Egyptian lawmaker Anwar Bilkimy, center, of the Al Nour party drew sympathy… (European Pressphoto Agency )
Reporting from Cairo — Call it the curious case of the nose job.
The new Egyptian parliament's first scandal broke this week amid disclosures that an ultraconservative Islamist attempted to mask his plastic surgery by convincing fellow lawmakers that his bruised and bandaged face was the work of an attack by thugs.
Anwar Bilkimy drew sympathy after initial reports indicated that he was beaten and robbed. Egypt, after all, is experiencing a troubling jump in violent crime, including the beating of a presidential candidate in an attempted carjacking. But Bilkimy was undone by doctors stunned by a ruse that crossed the bounds of vanity and religion and was drenched in cue-the-violins melodrama.
With the pressure on him intensifying, Bilkimy resigned Monday from the Salafi party Al Nour and from parliament, which was sworn in six weeks ago.
Many ultraconservative Islamists condemn plastic surgery as tampering with God's creation. The case has exposed the foibles of politicians and become a diversionary chuckle in an Egypt beset by deep economic and political problems as it makes the messy transition from military rule to democracy.
Bilkimy told police last week that he was stopped and beaten by gunmen and then robbed of 100,000 Egyptian pounds, or about $16,500, while traveling on the highway between Cairo and the Mediterranean city of Alexandria. He claimed that he slipped into a coma and was taken to a nearby hospital. His bandaged face was photographed by local media.
A member of parliament's subcommittee on health, Bilkimy had said he had been targeted by gunmen and received death threats after the panel urged that former President Hosni Mubarak be transferred to a prison hospital during his trial on charges of complicity in the killing of protesters during last year's revolution.
Top lawmakers, including parliament Speaker Saad Katatni, visited Bilkimy while he was in the hospital. But his tale quickly unraveled. Dr. Mahmoud Nassef told investigators that Bilkimy's bandaged face was the result of plastic surgery. A report by the hospital where the lawmaker was taken after the supposed beating stated that his nose was already bandaged when he arrived at the emergency room.
Nader Bakar, a spokesman for Al Nour, said Bilkimy violated the party's rules and marred its reputation. "The core of Nour party is ethics, and in this situation there was lying, regardless of the motive behind it," Bakar said. "This incident is unacceptable."
The disgraced lawmaker's mea culpa was posted in the media: "I, Anwar Bilkimy, admit that my claims of an attack by gunmen on the highway road were untrue.... That's why I submit my resignation after subjecting the party to public embarrassment and I also submit my resignation to the parliament's speaker."
Prosecutors will determine whether Bilkimy should be charged for making false claims to police.
Hassan is a news assistant in The Times' Cairo bureau.