News / Middle East

Libya's Grand Mufti Wants to Veil Female Teachers

FILE - Men walk past mannequins modelling veils in Tripoli.
FILE - Men walk past mannequins modelling veils in Tripoli.
TEXT SIZE - +
— A new fatwa by Libya’s top religious authority, the Grand Mufti, saying that all women teachers must veil their faces when instructing males who have reached puberty has prompted the anger of liberal activists, who fear this is the start of widespread educational gender segregation.

Libya’s Grand Mufti, Sheikh Sadik Al-Ghariani made the fatwa following a request from the Ministry of Education for advice on the issue as some schools had started to order women teachers to cover up.
 
The mufti stopped short of saying that there should be total gender segregation but he counseled the ideal solution would be to segregate male and females altogether in schools and universities.

The ruling has outraged liberal women activists. One of them, Nareen, who asked that her family name to be withheld, said this is a backwards step. “I am very upset. I think it is a huge step back. It is very sad to see this is the way our education system is going. That they are looking back at segregating women, men and children,” she said.
 
Rebel leaders appointed al-Ghariani as grand mufti during the uprising against ex-Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. He had held the post under Gadhafi as well.

But Libya’s reformers have become increasingly frustrated with what they see as the mufti’s meddling in politics. He wields semi-official influence and his fatwas don’t have the force of law, But they can shape government policy.
 
A Sunni Muslim country where religious observance underpins every social norm, Libya has been struggling with its Arab Spring transition to democracy. Liberals, like Nareen, fear they are losing ground to Islamists who want to make the country more conservative.
 
“It is a long-term political agenda because when you want to change a nation you target education because you are breeding the future generations," said Nareen. "And so you target education because that’s when you are ingraining what the future will be so targeting the schools they are sowing the seeds of the future they want.”
 
Earlier in the year the mufti issued an open letter to the country’s politicians warning that unless strict gender segregation was imposed at schools, universities and even in government offices, Libya risked incurring the wrath of Allah.
 
In this week’s fatwa, he said children and students must at least be segregated during break times -- in playgrounds, corridors and halls -- and there should be separate entrances for boys and girls. Girls shouldn’t wear make-up or use perfume.

Another liberal activist, Leila, said Islamists are moving incrementally.  “They are waiting for the reaction that’s going to be. That is their way to try taking over. Taking slowly by slowly,” she said.
 
She said many activists are fearful because when they speak out they receive threats or are warned off.  “They target the families. They target your families just to silence you, shut you up. What they are doing is like an octopus their hands are everywhere, here and here and here and there,” said Leila.
 
The Ministry of Education will now have to decide what overall instruction they should give schools. And the nation’s human rights groups worry that the mufti’s fatwa will provoke Islamic vigilantes.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Empress Trudy
October 16, 2013 2:38 PM
Good news. We need to help them embrace their quaint and ancient indigenous culture no matter what. Sharia for Libya, it can't happen soon enough.

In Response

by: mudarrisa from: Tripoli, Libya
November 09, 2013 6:07 PM
I can only presume you are being ironic. Libya's indigenous culture never covered their faces. Covering your face, especially while teaching, would be a NEW thing. As the article also states.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid