October 8, 2009
How You See It: Egyptian campus bans niqab

A controversy has erupted in Egypt over a government ban on wearing the niqab on college campuses. At the University of Cairo, security officials refused to allow women with full face veils to enter certain buildings.

The decision prevents the female students from attending class and proceeding with their studies. Outlawed women contend that their personal freedom has been compromised.

Earlier this week, the head of the Islamic Al-Azhar Univeristy, Mohammed Tantawi, announced his intention to ban the niqab. An Egyptian lawmaker has called for the resignation of Tantawi, who also serves as the nation’s top religious authority. But the Minister of Higher Education defended the ban, saying that the decision was intended to protect the students.

Jamal El-Shayyal of Al Jazeera English reports from Cairo.

Should governments and other institutions rein in freedom of expression by dictating what people can wear?

Tell us what you think in the comments section below. Please remember to be respectful and on-point in your comments. Malicious or offensive comments will be deleted and repeat offenders will be banned.

bookmark    print    Email

Comments

59 comments

#59

In my opinion, all women everywhere should be able to wear whatever they want to wear, whether it’s a niqab or something else. It’s that simple. That’s called freedom.

#58

To my mind, it’s a case where the right of freedom of expression clashes with the rights of women. The question is, “Is it more important to advocate for the right of freedom of expression or is it more important to advocate for the freedom of women?” I simply cannot believe that I would feel more freedom covered by tight sticky cloth-so I must advocate–take it off!

#57

I have two comments. As for Obama getting the Noble Prize - it may have been a little pre-mature but he has made great strides to bring the world together.

As far as dress codes for women in Islamic countries - you can argue both ways. But I think that you have to refer to a given country’s culture and religion - and if their goverment is of a culture and religion that wishes women and/or men to dress a certain way - well what right does the rest of the world to try and change, influence or comment. I don’t think that we here in the United States would accept another country telling us how to run our country one way or the other. This is one of the problems that the Western Nations have with Islamic countries - we in the West are always trying to push our way of life on those Islamic countries which many things in our way of life is contrary to their - culture and religion. JW @ USA

#56

If you are not committing no crimes why should the government inter fear? What

#55

It is interesting –to use a polite description– how World Focus Censors chose not to include a Muslim’s comment! Which was, in short, that gov’ts attack a woman’s standard of “decent dress” wherein the removal of the niqab or hijab is the same as Western girls going “topless”, and yet they have school dress codes so the girls don’t reveal too much.

#54

There are much more serious things the Government of Egypt should be doing rather than banning what students can wear to school. The government is trying to divert attention from its incompetence and corruption and the majority of the people know it.

#53

OK, I saw a berka dressed woman eating ice cream under her vail at Costco, while her husband ate his with no problems. It makes me want to use the “F” word. Women and Men should have equal social rights. It is a no brainer for enlightened people.

#52

Full head scarfs or mini-skirts - it all seems so stupid not to dress for the occasion. Cover up for a dust storm and undress for a youth revolution, but dress like a student when at a unversity - something confortable and cheap.

#51

If these women are allowed to hide their identities what is prevent men from hiding amongst them? What is prevent Osama bin Laden from using women as cover? As a matter of equality should men be allowed to cover their faces too? Yes, let’s all dress up as bandits and see what becomes of social order.

#50

These women should be free to choose the kind of covering they want.

#49

This is Religulous! If I saw these Muslim ladies in childhood, I would have thought they are Ninja’s about to get into a martial arts fight. What a bunch of religious fanatic women. Why bother getting an education if they wanna live like backward people? I am happy to see the educated in the university banning such non-sense. Women’s freedom and liberty doesn’t mean they can go nude to college right? Well it also doesn’t mean they can dress like Ninja.

#48

The concept of Freedom of Expression is much too vague a Liberty to proffer as an argument for supporting radical anti-social behavior. Concessio ad nil, I am sure the University and other public institutions in Egypt don’t allow bikinis, or thongs either. Liberty entails responsibility and thus as in language a certain lingua franc is expected of every citizen presumed to believe in their nations social contract toward a higher civility and humanity. A person who chooses to be a secret should live in seclusion, and not impose on others even to the point of being reasonably unidentifiable. As for the notion of being modest, calling attention to yourself is anything but, no matter how contrived.

