Christian woman in Egypt Shoe-whacks Salafi Fundamentalist for Calling her a Harlot (Photo)

Last December at a protest against Egyptian president Muhammad Morsi in Egypt, it is alleged that an unveiled Christian woman was standing with other demonstrators when a hard-line Salafi fundamentalist came up to her and said “Cover your face you harlot!” She immediately reached down, took off her shoe, and slapped him across the face with it.

This story, now circulating on the internet, apparently originally appeared late last December in the Egyptian newspaper Misr an-Nahar-da (Egypt Today). It was reprinted in Al-Hasela.

Christians are about 10 percent of the population in Egypt, and many are middle class and well educated. Some in the community are very concerned with the rise of Muslim fundamentalism and what it will do to the status of minority Christians. The woman was understandably upset, but such physical responses to verbal provocation are unwise.

Coptic Church officials in Egypt have unhelpfully urged Christian girls to wear a headscarf in this conservative Muslim country.

Posted in Egypt | 37 Responses | Print |

37 Responses

  1. When you say many Egyptian Christians are middle class and well educated, many of your readers will assume you mean that a higher proportion of Christians than Muslims are middle class and well educated (otherwise, why bother to note this?). But I don’t think there’s any evidence for that. I certainly have never seen any data to support such a hypothesis. When I see such claims, I can’t help wondering whether this is just part of a Eurocentric fantasy along the lines of “if they’re Christians, they’re bound to be more like us, and different from the Muslim masses”. In fact, it’s extraordinary how similar Egyptian Christians are to their Muslim neighbours, in almost everything other than their religious rites.

    • ” But I don’t think there’s any evidence for that. I certainly have never seen any data to support such a hypothesis”

      Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

      It’s well-known that Copts, for whatever reason, have occupied many prominent roles at a disproportionate rate in Egyptian society, much as Parsis in India or Jews and Armenians historically throughout the Middle East and world.

      Boutros-Boutros Ghali is a Copt FWIW.

      Sounds like sour grapes on behalf of an Islamist to me.

      • Han,

        “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” -Great rationale. A tenth-rate thinker’s classic, shorthand rebuttal.

        You sound a lot like the Islamists you condemn, many of which use the same exact claim to justify their attacks (verbal and physical) on Copts. There is no disproportion in the prominent roles and their ethnic holders. It’s simply a matter of insecure, closed-minded (and powerful) individuals from the majority group persecuting an entire minority ethnic group for their (proportional) societal representatives.

        You sound too much like Enver Pasha, fearing the Armenians and arresting their notables for no (rational) reason whatsoever.

        RIP Carl Sagan said it best, “Appeal to ignorance: the claim that whatever has not been proved false must be true, and vice versa”.

  2. “Coptic Church officials in Egypt have unhelpfully urged Christian girls to wear a headscarf in this conservative Muslim country.”

    I’m not sure why that’s unhelpful. I believe there may still be Christian church congregations in Western Europe where the dress code is that a woman’s hair and upper arms should be covered. It was certainly the case 50 years ago (when I last went to church) and I’m guessing that it was a relic of what became proper dress during the counter enlightenment.

    If wearing a headscarf is all it takes to secure agency it’s a good deal. Disclaimer: I’m a man.

    • There is a big difference between women covering their head while attending Christian church services and urging “Christian girls to wear a head scarf in this conservative Muslim country.”

      In the first instance, it is a matter of honoring the Christian heritage of those sects that require a woman to cover her head while attending services. In the second, it is a matter of pandering to the majority Muslim culture in order to avoid such egregious behavior as being called a “harlot” by some ignoramus who deserves a shoe in the face.

    • It wasn’t about church, it was about covering in public, and it is unhelpful for the Coptic authorities to make Christian women cover when they don’t want to and it isn’t their tradition to do so.

      • Some guy named Paul disagrees with you:

        1Cor 13:6
        For if a woman does not cover herself, let her also be shorn(shaved); but if it is disgraceful for a woman to be shorn or shaved, let her be covered.

        • Yeah, and Christians believe Paul is God. Right. Gotcha.

