(A general view of mosques and the great pyramids before sunset in Cairo, December 5, 2012. Reuters/Amr Abdallah Dalsh)

Many Egyptian viewers were horrified when preacher Hisham el-Ashry recently popped up on primetime television to say women must cover up for their own protection and advocated the introduction of religious police.

That an obscure preacher could get publicity for such views was seen as another example of the confused political scene in Egypt since the revolt that toppled Hosni Mubarak gave birth to a cacophony of feuding voices.

“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,” Ashry told Nahar TV last week.

Introducing a Saudi-style anti-vice police force to enforce Islamic law was “not a bad thing”, he said, and added: “In order for Egypt to become fully Islamic, alcohol must be banned and all women must be covered.”