News / Middle East

Top Egyptian Female Lawmaker Calls for Banning Niqab

A top Egyptian woman parliament member is calling for a law to ban the niqab, a mask-like veil, because she says it is "un-Islamic" and prevents women from participating in society.

A top woman member of Egypt's People's Assembly, Zeinab Radwan, is calling for a law to ban the niqab, a full face-covering veil, from being worn in Egypt.

Radwan argues that the niqab is not "authentically Islamic," in addition to posing a security threat and questions of personal freedom.

She says because women are able to hide their faces and identities with the niqab it is impossible for government institutions to fight either terrorism or ordinary crime.

The issue of wearing the niqab has been the subject of widespread debate in Egypt in recent months, since a much publicized visit by the late head of al-Azhar Mosque and University, Sheikh Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, to a girls' school in which he urged the students to remove their niqabs.

After heated discussion in the Egyptian press, Tantawi clarified that he, as the head of al-Azhar, was not forbidding the niqab in every instance, but just in government institutions, and schools:

He says that al-Azhar is not against women wearing the niqab in their personal lives, with respect to their behavior, their habits, its legality, its usage, and of buying or selling it. But he said al-Azhar is against this right in other specific cases.

A strong backlash from Egypt's banned, but popular Muslim Brotherhood, as well as other extremist Islamic groups was felt after many of their leaders defended the niqab. Sheikh Mohammed Hassan expresses the point of view of many hardliners:

He asks why it is that, what he calls, respectable women employees who wear the niqab are being stopped at the doors of government institutions or universities, just because they want to express their personal freedom? What shame is there in wearing the niqab, he asks, and why is it that we forbid these honorable women from entering and call them criminals or extremists, while we do not forbid unveiled women?

The editor of al-Ahram's monthly magazine Democracy, Hala Mustafa, says the Egyptian government needs to act against the niqab, because it poses a security threat:

"Because this phenomena is growing, the government took some steps in order to stop this, especially in universities and some government establishments, in order to clarify the identity of the person, because many crimes have been committed under this niqab and we do not know the person behind it," she said. "And, I think any state has the right to put its own regulations that is compatible with its law and constitution. So, this has nothing to do with personal freedom or liberties. It is about security and public order of the state."

Mustafa says the niqab is not authentically Islamic, but rather a vestige of more strict societies in the Gulf:

"The niqab, or the full veil for women, it is not from the Islamic teachings," she said. "It is more a tradition that comes from conventional culture and societies such as Saudi Arabia, Yemen and the Gulf States in general."

The niqab was virtually unknown in Egypt until the 1990s, when many Egyptian workers in the Gulf began compelling their wives to wear it. The niqab is now a visible and growing phenomenon on the streets of Cairo and in other Egyptian cities.

You May Like

Beijing Warns US on S. China Sea Patrols

Warning follows news reports Thursday that US military is planning to sail warships close to artificial islands Beijing has been aggressively building More

Indian PM Calls for Unity Amid Tense Climate Over Beef Attacks

Recent series of beef-related incidents seen as signs of rising intolerance toward Muslims and other religious minorities More

Why These Are New York City's Most Treasured Spaces

Under threat of jail time and fines, some New York property owners are not allowed to renovate their spaces without prior approval More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdrawsi
Jim Malone
October 09, 2015 12:32 AM
The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

VOA Blogs