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Veil war breaks out on Egypt university campus

Zeinab, a veiled student at the University of Helwan in Cairo, vows to defy a controversial decision against female students who don the niqab from staying at the university hostel. (The niqab is a veil covering the woman's face except for the eyes).

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Suad Saleh, a famous TV preacher and a former dean of the women's college at the religious University of Al Azhar, says it is wrong to consider the niqab an obligatory item of the Islamic attire.
Gulf News

Cairo: Zeinab, a veiled student at the University of Helwan in Cairo, vows to defy a controversial decision against female students who don the niqab from staying at the university hostel. (The niqab is a veil covering the woman's face except for the eyes).

"I won't give up this attire, which makes me feel decent and secure. Why should they target veiled female students, while tolerating scantily clad girls on the campus," said Zeinab, aged 20.

A few weeks ago the Provost of Helwan University Abdul Hayy Ebeid infuriated Islamists in Egypt when he ordered that niqab-wearing students should not be allowed into the dormitories of the institution unless they agreed to be checked by security women to verify their identities. Students are accommodated in these hostels for very low fees.

The decision has drawn protests from students and human rights groups, who have slammed it as an infringement on personal freedom.

Officials at the university say the decision was taken on security grounds.

"The university will not rescind this decision because it would be blamed if a man, veiling his face behind the niqab, walked into the female-only dormitories," Mahmoud Refaat, a director at the University of Helwan, said in press remarks.

"The niqab has been grossly misused by criminals and even terrorists," said another university official, who asked not to to be named.

"We should not forget that over a year ago two veiled women were involved in a foiled attack on a tourist bus in Cairo," he told Gulf News.

Last week, a female Muslim preacher was threatened with death after declaring the niqab was not an Islamic duty. Suad Saleh, a famous TV preacher and a former dean of the women's college at the religious University of Al Azhar, told the private satellite channel TV Dream that it was wrong to consider the niqab an obligatory item of the Islamic attire.

"There is no unequivocal text in the Holy Quran that women must cover their faces," she argued.

Islamists have filed a lawsuit against Saleh and Dream TV over the remarks.

"The niqab was common in the Arabian Peninsula centuries before Islam and was not imposed by this religion," said Amnah Nousir, a professor of Islamic philosophy.

"The face is one's mirror. So why should the woman hide herself behind this black veil?" she told Gulf News.

Her argument is supported by Jamal Al Bana, a liberal Muslim thinker, who said in a recent interview that "the niqab is an insult and he who calls for it is backward".

MP Ebrahim Zakaria of the Muslim Brotherhood has filed a complaint with the Prosecutor-General demanding investigations into alleged exclusions of veiled students from government-run universities.

In recent years the hijab (headscarf) and the niqab have become popular among Egyptian women.

Your comments

It is wrong to ban the Islamic veil. It is even more wrong for an Islamic country to ban the veil in schools where there?s a mix of genders. No one would make me take of my veil. As a believing woman who dresses modesty, I would be very angry if a man told me to remove my veil. So therefore sisters, wake up. Take a stand and put back on your veil.

No one is asking these women to not wear the hijab - they are simply looking out for the safety of the women residing in the dormitory by having a female security personnel check all those who have covered themselves. Wearing a hijab should be a personal choice in which it brings comfort to the individual, not a forced choice and a representation of a religion.

There should be no problem with women wishing to dress modestly, and to veil their faces. It's their choice.

Whether the wearing of a veil is compulsory or not, I don't know, but I would personally recommend that my wife or sister or mother put on the veil for protection.

If you read the article clearly you will realize that that the school officials are not asking that the veil not be worn. They are requesting that women wearing this veil be checked by female security. This is for the protection of the women in the dormitory. If you were a woman living in this dormitory, you would want to feel safe.

The sanctity of women lies in the veil. If it is removed, women will become western dolls, which is what so called civilised nations want. One way or other it is a breach of Muslim culture.
Aljubail,Saudi Arabia

The people who ban veils or hijabs should not be considered as Muslims.

If we want to wear a veil then no one should object. But I will suggest to my Muslim sisters that every women should put on a veil before going out.

Wearing a veil should not be stopped or banned. It is a matter for her or her guardian. A veil is necessary for a girl or women because strangers cannot look at the face of good and innocent women.

Niqab is a social custom and has nothing to do with Islam. In Mecca the most respected place in Islam, women are not allowed wear niqab around the Kaaba.

It is good to know that the veil is a fundamental right for women who wish to follow traditions to safe guard their modesty. But tradition will change with time. I don't see any women who want to limit themselves to the kitchen and home following the tradition.

Islam made it compulsary to wear attire that covers body parts other than the face and palm. If anyone wears a veil to hide their identity or for personal intrests, Islam has nothing to do with it.
Abu Dhabi,UAE

It is the right given by Allah for a woman to viel herself in front of Non-Mahrams. This practise has been there for 1000s of years but unfortunately today a woman has to expose her physical body to be known, seen and recognised. The majority of the world does not care about the charecter of a woman - only how she looks. This is not Islam vs western values but it is Islam vs ignorance.
New Jersey,USA

Whether niqab is a requirement in Islamic tradition or not, what we forget to mention is the fundamental right of a person to see the face of the person who he or she is talking to. The person wearing niqab is having a double edged advantage here- one is concealing the identity and the second is leaving the other person uncomfortable by having to engage in a conversation looking into the eyes of the wearer. It is really awkward.

The ban on nikab is against human rights of the international community. We cannot give up our culture for western interest.

No one is saying they shouldn't wear a hijab or a niqab. This is your personal right. But if you wear a niqab, you must be willing to have your identity checked by a woman to make sure that no man is sneaking into the women's dormitory. What is wrong with that? There are no rights being taken away.

We don't want to take this as a controversial issue especially in Egypt. Let's think about wearing compulsory Islamic attire, if a small amount of people want to wear a veil, then why should we block it?

In my perception one should go back into Islamic history and study the lives of the Aswaje Mutaharraat (sacred wives of the holy prophet, PBUH) then every thing will become clear. I feel very poor about those people who are advocating the western thoughts against veils. It?s a clear attack on a Islam and women?s rights given by our religion. No one has a right to say no to the veil.

The Hijab (meaning a shroud or cloth that covers a woman from head to toe) is a must for every Muslim adult woman. The shroud should cover the head completely including the hair and should cover the contours of the body. Only the hands can be kept open but preferably a woman should wear gloves. Regarding the face a woman can keep it open devoid of any make up.
Abu Dhabi,UAE

As stated by Prof. Amnah Nousir, the tradition of wearing the veil began long before Islam in Arab countries. It is also being used by men who go out in the hot sun of the desert to protect their faces from heat everywhere in this world. It is natural that women should take more protection than men from heat. It should not be connected to religion especially when people are living in air conditioned places.

I strongly believe that wearing a hijab and niqab depends on one's own faith. One cannot impose another to wear a hijab and similarly one is not allowed to take off her niqab just because of a rule. It is simply a personal choice.
Anonymous by request

It is not on whether we are allowed to wear a veil or not. The talk should be about social ethics and whether we as human beings should allow other people's prejudiced opinions to affect our lives.

It's pity that terrorists may be mis-using Nnqab as their weapon for suicide attacks but can a headache be cured by cutting the heads off? Putting a ban on wearing niqab doesn't make any sense.

The controversy related to the veil is absolutely out of taste in the civilised world. People of some countries who uphold democratic rights are now showing their inner character by targeting women who wish to follow their right. The veil is a fundamental right of any female who wish to follow the traditions to safe guard her modesty.

These poor people don't know their religion. The hijab is a must for Muslim women.