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Page last updated at 11:39 GMT, Tuesday, 6 October 2009 12:39 UK

Egyptians voices: 'Niqab veil ban'

Egypt's highest Muslim authority, Sheikh Mohamed Tantawi, has said he will issue an edict against the full women's veils, known as the niqab.

The question reportedly arose when Sheikh Tantawi was visiting a girls' school in Cairo and asked a students to remove her niqab. Here Egyptians reflect on the issue.

AMAL, 36, TRANSLATOR, CAIRO

Adil Amal
Amal says Egyptians are becoming more religious

I am a religious person and have worn a headscarf since my university years. But I do not believe there is anything in the Koran telling women to cover their faces.

The first thing that struck me about the comments from Sheikh Mohamed Tantawi was that the girl he was talking to was still in school. She was too young to wear a headscarf let alone a niqab.

I believe God gave us many options - we can be religious and still live in the modern world. I pray and fast during Ramadan, but I also watch television and sometimes wear jeans.

Some Egyptians are becoming more religious in strange way. Rather than concentrating on things that matter like prayers, they concentrate on the outward appearance and so wear the niqab.

We are being influenced by other Islamic societies. I have seen people wearing clothes that remind me of clothes in Iran. I think the trend for wearing the niqab has come from Saudi Arabia.

I think Sheikh Mohamed Tantawi was right to say women should not wear the niqab.

SARAH ELMESHAD, 27, JOURNALIST, CAIRO

I have worn the niqab for about five years. I do so because I feel more comfortable wearing it. It means people judge you for your personality, not the way you look.

Women wear the niqab for different reasons. For me it is a religious issue. But even if some wear the item for cultural reasons, this is still no reason to ban it.

I am Egyptian but was born in America. I think too many people here assume that giving women freedom means asking them to dress like westerners.

I think Sheikh Mohamed Tantawi's comments actually show an attempt to narrow women's choices. Already some husbands won't allow their wives to wear the niqab.

Unfortunately some men think women like me who wear the niqab are making a judgement about them. Many are surprised that I am an educated woman and a journalist.

I think more women are wearing the headscarf and niqab today - but this does not mean Egypt is becoming more religious.

People should not be scared about women wearing such garments, it does not mean the country is becoming more radical.

ALAA ELDEEN ALI, 25, SCIENTIST, HARWAN

Alaa Eldeen Ali
Alaa says the niqab protects women from unwanted advances

I would first like to express my deep respect for Sheikh Mohamed Tantawi.

But I would say there are different opinions within Islam on what clothes women should wear. This is the nature of our religion.

Women have the choice in Egypt about whether to where the niqab. But I would prefer to marry a woman who wears this garment. I find such women who wear this more polite and faithful.

The niqab also protects the woman. It stops men on the street staring at her. Teenagers are more likely to respect her and less likely to cause her trouble.

More women wear the niqab in Egypt than 10 years ago, because religion is becoming more important in people's lives.

I think this is a good thing because it means people want to be closer to God.

ASHRAF MOFTAH, 57, STRATEGIC PLANNER, CAIRO

The niqab has absolutely nothing to do with piety or Islam, in fact it is demeaning and inhuman.

It puts too many restrictions on the woman. It blocks your sight and smell.

How could you drive a car or perform other functions that require good vision? How would you be able to teach in a classroom? How would security guards act toward such a woman going into a restricted area?

This niqab comes from tribal tradition. So there can hardly be an obligation for people to wear the garment.

Egypt has become more religious. There are more practising Muslims than when I was a child. It is now impossible to buy alcohol during Ramadan, which wasn't the case before. The call to prayer from minarets seems louder than ever.

If you are in any crowded, social place on a Friday at a certain time everything will go quiet as the people disappear to the mosque. Again, we couldn't have imagined that when I was young.

I notice more women wearing the headscarf. But this may be about fashion as much as religion. A headscarf-wearing woman may not be more pious than one who does not cover her hair.



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SEE ALSO
Egypt cleric 'to ban full veils'
05 Oct 09 |  Middle East
Country profile: Egypt
03 Aug 11 |  Country profiles


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