جريدة وطنى الأسبوعية
Coptic Women reject alleged call for hijab-like decency
18 May 2012
Robeir al-Faris – Nader Shukry
This morning saw a demonstration by Coptic women at the grounds of the St Mark cathedral in Abassiya, Cairo, to protest against alleged declarations by Anba Bishoi, Archbishop of Dumyat, in which he called upon Coptic women to exercise decency in dress, and cited the Islamic hijab as an example of decency.
The demonstrators, who began as mostly female but who were joined by many men, alleged that Anba Bishoi was flirting with the Islamist streams which are getting mightier by the day in Egypt. They insisted that decency was an attitude which translated in many aspects including dress, and that the majority of Coptic women dressed decently.
Anba Bishoi issued a statement which was read to the demonstrators by Anba Angelius, deputy to the acting patriarch Anba Pachomeus. Anba Bishoi insisted he had made no declarations against women or how they dressed, and confirmed he held women in the highest respect. He cited verses from the Bible and said Coptic women always dressed decently and covered their heads in church and when they partook of communion.
For his part, Anba Angelius said that the news about Anba Bishoi’s declarations were unsubstantiated, and that none of the protestors had heard them or seen him say them on video. They were merely propagated in the media according to unknown sources, he said.
The only person who was able to give a personal testimony to Watani on the matter was Walaa’ Wassfi, a Coptic woman in her thirties, who was among the demonstrators. Ms Wassfi said she had heard Anba Bishoi in a sermon he delivered at the convent of St Dimiana say that Coptic women ought to dress decently, which Muslim women did. But, according to Wassfi, he never said anything about hijab. And there was no one else among the demonstrators who said they had heard anything first-hand.
By early afternoon Anba Pachomeus met a representative group of the demonstrators for some 30 minutes. He reassured them that the Coptic Church held women in the utmost respect. The demonstration then ended.