Egypt lawmakers seek ban on face-covering niqab

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A group of Egyptian lawmakers is set to introduce a bill in parliament to ban women from wearing the face-covering niqab in public.

The ban, which would also apply to state institutions, is being endorsed by the Egypt Support Coalition, which claims to have 250 members in the legislature, Gulf News reported on March 7.

The niqab is worn by a minority of Egyptian women. /AP
The niqab is worn by a minority of Egyptian women. /AP

“We seek to spread moderate Islam,” Amna Nuseir, a member of parliament and a professor at Egypt’s theology-focused al-Azhar University, told Gulf News. “Wearing the niqab in public has raised concerns in the Egyptian streets in view of the hard circumstances the country is undergoing.”

The niqab, which covers most of the face, is worn by a minority of Egyptian women. The majority of Egyptian women wear hijab, a headscarf that does not cover the face.

“Banning the niqab will be a flagrant violation of personal freedom,” Abdul Moneim Fouad, also a professor at al-Azhar University, said. “Parliament has to enact laws aimed at bringing morals back to the street and stop [people] showing up in revealing dresses in public rather than banning the niqab.”

Many opponents of President Abdul Fatah Sisi see the move to ban the niqab as a shot at the Muslim Brotherhood, who endorse a more conservative interpretation of Islam.

The move by the lawmakers also comes after Cairo University, Egypt’s leading public academic institution, banned female lecturers from wearing the niqab, citing security concerns and the need to improve communication between teachers and students.

Al-Azhar University, one of the world’s most renowned Islamic institutions, banned students and teachers from wearing the niqab in 2008. Mohammad Sayyid Tantawi, the school’s former leading religious scholar, said the niqab had nothing to do with Islam and was a sign of extremism.