A televised call by radical Salafi cleric Hisham el-Ashry for the introduction of religious vice police akin to those in Saudi Arabia has many in Egypt concerned, Reuters reports.
"In order for Egypt to become fully Islamic, alcohol must be banned and all women must be covered," el-Ashry said amid comments saying he supports the establishment of a police force to enforce Islamic law.
El-Ashry recently suggested that Christians should convert to Islam and that their women should be veiled.
"I was once asked: If I came to power, would I let Christian women remain unveiled? And I said: If they want to get raped on the streets, then they can," el-Ashry told Nahar TV last week.
The cleric lived in New York during the 1990s, and boasts about having brought numerous Christians to Islam.
The call reinforces concerns expressed last month by Coptic opposition leader Michael Meunier during an interview with the Investigative Project on Terrorism. An article in Egypt's recently enacted constitution could be used to "establish a kind of police like they have in Saudi Arabia that would enforce moral standards in Egypt," he said.
Egypt's Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa condemned el-Ashry's views, however, in a statement to Reuters.
"This sort of idiotic thinking is one that seeks to further destabilise what is already a tense situation," Gomaa said. "Egypt's religious scholars have long guided the people to act in ways that conform to their religious commitments, but have never thought this required any type of invasive policing."