Egypt bans girls from wearing hijabs to school - until they reach puberty

The country's education minister has argued that Islam does not require girls to wear the religious veil prior to puberty

Egypt has banned children from wearing hijabs to school.

Education Minister Moheb Al-Refaei has said that girls will no longer be allowed to wear the hijab to school.

Speaking in an interview, the Minister said that Islam did not require girls to wear the hijab until they reach puberty and so there was no need for them to wear the veil in primary school.

He did not specify the age point at which it would be permitted.

The wearing of religious veils in the country is a deeply divisive issue. Whilst many clerics believe it to be obligatory in Islam, some academics dispute this and argue that its roots lie in cultural tradition rather than having a theological basis.

In 1994, the Egyptian government revised school uniform legislation to forbid girls under the age of 12 from covering their hair. However, the law provoked fierce debate and accusations that the move was un-Islamic. The Supreme Court ruled the ban unconstitutional in 1996.

In March of this year, the issue gained national attention again when a teacher beat a girl and cut off a lock of her hair because she did not wear a hijab to class.