#47

It is ludicrous to me that anyone could sympathize with people who want to be accepted in modern culture while hiding behind a mask or veil. This is absolutely unacceptable and is a threat to any society that tolerates it.
Tara:
If you want to live in that kind of culture, I suggest that the United States is not a suitable place for you.

#46

Wearing of the niqab or equivalent total body, face, hands covering in public is a security question. It appears as a efort to mask the personal identity & raises direct questions as to motive. Questions not answered by any religious dialectic. Entering any institution, college, hospital, government building or RR station so garbed is not a question but a challenge, read possible threat to the safety & securiy of the organized society. Could the quasi-faith claim be protected? Yes by wearing & displaying an authorized photo ID with a e-scan line at all times. Like boarding a plane, or operating a motor scooter or car. If you want your “public” freedoms embrace your public responsibilities. The rest is c–p.

#45

I am not muslim and I find it a form of discrimination. As a muslim country banning the way the female students dress only adds fuel to the fire. In France and some other countries where they are discriminating against women covering their faces, a muslim country such as Egypt should be ashamed of perpetuating this form of discrimination. Freedom of choice for the women should be allowed and not denying them an education. The other students should stand together with the women. Equality for all shoud be had and not discriminate because one choose to wear a veil.

#44

YES, the govt can and must control, our ID from time to time.

#43

It is a matter of personal choice, and the government is being creating the prescedence of intolerance. If security is an issue, that can be easily resolved by having female security guards.

#42

In some instances in life one needs to be identified. When driving, in court, at a school or university, etc. One must be free to dress as one pleases, but must respect as well the rights of others when doing so.

#41

@Tara: …Let’s take some time to know about others, respect them, and TOLERATE each other.

This issue is not about tolerance it is about security. I am not muslim, christian or owned by any god/dess so telling me all life is based on yada will not work. This is a security issue. You can be your religion and ID in public. If you do not want to show your face stay at home.

#40

It is their university. They can do what they see proper. If the students do not like it, they can go somewhere else. These people new what the rules were before they got on the bus to get there. They should invest in metal detectors. There are too many people that want to strap on bombs and blow everybody up, just because they can. It is a matter of student safety. You know what people say, “ Common sense, isn’t “.

#39

@Jenny Hurwitz Says: …women in 2009 wanting to cover their faces I feel it should be their absolute right to do so.

The other side of equality is MEN also have the right to cover their faces. We return to security in testing/exams, banks, restrooms… Name me one life form hit my some ‘god/dess’ for not wearing some ’style’. Security trumps fads.

#38

I bet those ladies knew full well that they were defying the school’s dress code. They were being wiseguys deliberately and caused an international incident. Their religious “modesty” and “piousness” was really an arrogant spectacle. The I’m more islamic than you behavior was disruptive to the campus and they should’ve been put on probation! Part of being educated and cultured involves communicating and cooperating with the same as well as the opposite sex and all religious garb should be banned in the public sphere. End of story.
Tara, the definition of equality is: the same. All your alleged “modesty” has done absolutely nothing for your “e-mouth.” Does God want you to have a big e-mouth?

#37

It would be nice if the world adhered to the adage, “When in Rome do as the Romans.” The answer to the question today lies in what side of the cultural fence you are on. Progressive cultures favoring tolerance should not have a problem with it. Cultures dominated by strict Muslim customs don’t allow women to walk the streets in western clothes. Strict muslim cultures insist that women wear the nigab and forbid them to wear western dress. Is that right? Seems to me that both sides have to compromise. If they refuse to compromise they’ll just continue to be considered extremists.

#36

@Albert Says: …employ women to perform security checks and hand, eye or ear recognition techniques for identity checks.

yes and WHO is going to PAY for this added security??

@ those who cry “freedom of expression” fine, I’ll start wearing Ninja garb and see how many seconds before I’m arrested. This is not expression, it is security that does not COST us millions.

