Egyptian actress Rania Youssef faces a trial on public obscenity charges for wearing a revealing dress. (Photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Egyptian actress Rania Youssef faces a trial on public obscenity charges for wearing a revealing dress. (Photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Egypt actress says revealing dress wasn’t meant to offend

CAIRO — An Egyptian actress facing trial on public obscenity charges for wearing a revealing dress says she didn’t mean to offend anyone, appealing to her detractors to believe in her good intentions.

In a weekend Facebook post, Rania Youssef said she may have misjudged how people would react to the dress she wore at the closing ceremony of this year’s Cairo International Film Festival, which revealed the entirety of her legs through embroidered gauze.

In choosing that dress, she said, she had referred to fashion designers that may have been influenced by the tastes and standards at international film festivals.

“I want to repeat my commitment to the values and ethics we have been raised by in Egyptian society,” said Youssef, without making an outright apology.

Images of Youssef at the event were widely shared on social media, prompting a group of lawyers to file a complaint to the chief prosecutor, who quickly referred the case to trial. Many complaints languish for months or longer before any action is taken, so the swift action betrays the urgency of the desire to appease those that took offence.

Youssef is due in court on Jan. 12.

The case is the latest instance of ostensibly secular authorities embracing religious conservatism in Muslim-majority Egypt, where the military in 2013 — then led by current President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi — overthrew a freely elected but divisive Islamist president, Mohammed Morsi.

Elected to office in 2014, el-Sissi has since overseen a crackdown that saw thousands of Islamists and many secular, pro-democracy activists imprisoned, and reversed gains won by a popular 2011 uprising that toppled the 29-year rule of autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

But while el-Sissi’s government embraces an almost obsessive opposition to political Islam, it has shown a large degree of tolerance toward ultraconservative Muslims. The Salafis, as they are known, have for decades worked quietly toward the gradual, non-violent transformation of Egypt into a society that observes the purist rules of Islam’s early 7th century days.

El-Sissi is known to be an observing Muslim who consistently invokes God in speeches but has regularly called on the country’s top clerics to revise Islam’s discourse in a bid to remove literature inspiring hatred or violence. In a TV interview before his election in June 2014, el-Sissi said: “I will be responsible for (the nation’s) values, ethics, principles and religion.”

Egypt’s Actors Guild, meanwhile, said in a statement that it intended to investigate and discipline actors who wore “inappropriate” attire during the opening and closing ceremonies of the weeklong film festival, arguing that they clashed with “traditions, values and ethics of the society.”

“Although we absolutely believe in personal freedom of artists, we appeal to everyone to shoulder their responsibilities toward the fans who appreciate their art and view them as role models,” said the statement. “That should compel them to exercise a minimum level of commitment to society’s public values.”

Youssef’s dress and news of her impending trial have dominated on social media over the weekend, made the front page Sunday of several newspapers and became the topic of several op-eds.

While some on social media invoked religion to denounce the actress’ “immodesty,” others criticized the judicial system for what they saw as bowing to conservatives, noting the lack of progress in redressing what they considered some of society’s more pressing chronic ills, such as homelessness, corruption and sexual harassment of women.

“A nation is jolted by a revealing dress at a festival but is not enraged by a million children sleeping rough and scavenging in trash bins for food,” tweeted columnist Khaled Montaser.

Emad Hussein, editor of the independent and respected daily Al-Shorouk, said Youssef had every right, in theory, to wear whatever dress she chose, but that her “grave mistake” was that it “looked more like a swimsuit.”

“There is a law that prohibits offending the public but, more importantly, there are societal values that need to be respected,” he wrote Sunday.

