On Monday, Gezira Sporting Club (نادى الجزيرة / #نادي_الجزيره) was the top trending topic on social media in Egypt after photos from a birthday party were shared that showed a group of older women eating penis and vagina themed cupcakes.
The woman who baked and sold the cupcakes to the group of older women, whose identity has not been revealed by authorities and who Egyptian Streets has otherwise chosen to not name, was arrested, allegedly on charges of ‘violating family values’. In statements to Youm7, the woman denied adding any genital-inspired designs to her cupcakes, stating that she was surprised to see the viral photos.
As at the date of publication, it remains unclear whether any of the women who participated or otherwise attended the private birthday party have faced any legal action.
What is the Cupcake Incident?
Dubbed by Egyptian media as the ‘cupcake incident’ (واقعة تورتة), the controversy started after photos started to be widely shared on social media. The photos caused a stir in Egypt, with a number of leading Egyptian media outlets, including Al Masry Al Youm, Cairo 24 and Youm7, sharing censored versions of the photographs and reporting on the social media outrage.
By Monday night, Egyptian authorities and institutions of all kinds had weighed in on the genital-inspired cupcakes.
Egypt’s Dar Al Ifta, considered to be among the leading Islamic authorities in Egypt, said in a statement that any representations of nudity or sexual representations, regardless of the medium, is forbidden under Islam and punishable by law, calling such representations a “crude abuse of society”.
Meanwhile, a member of Egypt’s newly-elected parliament called for the Minister of Youth and Sports Dr Ashraf Sobhy to be summoned and to provide an urgent explanation regarding the cupcake incident, given its occurrence at a sporting club. The parliamentarian added that the cupcake incident also revealed a failure to adhere by restrictions imposed as a result of COVID-19, without specifying further details.
Earlier on Monday, Egypt’s Ministry of Youth and Sports had formed a legal committee to investigate the incident at Gezira Sporting Club.
Egyptian media figures, including television show host Amr Adeeb, also weighed in on the controversy and condemned the group of women for purchasing and enjoying the genitalia cupcakes.
On social media, Egyptians have expressed differing views. Some social media users have praised the response by authorities, arguing that the women’s behaviour is against societal morals and values. Others have condemned the outrage and the arrest of the woman who baked the cupcakes, warning the cupcake incident sets a dangerous precedent for all Egyptians.
Arrests for Violating Family Values
Egypt has seen a number of artists, writers and entertainers arrested in recent years for violating public morals. Those arrested have ranged from actress Rania Youssef, novelist Ahmed Naje, television show host Doaa Salah, singer Shyma, Russian belly dancer Johara and more. High profile cases in 2020 included the arrests of TikTok entertainers Mawada Al Adham, Haneen Hossam and other women.
In many cases, those arrested have been sentenced to prison or have received large fines. In 2015, two belly dancers were sentenced to six months in prison for posting a music video authorities said incited immorality and debauchery. In 2016, novelist Ahmed Naje was sentenced to two years in prison for “publishing obscene sexual content”. In 2020, prison sentences handed down to Mawada Al Adham and Haneen Hossam were overturned, but the two were later detained on new charges of human trafficking.
The wave of arrests and charges targeting those deemed to have violated public morals and ‘family values’ has attracted condemnation domestically and internationally. However, some in Egypt continue to applaud the arrests, revealing a clash between freedom of expression and deep-rooted cultural and religious values.