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Egypt court backs niqab ban for teachers, saying the face veil impedes interaction with students

A top Egyptian court has ruled in favour of banning female academic staff at Cairo University from wearing the Muslim face veil, saying it impedes interaction with students.

This file photo shows a woman standing outside Cairo University where women staff are banned from wearing the niqab. A top Egyptian Court has this month upheld a ruling saying female academic staff wearing the Muslim face veil gets will face challenges interacting with students
This file photo shows a woman standing outside Cairo University where women staff are banned from wearing the niqab. A top Egyptian Court has this month upheld a ruling saying female academic staff wearing the Muslim face veil gets will face challenges interacting with students

The decision taken by the Supreme Administrative Court last week to ban staff from wearing the niqab was confirmed by lawyer Ahmed Mahran today.

The court had rejected appeals against a 2016 lower court verdict banning the niqab on grounds that it impeded interaction between students and teachers.

As online media publication, Gulf News reported, the court explained that while the law regulating work at universities does not commit teachers to wearing a certain uniform, it obliges them to maintain direct communication with students in lectures and other academic activities.

‘The ruling is final and not subject to appeal,’ said Mahran, who represented 80 women in challenging the 2016 ruling.

However, its unclear if the ban will actually be enforced, with the University leadership not specifying how the ruling would be upheld, if at all.

The ban was introduced in 2015 by a previous head of Cairo University, two years after the 2013 military ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.

Mahran said the decision was issued for ‘political reasons’ at the time.

‘But it never came into effect. I do not expect it to be applied now,’ he added.

Cairo University is one of Egypt’s oldest higher education institutions.

Its current head, Mohamed Othman Elkhosht, quoted by local media, said his institution respected decisions taken by the judiciary but did not specify if the ban would be enforced.

The ban on the niqab, which covers the entire face except for the eyes, has often sparked fierce debate on religious freedoms.

Most Muslim women in Egypt wear the headscarf, or hijab, which covers the hair but not the face. The niqab is largely worn by women of ultra-conservative backgrounds. AFP

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