Egyptian actress charged over ‘revealing’ dress at Cairo Film Festival

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An Egyptian actress facing trial on public obscenity charges for wearing a revealing dress says she didn’t mean to offend anyone and appealed to her detractors to believe in her good intentions.In a Facebook post late Saturday, 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, whose statement fell short of an 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 sent the actress 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 offense. 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.

El-Sissi is known to be an observing Muslim who consistently invokes the name of God in his 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. As president, he said in a TV interview before his election in June 2014, “I will be responsible for (the nation’s) values, ethics, principles and religion.”

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