          Qur’an 4:3
          “If you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly with orphans, marry women of your choice who seem good to you, two or three or four; but if you fear that you shall not be able to do justice (to so many), then only one, or (a slave) that you possess, that will be more suitable. And give the women their dower as a free gift; but if they, of their own good pleasure, remit any part of it to you, eat it with enjoyment, take it with right good cheer and absorb it (in your wealth).”

          Are Muslim men who marry only one woman disobeying their religion?

          Regardless, it is NOT a custom for Coptic women to cover themselves, regardless what Paul says. Jesus himself is said to have had long hair and is depicted as such. Paul famously said in that same letter that you quoted that it’s natural for men to have short hair. Your point?

        • Actually, Paul is maybe closer to that ol’ Ayatollah Khomeini, as a militant salesman of a particular cult takeoff, built on the reputation and life of some guy named Jesus. He stuffed various loss-leaders in his spiel, that lovely bit about what love is and is not, in 1 Corinthians 13, so nicely put in context here: link to
          But the goal was (and is) domination, and anyone who knows a bit about the ugly history of the “Church” ought in equity to be a little careful about observations on what’s pragmatic and what’s appropriate comity.

        • Of course the point is domination, after all you can’t very well have people being nice to each other and living together in peace and harmony, they need to have someone tell them what to do and why their neighbors are horrible people.

  3. I am not so sure hitting back with a shoe is such a bad idea. Calling a woman a harlot is an extreme form of aggression. If it becomes alright to do this, women with modern norms of dressing become extremely vulnerable to all sorts of violence. The insult must be fought aggressively as it occurs.

    I am not sure about shoe pummeling. But it does send a message: “Don’t dare think such name calling will be allowed to go unchallenged!”

  4. The woman was understandably upset, but such physical responses to verbal provocation are unwise

    Your reporting of the anecdote has an interesting contradictory element in that you publicize it and then get to say it was unwise. Well, at least “media-wise” there is apparently some wisdom.

    Do not get me wrong, I generally come out in favor of non-violence in discussions, but where is the wisdom to dogmatically state that physical responses to verbal provocation is unwise?

    Even turning the other cheek is a physical response with a lot of symbolic meaning (in Roman times)
    link to

    Very much like the shoe has symbolic meaning in Egyptian culture I take it.

    At any rate, I am not sure how deeply we (men) actually “understand” how understandably upset she was, nor how such throwaway sentences assist the billions of women who struggle with the mismatch of their sense of fairness and equality and their actual social and economic condition to find their way between non-violence and physical response – which sometimes does have its place even though me may not like it, e.g.
    link to

    • I am sorry but i disagree with you.

      This is a common practice and considered extreme insult in the Middle East. Those salafis don’t understand anything but violence, if she didn’t respond in this way he would have said or done more.

      • One might reflect on the behavior of people who call themselves “religious,” like those numbering themselves among the “ultra-orthodox” in Israel: link to

        Same-same “Taliban,” Jerry Falwell, etc.

  5. She should have left her foot in the shoe when she whacked him.

    • Good point! :). I want all egyptian women to learn karate or tae kwon do. much needed in thispartof the world.

  6. Are we sure she wasn’t from Glasgow? Sounds like exactly the kind of thing my mother would do.

  7. Honestly, as a Muslim, I think the woman was right. How can he assert a women is a harlot without any proof or evidence. It is character disparagement without any basis. How islamic is that? The man deserved the shoe. She is defending her honor the only way she can. Maybe the man will think twice before sullying her reputation publicly.

    • Yes, it seems some of the Salafi are ‘paper tigers’. Better to deflate them on the spot when it happens.

  8. I am male, that woman is my hero, and I hope she broke some fundamentalist bones.

  9. The guy who said that to her is a jerk, and had no right to call her that. But I don’t think Jesus would have wanted her to strike him. Love your enemies, turn the other cheek, and let God be the ultimate judge. As hard as it is sometimes, true Christianity is about love not hate.

      • True, I’m not saying Christian’s can’t be passionate. Jesus was upset by the corruption in the temple and wanted to purge it out. But I don’t think physical violence on others is what he wants. Like when he stopped Peter after cutting off the soldiers ear. Or later when he said in John 18:36 “My Kingdom is not of this world. If it were, then my servants would fight”. All I’m saying is you can win a lot more people over with love than hate.

