Cairo (CNSNews.com) – A newly-launched campaign to ban the Islamic veil in public institutions in Egypt has received a boost with the drafting in parliament of a law on the matter for discussion.
The campaign, which seeks a ban on the full face veil, or niqab, at schools, universities, hospitals and government departments, has drawn sharp criticism from some clerics, who argue that wearing the veil shows high moral standards and that banning it would violate personal freedom.
Others counter that the campaign is not attacking Islam, contending that wearing the niqab is not an Islamic obligation.
The niqab covers a women’s entire face except for the eyes. It’s not common in Egypt but has been here for centuries.
Amna Nossier, professor of comparative jurisprudence at Al-Azhar University said earlier this month Al-Azhar fully supports the ban because wearing the niqab was never a requirement of Islam. She claimed wearing the veil was in fact a Jewish tradition that appeared in the Arabian peninsula long before Islam, and that the Qur’an does not call for its use.
Al-Azhar, the most prestigious university dedicated to teaching Sunni Islam in the world, is regarded as the highest resource for fatwas and the top school for the training of Islamic preachers.
Several universities in Egypt have niqab bans in place. Cairo University instituted the policy last year, after some students argued that its use was a barrier to communication between students and academic staff.
The Muslim Brotherhood is unhappy about the campaign. At protests affiliated with the organization – which has been outlawed by the Abdel Fattah el-Sisi government – signs have appeared calling the move “an act of freedom suppression.”
Nawal El Saadawi, an Egyptian feminist and internationally recognized author, said that wearing the niqab “is not part of Islam nor Egypt.”
The Ministry of Education has not released an opinion on the issue. Meanwhile, some teachers and students continue to wear the niqab.
Mayar, a student at an experimental highschool of 1,100 students in eastern Cairo, said Thursday she has been wearing the niqab since the age of 13 and wanted to continue doing so.
“I have been wearing it for five years,” she said. “I don’t want anyone looking at my face, to prevent any kind of attraction. It’s haram [religious prohibited].”
But one of Mayar’s teachers voiced support for a ban.
“I can’t feel any response or action from her,” he said. “I can’t know if she is interested in the class or not. I can't have any kind of communication with a perfect student, because her parents want her face covered.”
The discussion of the new law will begin in an upcoming parliamentary session.