JAFFA, Israel – A female Egyptian lawmaker is supporting a bill that would ban women from wearing a face-covering veil, a custom increasingly common in hardline Islamist circles.
Dr. Amneh Nusseir, a philosophy and religious studies professor at Cairo’s Al Azhar University, welcomed the Coalition For Egypt’s sponsorship of a bill to ban the niqab – a veil that covers the face – which she says is a Jewish custom that somehow migrated to Islam, but was never part of Islamic law.
“For 25 years I’ve been trying to advance this bill,” she said, citing verses from the Quran in support of it.
“Modesty is not a function of wearing masks,” she said. “It means averting your eyes from something you’re not supposed to look at. Therefore, the bill gives a tailwind to moderate Islam.”
She also said that her efforts to ban the niqab led to fiery criticism and threats against her.
Alaa Abdulmenam, an MP for the Coalition for Egypt, the faction that submitted the bill, said that face veils encroach on civil liberties.
“It’s a person’s right to be aware of the identity of the person sitting next to him or walking next to him on the street,” he said. “Individual liberty is allowed so long as it doesn’t impinge on others’.”
“If a woman can cover her face, so should men, and that is unacceptable,” he added.
A group named “No to Religious Parties” has recently started a grassroots campaign against allowing niqabs in state institutions.