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Egypt Pens Legislation to Ban Niqab in Public Places

Egypt’s parliament has drafted legislation to ban women from wearing the niqab in public places.

Member of Parliament (MP) Amna Nosseir, professor of comparative jurisprudence at Al-Azhar University, claims Islam does not require these coverings. She also argued passages in the Quran do “not make sense if the niqab were considered proper garb for a woman.” She also said the coverings belong to a “‘Jewish’ tradition that appeared in the Arabian Peninsula before Islam.” From Egypt Independent:

“How did Islam impose the niqab if Muslims are asked in the Quran to lower their gaze?” she asked.

She cited the following verse from the Quran, “Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty: that will make for greater purity for them: And Allah is well acquainted with all that they do.”

Nosseir previously declared her hopes of banning the niqab during an interview on Al-Hayat television channel, saying that in the past Jewish tribes lived close to the Arab tribes and the cultures and customs of the two became intertwined. “In the Talmud, if a woman leaves her house without her head and face covered, she is breaking Jewish religious law,” she said.

In January, a court allowed Cairo University to ban female professors from wearing the niqab or burqa in the classrooms. The Administrative Court ruled on the lawsuit presented by Ahmed Mahran, the head of the Cairo Center for Political and Legal Studies, against university president Dr. Gaber Nassar. The lawsuit included “77 women faculty members, including some who do not wear the niqab but joined the cause in solidarity with those the ban would harm.”

Nassar said only 10 women on the 22,000-strong staff wear the niqab.

The court agreed the decision does not violate the law, but it in fact helps public interest since banning the niqab “protects the rights of students” while also prevents “entry of extremists and outsiders of the University.” He also said the ban will “ease communication with students.”

The ban only forbids the niqab in the classroom, but the professors can wear them around campus.

In a similar incident, the French government banned religious veils completely in 2009. The French Senate passed the ban 246 to 1. Sarzoky embraced the law, stating it would “protect women from being forced to cover their faces and to uphold France’s secular values.”

A group of plaintiffs took the country to court, but the European Court of Human Rights agreed the French government could ban the full-face veil. One Muslim woman said the law “violated her freedom of religion and expression.” But the court ruled the law “was not expressly based on the religious connotation of the clothing in question but solely on the fact that it concealed the face.”

In December, officials in Lombardy, Italy’s wealthiest region, banned the burqa and niqab from hospitals and government buildings.

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