An Egyptian court has overturned the decision of Egypt's leading Islamic educational institution to ban the niqab, or full face veil, among its female students and teachers.
Sheikh Mohamed Sayed Tantawi, the head of al-Azhar, which is controlled by the state, issued the ban in October, saying there was no need for females to cover their faces in front of other females. Males and females are separated in dorms and classes.
In Islam, most clerics believe wearing a headscarf is a must, while few consider the niqab obligatory. However, Azhar and another of Egypt's top religious authorities said in December that the face veil had no basis in Islam.
Azhar, one of the most prominent seats of Islamic learning in the Muslim world, has schools, universities and other educational institutions across Egypt, covering all subjects.
Shortly after Tantawi issued his decree, Egypt's Minister of Higher Education Hany Helal banned the niqab in university examinations. The government said it brought in the ban to prevent students, male and female, disguising themselves as other candidates by wearing the face veil.
Egypt's High Administrative court ruled last week against the government ban.
The latest ruling, by a Cairo administrative court this week, was prompted by a female student in an Azhar school appealing against the decree.
The student has been excluded from school since October for refusing to take off the niqab in class.
This ruling will not necessarily be an end to the case because such cases can be appealed many times in Egypt.
The government has long been wary of Islamist thinking, and in the 1990s crushed Islamists seeking to set up a religious state. It is also keen to quell opposition ahead of a parliamentary election expected by December, to be followed by a presidential vote.
ReutersLast Mod: 29 Ocak 2010, 04:34