The Egyptian parliament has proposed a bill that prohibits women from wearing the niqab, a full-face veil in public.
The veil is worn by many Muslim women, and the announcement of its possible ban has evolved into a fight over personal liberty and the Egyptian government’s attempt to control religion in the state.
MP Amna Nuseir, a member of the pro-government Egypt Support Coalition and a professor of comparative jurisprudence at Al-Azhar University, supports the ban and claims donning a niqab is not a requirement in Islam. The MP further adds veiling one's face dates back to a “Jewish tradition” in the Arabian Peninsula before the advent of Islam and says the Quran only calls for modest covering.
“How did Islam impose the niqab if Muslims are asked in the Quran to lower their gaze?” asked Nuseir, referring to a holy verse.
However, this statement is quite controversial as many sects of Islam do believe the practice of covering one’s face is mandatory and the fact that Muslim men are encouraged to lower their gaze in the presence of a woman is neither here nor there.
Among those reacting to Nuseir’s comments negatively is Fouad Abdel-Moneim, a professor of religion and philosophy, who makes a contrary claim: Religious scholars all agree that Islam requires covering a women’s face when in public.
Abdel-Moneim added that Muslim and Jewish religions are in agreement that niqab is a religious requirement.
This isn’t the first time Egyptian lawmakers have tried to ban the niqab. Earlier, students and faculty at Cairo University rose up against a ban that prohibited niqab being worn in the classroom and in the school’s teaching hospitals and medical departments.
Before that, Egypt also banned women from voting if they were wearing revealing clothes — but also insisted anyone wearing niqab remove it for identification.
Critics think the recent measures against niqab are part of a crackdown against the potential supporters of the radical group, the Muslim Brotherhood. Others surmise it is simply a move of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's to control how religion is practiced in the country.
Regardless of the motives of the government, many Egyptian women strictly embrace the veil and perceive themselves unclothed in its absence. If the proposal is approved, it might come at a cost of a huge revolution in Egypt.