In a recent announcement, the Egyptian government has stirred controversy by imposing a ban on the wearing of the niqab (face-covering) in schools, starting from the next term on 30 September. 
The decision has garnered significant attention, drawing comparisons to similar bans on religious clothing in other countries, particularly the French government’s ban on the niqab in general, as well as the prohibition of the abaya in schools. 
The cabinet minister in charge of education, Reda Hegazy, made the official announcement, highlighting that students would still retain the right to choose whether to wear a headscarf, provided that it does not conceal their faces.
In a statement, Hegazy said,
“Here, the role of the teachers of the Arabic language, religious education, and social and psychological education, will be to prepare the students psychologically to implement the ministry’s decision with all kindness and gentleness, taking into account the students’ psychological state and their age level.” 
A clear infringement on religious expression
The wearing of the niqab has been a subject of ongoing debate in Egypt for many years.
It is a garment deeply rooted in religious tradition and has been worn by Muslim women worldwide for centuries as a matter of personal choice and religious expression.
However, the recent ban has ignited concerns about the infringement on religious freedoms and civil liberties.
Violation of Egyptian constitution
Human rights groups argue that the Egyptian constitution upholds religious freedom as a fundamental right and that restricting the niqab goes against these principles.
The ban has left many questioning whether it respects the diverse cultural and religious values present within Egypt’s society.
Notably, several public and private institutions across Egypt have already enforced bans on the niqab.
Cairo University, for instance, has prohibited teaching staff from wearing face veils since 2015. This rule faced legal challenges but was ultimately upheld by an Egyptian court in 2020. 
Analysis by Shaykh Dr. Haitham al-Haddad
We used to hear about niqab bans in Islamophobic countries such as those in Europe.
However, we are now witnessing it in a Muslim country and from the land of al-Azhar, which used to be one of the fortresses of al-Islam.
Whatever justification is given by the Egyptian authorities, it is not acceptable. Niqab is an Islamic symbol that has been practised for hundreds of years in Egypt and all over the world. It also has its evidences in the Qur’ān and Sunnah.
Allah says in verse 31 of Surat al-Nūr,
'And tell the believing women to lower their gaze (from looking at forbidden things) and guard their private parts (from illegal sexual acts) and to not expose their adornment, except that which (necessarily) appears thereof, and to wrap (a portion of) their head-covers over their chests and to not expose their Juyūbihinna (i.e. adornment such as their bodies, faces, necks, and bosoms).'
Drawing the veil all over the 'juyūb' implies covering the face, at least according to many scholars.
In addition, there might be another view regarding the obligation of niqab, i.e. covering the face, yet the minimum we can say is that at least all scholars agree that it is an Islamic practice that should be practised in certain circumstances. Needless to say, a detailed discussion about the Islamic ruling of niqab goes beyond these comments.
Having said that, it is truly devastating that the Islamophobes turned niqab into a political battle. It is even more devastating that a land of Muslim scholars, mosques, Islamic knowledge, and Islamic heritage is involved in this political game.
We should not merely look at this ban as a ban on niqab, as we have experienced through history that when they want to ban hijab or restrict Muslim women's freedom to practise their religion, they start with a ban on niqab.
Allah says in verse 187 of Surat Āl-ʿImrān,
'(And remember) when Allah took a covenant from those who were given the Scripture (Jews and Christians) to make it (the news of the coming of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ and the religious knowledge) known and clear to mankind, and not to hide it, but they threw it away behind their backs, and purchased with it some miserable gain! And, indeed, worst is that which they bought.'
We call upon the Azhar and its scholars to fulfil their duties that Allah has entrusted them with as people of knowledge. We also call upon Muslims all over the world to condemn this ban, and to actively communicate this with the Egyptian authorities and their embassies around the world.
Parallels with France
The ban on the niqab in Egyptian schools shares similarities with the French government’s coercive approach in enforcing its draconian interpretation of secularism on Muslim communities throughout the country.
In 2010, Paris enforced a nationwide ban on the niqab and burqa in public spaces, citing unfounded concerns about security and secularism.
More recently, the French government has also banned the abaya, a loose-fitting robe, in schools. The move has been met with universal condemnation and ridicule. Disturbingly, French police officers have prevented Muslim schoolgirls wearing kimonos and long skirts — and other clothing that look similar to the abaya — from entering schools.
Drawing parallels between Egypt and France, both countries’ decisions to restrict religious attire raise broader questions about the perverted desire to undress and unveil Muslim women who aspire towards a modest and dignified lifestyle.
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