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Politics | Gender - Women | Society

Veil controversy grips Egypt

Egyptian women and girls wearing veils:
«Why this regression?»

© afrol News/Undp/GEF
afrol News, 17 November
- Egypt finds itself trapped in the centre of controversy over the wearing of Muslim women's head scarf or veil, increasingly seen as a sing of supporting the Islamist movement. The brouhaha was sparked off by the country's Minister of Culture, Faruq Hosni, who described the wearing of veil as a "regressive" trend in Egypt.

"There was an age when our mothers went to university and worked without the veil. It is in that spirit that we grew up. So why this regression? Each woman with her beautiful hair is like a flower, and should not be concealed from the view of others," Minister Hosni told the independent 'Al-Masri Al-Yom' daily.

The Egyptian Minister wonders why religion today focuses too much on appearances, adding that "a woman's true veil is the inner veil, not the visible one. The relationship between God and a person does not hinge on the latter's sartorial decisions."

Mr Hosni's speech attracted condemnations from radical Islamist groups, especially the partially banned Muslim Brotherhood that now is asking for the parliament to relieve him of his position.

"We have presented an urgent appeal to parliament demanding that Culture Minister Faruq Hosni be relieved of his duties after statements in which he said that wearing the veil is regressive," Muslim Brotherhood deputy Hamdi Hassan said in a statement today.

Mr Hassan presented his appeal to the parliament yesterday, asking for the Minister of Culture to be replaced by a person who will respect "our constitution, our Shari'a [Islamic law] and our values."

Egyptian parliamentarians are expected to examine the appeal in the next few days.

At the moment, the Muslim Brotherhood, which was previously outlawed, controls one fifth of the parliament in Egypt. Through independent ticket, the group secured parliamentary seats in the 2005 elections.

Until Islamic radicalisation gained momentum in the country, Egypt has been seen as a modern state in the Middle East.

The wearing of veil by Muslim women is considered a religious obligation by a growing number of Muslim clerics and believers at large and has in the recent past caused a lot of controversies in many parts of the world. Some Muslim countries, such as Tunisia, have outlawed it altogether.

Opponents to the veil hold that the garment has little to do with the Holy Quran and local traditions, but is used only as a symbol to demonstrate sympathy with radical Islamist groups. Meanwhile, however, many modern young girls in North Africa and the Middle East have started using the controversial veil, some revealing that it is only the current haute couture combined with a small juvenile rebellion against corrupt elders and an increasingly aggressive West.

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