#35

I have been a feminist for about 40 years & I’m Jewish & live in NYC. Though I did not envision women in 2009 wanting to cover their faces I feel it should be their absolute right to do so. Customs of dress and nudity of various parts of our bodies vary between cultures. Showing her face may feel as shaming to one woman as bearing another part of the body to me. It also seems to be a ban aimed specifically at Muslim women, not only in Egypt but in Turkey and France. It’s bigotry. Women need to own their own bodies totally.

#34

The way the question is posed suggests the answer the asker wants. I was amused to see that most respondants did not take the bait. Governments control what can be worn in a state run university to some extent or another. I am not aware of any state university that would allow the students to attend while NUDE. If one student cannot attend nude, why should the ladies be allowed to attend with covered faces. From the story on television I noticed that one of the evils to be prevented by this dress code was to prevent men from wearing veils on campus. Therefore I conclude that men cannot wear this outfit on campus. This raises an equal protection of the law issue. Allowing men to wear this sort of outfit would only exercibate the problem the ubiversity claims to be preventing (men sneaking into the women’s dormatory). Therefore the only remedy is to ban all who want to attend the university from wearing a veil. Just as all are banned from attending while nude.

#33

I think it’s totally irresponsible from a journalistic perspective to try to report “facts” without doing a thorough background check on the twittersphere and the blogotube first. How do you know whether something is a valid story before you listen to our viewers first? I want you to report on the world as *I* see it and not some stuff that so-called journalists see in the “real world”.

#32

only outlaws were masks or tricker treaters.

#31

Allow individuals to dress as they will. If security or truth-in-exam-taking are issues, employ women to perform security checks and hand, eye or ear recognition techniques for identity checks.

#30

to Angela de Souza:

THANK YOU~ THANK YOU~ THANK YOU!

#29

It is especially important that governments and other institutions do not dictate what a person can or cannot wear because a woman who is completely covered cannot get any vitamin D from the sun. The amount of vitamin D a person can get for any given time period is proportional to the amount of skin area that is exposed to the sun.

#28

TO SEATTLE MOM:
Thank you for addressing my comments.

I’ve never heard that side of Christian history (about the cut-throat women). However, the problem that we are discussing here (or the problem that prompted this discussion) is about Egyptian women and the Al-Azhar University. This is one of the largest ISLAMIC Universities. So, dressing in a manner that the wives of the prophets dresses is totally appropriate!
See, this is an Islamic issue. ISLAMICALLY, the sheik had the right to point out that the niqab OR the veil (two separate things, by the way- the niqab leaves the eyes visable) are not OBLIGATED in Islam. But he did not have the ISLAMIC RIGHT to forbid it. See, ACCORDING TO ISLAM, NO ONE can ”make” prohibited something that God make permissable- and visa versa. So what this sheik is propossing is actually a SIN in Islam. NO ONE in Islam, no matter what their standing, can change things that God made final. This is a deeply religious issue here.

In addition; regarding your comment about us dressing in our homes like this. It is important to point out how terribly offensive that is. Our duty to GOD, who created us and gave us this life and and world is the most important thing to us. So we do not HIDE in our homes. We fear God more than we fear people!
Seriously, it’s greatly offensive that most people would NOT ever say such a thing to a nun (who is wearing her OBLIGATORY clothing for GOD), but people expect Muslim women to treat their hijab with such little importance (we ALSO believe that our dress is obligatory).

FOR GOD SAKES, AL AZHAR IS AN ISLAMIC UNIVERSITY! If there is ANY PLACE where this should be ok, is in an Islamic school in a SO CALLED ISLAMIC COUNTRY!

This sheik overstepped his role as an Islamic leader. He was WRONG. And he has a HISTORY of being inappropriate and RUDE!

Let’s take some time to know about others, respect them, and TOLERATE each other.
Thank you!

#27

Since Egypt seems to be mostly a Muslim country as best I can tell, then not so sure what I think about it there.

But in Western societies that are being influxed (yes I know, not a real word) by “outsiders” who want others to cater to their needs, I see no problem with banning this. When as people did we become obligated to cater to others needs on this level? You might say let them do as they please, but honestly deep-seated cultures are what they are, and oil and water sometimes don’t mix. Forget the politically correct BS for a bit and maybe ponder a second on the notion that multiculturalism might not always be a good idea. Of course the double digit I.Q. leftist might not want to ponder such a notion. Doesn’t make it not have a bit of truth to it.

