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Egypt's Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa: Women Can Wear Trousers, But Stretch Pants Are "Unacceptable"

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CAIRO — Egypt's top Islamic authority defended women's rights to wear trousers in public following a high profile court case in neighboring Sudan were women were flogged for dressing in pants, the local press reported Wednesday.

Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa said in response to a question during a public lecture that trousers covering women's bodies are permitted, though they should be loose and not see through. He specified that "stretch" pants were in particular unacceptable.

Gomaa described the question as "strange and weird" and smiled as he responded. He is the top religious authority of Egypt and appointed by the government.

Sudan caused a stir when it flogged 10 women for wearing trousers. One woman, Lubna Hussein contested penalty and was let off with a fine for public indecency in a trial that garnered international attention.

Ever since her arrest in July, the 43-year-old Hussein used her case to draw attention to Sudan's indecency law, which allows flogging as a punishment for any acts or clothing that is seen as offending morals. The law follows a strict interpretation of Islamic laws. Human rights campaigners criticize the law as vague.

Egypt also has vaguely worded indecency laws that can be widely applied, but women are given quite a bit of leeway in their attire. Unlike Sudan, no moral police is entrusted with implementing the law.

While the vast majority of Egyptian women wear headscarves and loose flowing robes, Western style dress, including trousers, is also quite common.

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