Monday,25 March, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1417, (8 - 14 November 2018)
Monday,25 March, 2019
Issue 1417, (8 - 14 November 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Dress codes

Two MPs propose a ban on full-face veils being worn in public places, reports Gamal Essam El-Din 

Egyptian Par;iament
Egyptian Par;iament

Parliament’s Proposals and Complaints Committee will discuss two proposals next week that seek to prevent women from wearing full-face veils (niqab) in public buildings and work places.

“On 18 October, the prime minister of Algeria issued a decree banning women from wearing the niqab at work due to problems of identification and associated security reasons,” said Mohamed Abu Hamed, the independent MP from Cairo behind one of the proposals. “We should do the same in Egypt, and for the same reasons.”

Abu Hamed told Al-Ahram Weekly that following the uprising against former Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in June 2013 he had released a public statement asking the government to ban the niqab in public offices, hospitals and schools. 

“That call followed the recommendation of many moderate Islamic scholars, including the former grand mufti Ali Gomaa and late grand imam of Al-Azhar Mohamed Sayed Tantawi, that the niqab is not part of Islamic Sharia. The ban is necessary to prevent extremist and jihadist militant groups from using women wearing the niqab to carry out terrorist attacks or kidnap children.”

Abu Hamed insists the ban does not violate personal rights or the freedoms enshrined in Egypt’s constitution. “All it requires is an executive order from the prime minister, as was the case in Algeria,” said Abu Hamed.

The first step towards banning the niqab came when Minister of Higher Education Khaled Abdel-Ghaffar ruled that students in Egyptian universities should not wear full-face veils.

“France imposed a similar ban after judging the niqab posed a threat to security,” says Abu Hamed. “A number of terrorist groups have used women wearing the niqab to kidnap children and assassinate public figures.” 

Meanwhile, Ghada Agami, deputy chairman of parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, has drafted legislation which would ban the niqab in public places rather than depending on a prime ministerial decree.

Agami claims the full-face veil represents an attempt “to change the moderate character of Islam in Egypt and reflects the extremist ideology of Salafist movements”. 

“It splits society into those who wear the niqab and those who do not.” 

Algeria imposed a ban on female civil servants. France issued a ban in 2010, after concluding it was necessary for security and to protect society from divisions, according to Agami. Denmark and the Netherlands also have limited bans on face-covering garments, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called for similar legislation in Germany.

Amna Nosseir, a professor of philosophy at Al-Azhar University and an appointed MP, told Al-Ahram Weekly she fully supports the ban in work places.

“The niqab has its roots in Arab tribes before the advent of Prophet Mohamed,” said Nosseir. “When Islam came it refrained from imposing the niqab and simply urged women to wear conservative dress.”

“Salafis, who believe in a strict version of Islam, are the ones who spread the niqab in Egypt. Many of them are influenced by the tribal culture of the Arabian Gulf and they have tried their best to spread it in Egypt,” says Nosseir. 

Under the constitution and parliamentary regulations laws proposed by MPs must first be discussed by the Proposals and Complaints Committee. If approved, they are then passed to the relevant parliamentary committee which, in the case of the proposed ban, will be the Religious Affairs Committee.

Agami says her proposed law suggests that the ban on the niqab be imposed this month.

“Women who like the niqab can wear it inside their homes, but in public places and official institutions citizens should reveal their faces,” she said.

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