#26

yes, they should not wear face cover. What does it have to do with with freedom of expression ?

#25

The niqab is just as much a piece of politico/religious PROPOGANDA as a cross or a swastika - none of them, worn prominently, as the niqab obviouslyis, have any place in an institute of LEARNING!

#24

How can a teacher KNOW who is under the sheet for attendance and MORE important to make sure the correct student is taking the test and exams? Would I go to a Doctor who is totally covered by a sheet? NO! Believe this person to be a police officer, take directions from…? NO. People ID each other using the face and body. This ’style’ does not belong in pubic!

#23

@ Tara Look at christian history. The meanest, rudest, cut throats were the women. Women are now suicide bombers. Keep your religion AT HOME not in public. This goes for all not just yours. Your ’sheets’ are a public hazard! They do not belong out side your home!

#22

Should I be allowed to wear noting but a G string on a university campus in the name of freedom of expression ?

#21

Government and institutions banning the niqab make some sense. Why should a human being cover the whole body and only the eyes you can see and in some cases nothing.
I guess government and institutions are worried who is under the covering. The next thing that comes to mind is the worrisome of suicidal affairs. Let us understand, yesterday is gone tomorrow is forever. Things that were in the past, not all can hold in the future.

#20

MOHAMMED: I am an American Muslim women who wears hijab and used to attend a Catholic university. I was quite surprised that I covered MORE than the nuns at the school. I was also surprised to see that the girls that attended the school wore the tightest shirts and shorts that almost showed the skin of the BOTTOMS! It was a shock to see this at a cathoic/christian school (who claimed to have a MODEST dress code).
Of course, I was treated very well at that school- but I was just surprised to see the extreem of immodesty at a religious institution.

#19

THOMAS T. :

So, do you run around naked? You have taken your opinion and made it into a condition of what you think God WOULD HAVE WANTED.

#18

What if everyone walked around with only their eyes exposed? Think about the problems that would pose for society as a whole. You would not know who you were talking to or meeting. We no longer live in the times or a society that can afford not being able to describe whom you are talking to.

#17

TO NATALIE: It is CLEAR that you do not understand what the hijab is all about. Nor do you understand the true concept of EQUALITY. Equality does not mean THE SAME. There are rights and obligations that EQUAL each other out, for MEN and WOMEN.

By the way, you will see MORE WOMEN FIGHTING TO KEEP THE HIJAB AND NIQAB, then you would see men. You could not PAY most hijabi women enough money to make them take it off. This is from GOD…NOT MAN!
It’s NOTHING short of ARROGANT for you to makes such RUDE statements about sheets, directed at Muslim women.

#16

I am a teacher. Imagine standing in front of a group of students and not being able to see their faces or facial expressions. Humans communicate in many ways - speech, body language, dress, and importantly, facial cues. This is not a matter of free speech. I believe I have the right to see your face if you are seeing mine. That’s equal rights - n’est pas. Students who insist on covering thei faces, are saying they won’t tolerate even the slightest form of intimacy with their educators. This is arrogance masquerading as human rights.

#15

Also, Al-Azhar is an ISLAMIC INSTITUTE. This is not a matter of wanting to dress in some UNislamic way. The wives of our Prophet Mohammed (the Mothers of the Believers) wore viels. Why would a top so-called Sheik of Islam want to tell devout Muslim woman that they can’t follow the example of the MOTHERS?
That sheik is just one more person who is helping to undermine Islam FROM WITHIN. He’s playing at the hand of the devil.

#14

9/11 forced new rules; women’s rights demands equality; it’s the responsibility of every university to set the standard;so take off the sheets or go home. Come on ladies, the men made the rule-let them wear the
sheets!
Let the men wear them.

#13

I do NOT believe that dress style should be dictated when the dress style is a matter of religious obligation OR religious choice.

I’m infuriated how the institute of Al-Alhar is not putting an immediate stop to such an obvious PIG.

