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Top cleric sued over niqab ban

By-The Egyptian Gazette | 12 October 2009

Controversial regulations:Cairo University students wearing the niqab ,which covers the face except for the eyes, standing outside the university dormitory last week,unable to enter due to new rules preventing admission to niqab wearers.

TENSIONS over banning the niqab at some educational institutions in Egypt heightened yesterday as female students at religious schools said that they would lodge a complaint with President Hosni Mubarak against the nation 's top Muslim cleric,who issued the ban.

The students,wearing the niqab ,said that they were threatened yesterday by the principal of their institution Shubra el-Kheima,north of Cairo,that they would be dismissed if they did not remove the face veil.Meanwhile,a group of MPs and an Islamist lawyer waged an unprecedented legal battle against one of Egypt's top Muslim clerics after he issued a ban on women wearing the niqab ,or face veil, at any schools affiliated to Al-Azhar,the world's top Sunni Islam institution.The MPs and the Sawaseya Centre for Human Rights, a non-governmental organisation,joined forces to file a lawsuit against Mohamed Sayyed Tantawi, the Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar,over what they called his "unconstitutional"ban that violates personal freedom and con- tradicts the principle of equality for all citizens.The group also sought action against the country's Minister of Higher Education and the President of Cairo University for their role in the recent decision to ban female students from wearing the niqab in Al-Azhar affiliated schools and in Cairo University dorms.“We have a ruling from the Supreme Administrative Court to the effect that women have the right to wear the niqab (a full-face veil),”Muslim Brotherhood lawyer, Abdel-Moneim Abdel Maqsoud, told the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya.“It might not be an obligation in Islam,but it is also not against Islam.So, women have the right to wear it when and where they choose,”Abdel-Maqsoud argued,adding that they would continue to fight the ban until the court annuls it.Article 2 of Egyptian constitution states Islam is the religion of the State and is the main source of legislation while article 48 stipulates that freedom of expression is granted to all citizens and that they have the right to express their opinions in oral,written or visualforms.Al-Azhar's Deputy Chairman Mohamed Abdel-Aziz slammed the Muslim Brotherhood,banned since 1954 in Egypt,and said they did not have the right to file lawsuits since they were an outlawed group and added the matter was an internal policy that they have no right to object to.“The decision to ban the face veil was approved by Al-Azhar's Supreme Council,”Abdel-Aziz said.“This is none of their business.”Abdel-Aziz added that the decision was not to mpose an absolute ban on the niqab ,but only to regulate its use in certain places.“Women can wear the face veil anywhere,but not n Al-Azhar schools.If she does not want to show her face in front of men,Al-Azhar schools are not co-ed.Therefore,there s no point in wearing the face veil in class ”.Supporting Tantawi 's argument, Abdel-Aziz has stated that the face veil is not obligatory in Islam and that this what they say to all detractors of the decision.“The majority of senior scholars are in consensus that it is not ordained by God.Plus,I believe the lecturer should be able to see the faces of students,”he said.
 

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