HUNDREDS of female students gath-ered yesterday in front of the student hostels of Cairo University, Egypt's biggest public university, to protest a decision by the institution's administra-tion to bar female students wearing the full-face veil known as the niqab from entering the dorms
The students chanted slogans and expressed shock at the decision of the administration, calling it 'an extreme infringement' of their right to be fully covered.“The students have the right whether to wear the niqab or not,” said Laila Souef, a professor at Cairo University.“Nobody should force a certain dress code on these students,” she added. Egypt's top Muslim cleric Mohamed Sayyed Tantawi acted against the niqab a few days ago when he forced a female student from Al-Azhar to remove her face veil.Tantawi, who is the Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar, the most important seat of learning for Sunni Islam, said the fullface veil 'had nothing to do with Islam'.His action was interpreted by many as a bid to help the Government clamp down on ultraconservative Islam in Egypt, a country where the Islamic dress has become a ubiquitous sign. Although Sheikh Tantawi's action sent shock waves across Egypt, a country where more than 90 per cent of the population follow Sunni Islam, many of the profes-sors of Al-Azhar and this country's cler-ics endorsed Tantawi's attitude. Souad Saleh, a professor of compar-ative jurisprudence in Al-Azhar, expressed support for Tantawi's deci-sion.She said the full-face veil was“un-Islamic”.“This veil isolates women from the rest of the world,” she said. “It forms a strong barrier between the women who wear it and the rest of society,” sheadded.