover up for Ramadan, the Muslim holy month, also appeared this week with users drawing similarities between the two in the sexist language employed.
Lamei has denied on social media that he endorsed any online drives and did not respond to AFP’s requests for comment.
St Mark’s Church in the Heliopolis district, where he delivered the sermon, on May 6 published a link on its Facebook page to the full Easter speech.