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Egypt ban on full veil sparks row
Dubai, OCT 11 (Agencies):
Published on 11 Oct. 2009 10:52 PM IST
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A government ban on 'Niqab (full face veil) in girls only classrooms of Cairo University in Egypt has kicked off a row with many saying that the veil has nothing to do with Islam. The ban will weaken the movements by the Muslim minorities in other countries for the right to wear the veil in the name of religious beliefs. Egyptian authorities have stepped up the controversial campaign against the 'Niqab' with the ban at schools and the university affiliated to Al Azhar (Sunni Islams prestigious seat of learning) and the dormitories of Cairo University, the country's largest public university. Officials at Cairo University dorms said the move is made for security reasons. Allowing the 'Niqab' inside the dorms can disrupt security as anyone can exploit it as a disguise for terror acts, said an official on condition of anonymity for being unauthorised to talk to the media. Last Thursday, the Supreme Council of Al Azhar, which oversees Al Azhar institutions, agreed to bar female students and teachers wearing the 'Niqab' from entering girls-only classes and dorms. The ban came a few days after Mohammad Sayed Tantawi, Egypt's top Muslim cleric, reproached a 12-year-old girl for donning the full-face veil at an Al Azhar school and said it is an un-Islamic costume. ''The 'Niqab' is not obligatory. It had to do more to traditions than to Islam,'' Tantawi told Egyptian TV. There is no need for those young girls to wear it inside classrooms, the Gulf News said. His decision triggered a wave of protests in this predominantly Muslim country, fuelled by a similar move barring 'Niqab' wearers from staying at Cairo University dorms. Hundreds of angry Islamist students this week protested outside the university. The ban has brought Sheikh Tantawi and Minister of Higher Education Hani Helal under fire. Lawyer Nabih al-Wahash filed a complaint with Egypt's Chief Prosecutor against them and Islamist MPs demanded both officials be sacked. The ban on the 'Niqab' has, nonetheless, drawn applause from some Muslim clerics. Those girls wearing the 'Niqab' misunderstand Islam, said Abdel Moati Bayoumi, a member of the Islamic Research Centre, the influential arm of Al Azhar. There is no clear text in the Holy Quran or in the Prophet Mohammad's Hadith (traditions) recommending this costume, he added.

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