#12

Wow. What overtook me more - fury or great sadness? I am not a conservative but I am angered by the immense ability of the western mind to dictate what should be acceptable amongst more traditional people/cultures. If women want to wear a head scarf or cover their faces and bodies, then let them. Why should these women be penalized because they don’t think/dress the way we (and the countries who strive to imitate our values) want. This is a clear case of intolerance.

#11

yes, governments and institutions can and do regulate what we wear. There is no mythical place that offers complete freedom. Therefore, since what we wear is already regulated (for example, “no shirt, no shoes, no service”) than the issue becomes where is the line drawn for regulation. To date, the regulation has been focused on ensuring humans cover themselves. I do not see it as an unacceptable permutation to start regulating too much coverage. For example, human faces need to be uncovered for “security” and “identity” purposes.

#10

Perhaps the university was not specific in their syllabus regarding a dress code. If they were and the students showed up in inappropriate dress after a long journey, so what! The university makes the rules NOT the freshmen.

#9

If the law bans people from running around stark naked, I guess it could ban them from dressing like walking tents. I acknowledge a person’s freedom to dress (or not dress) as he/she pleases, but I PERSONALLY find the face veil and the complete veiling and covering of one’s extremities unpleasant and jarring. I cannot think of women who dress like that as people; they are ghosts; they have chosen to erase themselves from human society. As someone else commented, honor and temptation start in the “tempted person’s” mind, and it is NOT up to me, as a female person, to protect some male person from temptation. I don’t like the hajib that much, but I accept that as a personal choice. However, I absolutely detest the face veil and feel that women who choose to wear it have been completely brainwashed by their conservative patriarchal culture. Did Mohammed literally command women to wear the face veil? He most certainly did not; that commandment is not found in the Qu’ran. I cannot see how a woman choosing to wear a face veil can think of herself as liberated. She has chosen to imprison herself. I’ve said enough.

#8

First, I think it is outrageous that the students were stranded with nowhere to go. The University could have sheltered the women at least until they could make arrangements to go home and should not have pushed them. As far as the issue of covering their faces, I think it is unacceptable for anyone to participate in institutions without being able to be identified. It is not safe. Too easy for someone to take someone else’s tests, too, at a university. But as far as restrictions on religious symbols, I don’t believe they should be restricted. As long as the symbols are not hate symbols, it should be allowed at a college or university. It should be a part of students’ experience dealing with others’ differences.

#7

a woman with veil should not get acess to education . the purpose of education is to open their mind and be a part of the society . isolation and covering their face are the traditional of stone age. we are in 21 century. islamic fanatic should be eliminated . covering their face is a symbol of islamic fanatic. evry governmemt sgould fight islamic fantic . Egypt has to do so

#6

9/11 changed everything. The hiding of ones identity in today’s times is unacceptable.

#5

As a woman, I am not against head scarfs and advocate modesty in dress, but with covering the face, I agree with the security issue since a man could disguise himself as a woman. If there is a crime, how would one identify the attacker. This precaution is valid because it just takes one time for a woman to be in jeopardy. The full face cover was something created by men who think women tempt them. Desire starts in one’s own mind. Woman should not have mandatory clothing to prevent someone else’s desires. It is so sexist that the women have such strict rules for dress when the men don’t. Women should not be treated as lesser.

#4

Very surprise, when people walk around naked, or even when they wearing un proper clothes, the government doesn’t do any thing, but Muslim who they choose their dress code is a problem..???? I don’t believe this to happen within Muslim Country

#3

Women should be free to dress as they choose. Denying Muslim women equal opportunity in education because they choose traditional dress is absurd and blatantly discriminatory.

#2

If God Wanted Humans to be covered then they would be.

#1

We never had these problems back in Neolithic times, because our religions were more primative nature worship fantasies. I guess we started a trend that humanity could not stop. I am sorry. I have retured to tell you all that (Universalism) is our only hope to overcome dogma and establish cardinal human values as our moral base.

FacebookTwitteriTunesYouTube

Produced by Creative News Group LLC     ©2014 WNET.ORG     All rights reserved

Distributed by American Public Television