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Debates on social media: the Egyptian authorities ban niqab in schools

Egypt on Monday issued a ban prohibiting students from wearing a face covering or niqab at schools, sparking a debate on social media, with many users labelling the ban oppressive, while others expressed their support, according to Alarabiya News.

The state-run newspaper Akhbar al-Youm published a statement from the Ministry of Education stating that “any form of hair covering that contradicts the condition of facial visibility is not acceptable.”

The statement says students will be allowed to wear the hijab or headscarf of their choice, but it must be of a color chosen by the ministry and the local education department. The decision will apply to both public and private schools. The Code will be in force from the beginning of the school year on September 30 until June 2024.

Opponents of the new dress code voiced their opinions on social media accusing the government of interfering with women’s rights. A user who identified as Zainab Dabo wrote on X, formally known as Twitter:

“Let women wear whatever they deem fit. We want a free & equal world for women to decide on what to wear without the state interfering with it. I’m completely against Niqab Ban in Egypt, let women wear whatever they deem fit. We can’t be struggling with Taliban forcing Women into erasure just to ve Egypt Ban Niqab. We want a free & equal world for women to decide on what to wear without the state interfering with it.”

Opponents of the ban note that the niqab is a “religious obligation” and should not be politicized in any way. A user going by the name as Rizwan kayani posted on X:

“Niqab is not a problem, the problem is the ignorance and intolerance of those who want to impose their views on others. Niqab is not a political statement, it is a religious obligation.”

Supporters of the niqab ban see the decision as a “step in the right direction” for women’s freedom. A user named Yasser Arafat wrote on X:

“A step in the right direction for Egypt! Women life freedom all the way!”

Another user who identified as althafxx posted on X:

“Good decision. We don’t want to be very extreme or harsh on religion. If she’s wearing any other dress.”

The Egyptian Ministry of Education believes that every student has the right to decide for herself whether to cover her hair “based on her personal desire, without any pressure or coercion from any person or any other organisation other than her parents.”

It is noted that parents should be informed of their daughter’s choice and that the authorities may verify the guardians’ awareness of the pupil’s choice regarding head coverings.

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