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Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 November 2006, 13:38 GMT
Egypt minister in headscarf row
By Heba Saleh
BBC News, Cairo

Egyptian Culture Minister Farouk Hosni. File photo.
Mr Hosni has refused to apologise for his comments
Egyptian Culture Minister Farouk Hosni is under pressure to resign after saying that wearing the Islamic headscarf was "regressive".

In parliament, 130 MPs have signed a petition calling for confidence to be withdrawn from the minister.

Mr Hosni will now have to appear before two parliamentary committees to answer a number of questions.

Mr Hosni says he was only expressing a personal opinion and did not intend to offend women who wear the headscarf.

Unprecedented

But his explanation has failed to satisfy his critics, who now include the speaker of parliament himself, as well as scores of deputies from the Muslim Brotherhood and the ruling party.

A woman wears the Islamic headscarf (hijab) in Cairo. File photo.
The majority of Egyptian women cover their hair

It is unprecedented for an Egyptian minister to be the target of such strong criticism from his own side.

In the past, ministers have generally been protected by the party, even in the face of allegations of corruption or gross negligence leading to accidents involving serious loss of life.

Last year, Egypt's prime minister rejected Mr Hosni's resignation after a fire in a state-owned theatre led to dozens of deaths.

But Mr Hosni is now seen to have offended against Islam.

Liberals here have tried to argue that the headscarf is not a religious requirement, but that is not the view of most Egyptians - the majority of Egyptian women cover their hair.

If Mr Hosni is now forced to resign, it will only highlight the contradictions of the government's policy on the headscarf.

After all, women who wear it are still banned from presenting programmes on national television.


SEE ALSO
Sheikh sanctions headscarf ban
30 Dec 03 |  Europe
Q&A: Muslim headscarves
17 Dec 03 |  Europe
Headscarves: contentious cloths
26 Sep 03 |  Europe

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