Egypt's rulers divided over schoolgirl veils

TWO DEPARTMENTS of the Egyptian government are at loggerheads over the banning of the hijab - the Islamic headscarf - from girls' schools.

A row has flared between the secular, liberal-dominated Education Ministry, which banned girls from wearing the veil in school, and al-Azhar (the official Islamic church) backed by the Ministry of Religious Endowment, which condemned the decision of the Education Minister, Hussein Kamel Bahaa-el-Dine. Mr Bahaa-el-Dine's administrative order compelling girls' secondary schools to impose a single uniform was intended to settle the argument about the veil.

Mr Bahaa-el-Dine's decision was prompted by the findings of a committee which investigated parents' complaints that their teenage daughters were being taught extreme views and had been intimidated by some ultra- orthodox Muslim teachers into taking up the veil. The committee recommended removing more than 1,000 teachers from teaching duties and suspending more than 200 for 'forcing their political views on pupils and interfering with the curriculum'.

The liberal Dr Bahaa-el- Dine did not anticipate the swift counter-attack by the clergy and fundamentalists. They mobilised al-Azhar to issue a fatwa, or religious edict, condemning his decision as an attempt 'to ban young women from covering their hair as Islam required'.

Al-Azhar's swift reaction is unprecedented. 'This is new to Egypt,' said the liberal Egyptian historian Ahmad Osman. 'Making an issue of the veil is turning the clock back some 80 years.' He noted that in the past only extreme Muslims forced women to cover their hair by intimidation or shouting abuse, and al-Azhar has never before issued a fatwa limiting individual choice, let alone contradicting government policy.

Under pressure, Mr Bahaa- el-Dine retreated and said headmistresses could not insist that girls should remove the veil. Meanwhile the Minister of Religious Endowment endorsed al-Azhar and called for teachers who encouraged Muslim girls to remove the veil to be prosecuted.

Mr Barhaa-el-Dine's retreat was criticised by the liberal Wafd party and left-wing oposition groups. The incident has boosted the credibility of secular Egyptian politicians and feminist groups who have argued for more than a year that Islamic extremists were becoming increasingly influential in Egyptian political life.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
musicBand's first new record for 20 years has some tough acts to follow
peopleAt least it's for a worthwhile cause
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Life and Style
healthFor Pure-O OCD sufferers this is a reality they live in
Life and Style
Sexual health charities have campaigned for the kits to be regulated
healthAmerican woman who did tells parents there is 'nothing to be afraid of'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Pharmaceutical Computer System Validation Specialist

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pharmaceutical Computer ...

Senior Java Developer - API's / Webservices - XML, XSLT

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

Newly Qualified Teachers

£90 - £115 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: We are currently looking fo...

Year 3/4 Teacher

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Job Share Year 3/4 Teacher...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments