Egyptian Parliament Considers Banning Burkas And Veils

Russ Read | Pentagon/Foreign Policy Reporter

The Egyptian parliament is drafting new legislation that would ban Islamic burkas and veils for women in public areas and government buildings.

Amna Nosseir, a female Egyptian member of parliament (MP) and a professor of comparative jurisprudence at Al-Azhar University, called for the ban, arguing that contrary to popular belief, the wearing of burkas and veils is not required by Islam — in fact, she said it’s inherently un-Islamic to do so.

“How did Islam impose the niqab [veil] if Muslims are asked in the Quran to lower their gaze?” said Nosseir to the Egypt Independent. She then quoted the Koran to defend her claim: “Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty: that will make for greater purity for them: And Allah is well acquainted with all that they do.”

Nosseir said that in reality, the tradition of women wearing clothing that covers the face is of ancient Jewish origin that existed in the pre-Islamic Arabian Peninsula.

“In the Talmud, if a woman leaves her house without her head and face covered, she is breaking Jewish religious law,” she explained.

Nosseir claimed that the Koran only calls for Muslim women to dress modestly, which does not necessarily mean wearing clothing the covers the entire face. Of course, there are some who disagree with her interpretation.

“Communities are destroyed wherever immorailty spreads,” said Fouad Abdel-Moneim, a colleague of Nosseir’s who also teaches at Al-Azhar University. He claimed during a telephone interview with Al-Assema news channel that all Sharia scholars agree that the veil is required by Islam. Abdel-Moneim instead thinks laws should be passed barring women from wearing clothes deemed too revealing.

“Ban nudity instead of banning the niqab,” said Abdel-Moneim.

Egypt has enforced several regulations limiting the use of veils before. Cairo University banned nurses and medical professionals from wearing veil in the school’s affiliated hospitals in February of this year, and academic staff were prohibited from wearing it in September 2015.

Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak started an entire government campaign in 2009 attempting to completely remove the veil from Egyptian society.

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