Page last updated at 16:17 GMT, Wednesday, 23 April 2008 17:17 UK

Algeria passport veil ban protest

By Magdi Abdelhadi
BBC Arab affairs analyst

Algerian woman and child in Chrea Algeria
The veil is an emotive issue in north Africa

Muslim Scholars in Algeria say a government ban on pictures of veiled women in passport photographs runs counter to Sharia law.

The Society of Algerian Muslim Scholars has denounced the ban, which also applies to bearded men.

The organisation says the veil and beard are part of Muslim tradition which cannot be outlawed.

The society says it issued a fatwa against the ban after receiving hundreds of complaints.

And Prime Minister Abdelazeez Belkhadem is reported to have received complaints from the public urging him to overturn the ban.

It is unclear whether the ban was introduced recently, or if it dates from the country's time as a French colony.

This is clearly an example of a modern secular state coming under fire from a resurgent Islamism.

This confrontation took a sinister turn in Algeria back in the 1990s, when the Algerian army fought a bloody battle against Islamic militants, leaving an estimated 100,000 people dead.

This conflict between secular values and a new assertive Islamic identity has taken many shapes in Muslim as well as European societies where there is a vocal Islamic community.

The veil, and how it can be accommodated in modern institutions, has often figured prominently.

Most recently, Turkey was plunged into a constitutional crisis after the ruling party removed a ban on wearing the veil in universities.

The powerful secular establishment was outraged, saying this was Islamisation by stealth.

It took the matter to court, hoping to outlaw the ruling party itself.

Morocco moves to drop headscarf
06 Oct 06 |  Africa
Headscarves in the headlines
10 Feb 04 |  Europe
Egypt TV 'bans veiled presenters'
06 Sep 03 |  Middle East

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