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.
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

Myanmar Fighting Poses Dilemma for China

To gain some insight into conflict, VOA’s Steve Herman spoke with Min Zaw Oo, director of ceasefire negotiation and implementation at Myanmar Peace Center More

Australia Concerned Over Islamic State 'Brides'

Canberra believes there are between 30 and 40 Australian women who have taken part in terror attacks or are supporting the Islamic State terror network More

Recreational Marijuana Use Now Legal in Washington, DC

Law allows adults 21 and over to privately possess and smoke 0.05 kilogram of pot, and to grow small amounts of the plant 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.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More