  10. Actually, what this situation seems to demonstrate as being unwise is calling someone a harlot.

  11. This particular woman was Coptic and may be (my assumption) due to her tradition she instinctively took an exception to the call to have her face covered.
    We might miss a related point here. What if the woman was Muslim!! Due to the atmosphere of religious ferver, women who might have been born in Muslim families but were brought up with secular worldviews, would not be instinctively oppose the call by the religious extremist nut.
    The revolution in Egypt will turn out to be a net negative in the short run of about 10 years.

  12. Good for her. Put the sanctimonious, bullying, sexist twerp in his place – he has no business harassing women in public or anywhere else.

  13. you men, stop talking about women as if we are some other type of species – or your possessions. stop talking about what we should wear, do, act, or be. About how we should FEEL and LOOK, and about what we decide to do about our sexual lives and our identifies.
    and stop ALL THE OTHER men from doing so.
    that’s your job. Help us STOP them making any decisions ‘for’ us. Ever again.
    Stop the clerics and the rabbis and the saudis and the wahabis and the salafists. STOP THEM. because we can’t do it alone.
    and then you can have some time to think about your own identities as men. But stop presuming ANYTHING about us. Except that we should never have to do what YOU determine, and your male gods and your male views of the universe.

  14. She should have slapped him twice, and they already criticize all the religous minorities so she is damned if she does damned if she does not, so she should have slapped him twice

  15. It’s gonna send a message to other women in this part of the world. There’s nothing wrong that, is there? We can all act like we know she shouldn’t have reacted, but she did the right thing. Wrong is wrong and he initiated something that all of his hookah smoking friends will raze him about for years. I pity that fool!

  16. Frankly, my hat’s off to this feisty lady (and she is a Lady!) for defending her honor without hesitation and in a fashion considered most insulting in the Arab world. One wonders if the offender got the message. On a larger scale, one wonders how willing the Salafists/Wahhabis would be to destroy shops, beat or kill ‘backsliders [including all Shia]’, etc. if they were met with that kind of immediate stiff resistance. Just like any ‘fundi’ group imbued with self righteous indignation and backed (according to them) by ‘god’s inviolate word’ they appear entirely unwilling to enter into meaningful negotiations regardless of what country we’re discussing (Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Saudi, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Mali, or Syria… among others)that would lead to peaceful cohabitation. I firmly believe that the overwhelming majority of mainstream Muslims want nothing more than to live their lives peacefully among their neighbors with neither bothering the other. However, the Muslim world seems to be under attack by the Fundi’s (as if Westboro Baptist Church had free reign to determine how everyone in the U.S. must behave) and cannot seem to bring them under control. I fear for the nature of the ‘final solution’ to this dilemma.

  17. I’m with Danny S, Andreas, and Jeff on the shoe. If there had been some actual risk of physical harm to the bigot, I would have felt differently – but there wasn’t. And he undoubtedly got the shock of his life.

    What’s “unwise” is to think that passive acquiescence (as opposed to a campaign of Gandhian-type passive resistance, which is actually not passive) to insults does anything more than validate them or will gain you any social space in which to operate.

  18. Egyptian families should focus on controlling their sons, not their daughters. Salafi lunatics would be better preaching that the offending parts of men harassing women should be cut off. Thieves should be way down the line of Islamist ridiculous ponderings. I would have slapped the ignorant moron with both shoes.

  19. Margaret Thatcher wore a headscarf when she visited Saudi Arabia because it was pragmatic to do so (she was selling weapons). It is not the custom for British women to cover their heads in public but it is the British custom to be pragmatic.

    The woman in the photo has my admiration and the man my contempt.

    The “unhelpful” advice deserves consideration. Sometimes being quiet is smarter than being confrontational and there’s more liberty when there’s less conflict.

    What I really don’t like is the notion that all of our recently (Circa 200 years, which is only 3 of my lifespans) acquired ideas about the equality of women should be adopted immediately by the rest of the world. This is the same craziness as that of the contemptible man.

  20. Wearing a headscarf might be a practical choice one makes when visiting a predominately Muslim country.I think it becomes a different argument when that place is your home and that is an everyday decision you have to make.

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