“The behavior was wrong.”
Three lawyers dropped a criminal lawsuit against an Egyptian actress who wore a sheer dress to the Cairo International Film Festival last week after she apologized for her attire.
Rania Youssef was set to stand trial on January 12 facing charges of public obscenity and incitement to debauchery, which carried a potential five year prison term.
In a statement published by El Watan News on Monday, Amr Abdel Salam, Hamido Jameel al-Prince and Wahid al-Kilani explained that Youssef’s apology led them to “waive the legal measures.”
— اليوم السابع (@youm7) November 29, 2018
“…Rania Youssef presented an apology to the Egyptian family and society for this incident and its affirmation that it was not intentional, that it was placed in circumstances beyond its control and that the behavior was wrong and unintentional,” said the Egyptian attorneys, who according to The New York Times are “known for using the courts to engage in moral vigilantism.”
The controversy over Youssef’s dress sparked debate on social media over Egyptian cultural values, with many commenters accusing Youssef’s prosecutors of sexism.
Normal person: sees rania youssef’s dress and moves on
Egyptian person: YaLaHwYy El SoUrA dI lAzEm TeB2a Me7WaR 7aYaTy
— Maryam (@MaryamBazar3a) December 1, 2018
The Times’ Declan Walsh contextualized the backlash in his coverage of the incident, noting how it comes during Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s authoritarian rule over a conservative nation with a Muslim majority.
“The case is the latest in a series of high-profile prosecutions targeting celebrities in Egypt under the authoritarian rule of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi,” Walsh wrote. “They are often brought by lawyers claiming to police public morals by regulating attire, behavior and even jokes under the guise of protecting a brittle version of Egyptian nationalism.”
Feminism’s role in responding to culturally conservative Islamic nations, such as Egypt, has drawn controversy at times. Conservatives accuse American feminists of stridently protesting a Western system in which women enjoy comparatively unparalleled equality while staying silent on egregious abuses elsewhere.
They might point to the case of the Cambridge lecturer who showed up to a university function in a completely sheer outfit earlier this year — to relatively little fanfare or outcry — as exhibit A.
“They have averted their eyes from the harsh, blatant oppression of millions of women, even while they have continued to stare into the Western patriarchal abyss, indignant over female executives who cannot join an exclusive golf club and college women who do not have their own lacrosse teams,” wrote Kay S. Hymowitz of American feminists in a 2013 piece for City Journal.