Egyptian pop star goes on trial for video
Debauchery charges are latest example of crackdown on people who challenge society
The controversy around the Egyptian pop singer Shyma's new music video began with a suggestive bite of a banana and ended in a police prison cell.
The 25-year-old starlet was arrested days after the release of a music video for her song I Have Issues, in which she dances in lingerie and flirts with a classroom full of young men.
She apologised in the face of an avalanche of criticism from MPs and newspapers but it was not enough to stop police from taking her in on suspicion of "inciting debauchery".
A contrite Shyma appeared in court last week wearing a niqab instead of a skimpy outfit. Her trial on debauchery charges is scheduled to begin on Tuesday. Shyma's arrest was the most high-profile moment of a recent crackdown on singers, risque bloggers, LGBT people and others who seem to be challenging society's norms.
However, activists see the wave of arrests as more than aggressive morality policing or a reactionary war on sex. Egypt's authoritarian government, they argue, cares less about writhing hips than it does about anything that could challenge its dominance.
"The brand of morality that they're interested in is about people following the line," said Wael Eskandar, an independent Egyptian journalist.
"It's an attempt to control people's thoughts and their fears and their ideas."
While Egypt is a religious Muslim country, it does not have the severe social laws of its Gulf neighbours such as Saudi Arabia. Women walk the streets of the large cities with their heads uncovered, alcohol is easily available and the government once nationalised the Stella beer company.
The "golden age" of 1950s Egyptian cinema churned out films full of passionate love scenes.
The recent focus on morality is a new direction for President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi's government, which has devoted more of its time to crushing potential political challengers, whether they be liberals or Islamists. No real opposition is expected to be allowed in next year's presidential elections.
The surge in morality policing began in September, when fans of the Lebanese band Mashrou' Leila raised the rainbow flag at a concert in Cairo.
Within weeks, dozens of LGBT people had been arrested and a new race was on among parliamentarians to clamp down. "The rainbow party provoked me. How dare they do this? This is not the respectable Egypt," Shadia Thabet, an MP loyal to the government, said.
She is working on a law that would allow police to arrest anyone who promotes gay relationships on social media.
Shyma was arrested soon after, followed by what may be the most baffling arrest of the entire crackdown: a foul-mouthed secular blogger named Islam al-Refaei. Known to his 75,000 Twitter followers as 5orm, the Arabic word for "hole", he devoted more of his time to sarcastic quips and pictures of scantily clad women than to politics.
"The stifling of social freedoms is intended to weaken civil society," said Amin Al-Mahdi, a political analyst.
He suggested it may also be a way for Mr Sisi's government to align itself with Salafists and conservative Muslims.