By The Associated Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said the 500 deaths from COVID-19 in the province are a tragic milestone. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Alberta hits ‘tragic milestone’ with more COVID-19 deaths

Province up to 500 COVID-19 deaths, adds 1,265 cases

A recent investigation by the RCMP Central Alberta District Crime Reduction Unit led to the arrests of 24 people. (Contributed photo)
24 people arrested following RCMP investigation in central Alberta

Twenty-four people are facing a combined 235 charges following an investigation by… Continue reading

Photo from Town of Sylvan Lake Facebook page
Sylvan Lake communities band together on development plan

Sylvan Lake Intermunicipal Development Plan expected to be approved next spring

Tribe restaurant owner Paul Harris, left, consults with manager Brandon Bouchard about how to proceed under pandemic rules that make it hard for eateries to be profitable. (Contributed photo).
New pandemic rules deemed workable for Red Deer retailers

Stricter COVID-19 reduction measures introduced in lead-up to Christmas

Quentin Lee Strawberry
Man accused in 2019 Red Deer murder will stay behind bars

Quentin Strawberry going to trial next year on second-degree murder charge

Justice Minister David Lametti responds to a question during question period in the House of Commons Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Liberals to present bill on single-game sports betting

Liberals to present bill on single-game sports betting

Bayern, Man City win to advance to Champions League last-16

Bayern, Man City win to advance to Champions League last-16

FILE - In this March 26, 2006 file photo, former soccer player Diego Maradona smokes a cigar as he watches Argentina's first division soccer match between Boca Juniors and River Plate in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The Argentine soccer great who was among the best players ever and who led his country to the 1986 World Cup title before later struggling with cocaine use and obesity, died from a heart attack on Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020, at his home in Buenos Aires. He was 60. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko, File)
Argentine soccer great Diego Maradona dies at 60

Argentine soccer great Diego Maradona dies at 60

In this July 1, 2020, photo, Salt Lake Tribune data columnist and Utah Jazz beat writer Andy Larsen poses for a photo. Larsen is a sports writer, but with much of that world sidelined during the pandemic he's been digging into coronavirus data and its sobering implications. So when he found himself with a cache of spare change, partially from his childhood piggy bank, he knew plenty of people could use it. (Francisco Kjolseth/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP)
Tweet on spare change generates big money for virus aid

Tweet on spare change generates big money for virus aid

FILE - In this Wednesday, March 18, 2020 file photo, a view of a 'Matterhorn-Express' gondola lift in front of Matterhorn mountain in the Zermatt ski resort, in Zermatt, Switzerland. Restrictions to slow the curve of coronavirus infections have kept ski lifts closed in Italy, France, Germany and Austria, as well as countries further east. But skiers are already heading to mountains in Switzerland, drawing an envious gaze from ski industry and local officials in mountain regions elsewhere on the continent who lost most of last season due to the virus. (Jean-Christophe Bott/Keystone via AP, File)
As season nears, Europe ponders skiing during pandemic

As season nears, Europe ponders skiing during pandemic

FILE - In this Dec. 10, 2015 file photo, actor John Boyega, right, pose with Star Wars characters during the Japan Premiere of their latest film "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" in Tokyo. Boyega stars in Steve McQueen’s “Red White and Blue,” the third film in the director’s anthology of West Indian life in London from the ‘60s through the ’80s. The five-film series will debut Dec. 4. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara, File)
John Boyega isn’t going to ‘take the money and shush’

John Boyega isn’t going to ‘take the money and shush’

The Hockley Motel in Mono, Ont., is shown in this undated handout photo. An Ontario motel that served as a backdrop for the beloved CBC sitcom "Schitt's Creek" is up for sale. The Hockley Motel in Mono, about an hour's drive northwest of Toronto, was listed for $2 million today. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Colliers International
Calling all eccentric millionaires: ‘Schitt’s Creek’ motel up for sale for $2 million

Calling all eccentric millionaires: ‘Schitt’s Creek’ motel up for sale for $2 million

RCMP Cpl. Joanie Sidhu speaks about a seizure of illegal drugs, cash and a firearm during a news conference in Surrey, B.C., on Thursday, Sept. 3, 2020. The B.C. Coroners Service says its latest data on illicit drug toxicity deaths show five people are dying every day in the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Five people dying every day from toxic illicit drugs in B.C.: Coroner

Five people dying every day from toxic illicit drugs in B.C.: Coroner

Most Read