Egypt's top cleric plans face veil ban in schools

Egypt's top Islamic cleric is planning to ban students wearing the face veil from entering the schools of Al Azhar, Sunni Islam's premier institute of learning, according to a newspaper report.

A security official also said that police have orders to bar girls covered from head to toe from entering Al Azhar's institutions, including middle and high schools, as well as the dormitories of several universities in Cairo.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the ban was for security reasons.

The moves appear to be part of a government campaign cracking down on increasingly overt manifestations of conservative Islam in Egypt.

While a vast majority of Egyptian women wear the headscarf, only some wear the niqab, which covers the face and is common in neighbouring Saudi Arabia.

Cleric Mohammad Sayyed Tantawi's plans came to light when he told a middle school student in a class he was visiting earlier this week to take off her niqab.

Tantawi was inspecting Al Azhar's schools at the start of the academic year to check on measures in place to stem the spread of swine flu, according to details of the visit published by the independent daily Al Masry Al Youm.

Tantawi angrily told the girl that the niqab "has nothing to do with Islam and is only a custom" and made her take it off.

He then announced he would soon issue an order banning girls from entering Al Azhar schools wearing the niqab.
We would like to mention in this context that Sheikh Tantawi has repeatedly characterized his statements and attacks in favor of the authorities and kafirs, which was the cause of dissatisfaction and criticism from Islamic scholars from Egypt and other countries.[adm/kavkaz]

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