[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Sunday, 10 June 2007, 00:51 GMT 01:51 UK
Cairo campus veil ban struck down
Woman wearing niqab (file)
The court said wearing the niqab was a matter of religious freedom
A court in Egypt has ruled that the American University of Cairo cannot ban women from wearing the niqab - the full Islamic face covering - on campus.

The ruling comes after a lengthy legal battle between the university and a female student, who was told she had to remove the niqab for security reasons.

Supporters of the niqab greeted the ruling as a victory for freedom.

But officials at the university have said it indicates a drift towards Islamic extremism.

'Religious values'

A committee of the High Administrative Court upheld a 2001 court ruling that the university could not ban Iman al-Zainy from wearing the niqab as it was a matter of personal and religious freedom under law.

The American University (AUC) said some of the principles in the court's ruling appeared to support its position and it was discussing this with lawyers.

It said it had sought the ban out of security concerns.

"While the American University in Cairo has a policy prohibiting face covering as an issue of personal safety and security, it also recognises the need for respect for the religious values and convictions of our students," the AUC said.

The ruling does let the university place some restrictions on the niqab, court sources told Reuters news agency. Female students could be required to show their faces to security guards at university entrances.

Ms Zainy, who was a doctoral student at the Islamic Al-Azhar University, sued the AUC in 2001 after it banned her from entering its library wearing the niqab.

Hossam Bahgat, one of Ms Zainy's lawyers, told Reuters news agency the ruling was a victory for "women's autonomy over their body and dress code".

"The court said in the strongest of terms that it is up to women to decide about their clothing, and that women should not be discriminated against because of the clothes that they choose to wear," he said.

AUC students are allowed to wear the hijab, a headscarf which covers a woman's hair but leaves the face visible.

Wearing the veil in the Arab world
18 Oct 06 |  Have Your Say
Libyan women consider the veil
13 Dec 06 |  Africa
Why Muslim women wear the veil
05 Oct 06 |  Middle East


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific