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The Egyptian government banned the wearing of full-face veils in the country’s schools, a decision that sparked a fierce debate online in the Muslim-majority country, Agence France-Presse reported Tuesday.
Earlier this week, the education ministry issued a decree banning the niqab, a garment that only leaves the eyes exposed and is worn by a small minority of Egyptian women.
Officials said the restrictions will apply to both state and independent schools. They added that they will leave the hijab – or headscarf – optional for students, saying the choice to wear one must be made according to the “wishes of the pupil, without pressure or coercion from any party except her legal guardian, who must be informed of the choice.”
But the move prompted discussions on social media, with some critics calling it “a tyrannical decision that impinges on people’s private lives.”
Others questioned whether the decree was necessary, citing other more pressing issues such as overcrowded classes, and outdated equipment and facilities in Egyptian schools.
Meanwhile, supporters of the bill hailed it as an important step in tackling Islamic extremism in the country. Ahmed Moussa, a pro-government talk show host, said the decree will help free “an education system that had become the haunt of Muslim Brotherhood terrorist groups.”
President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi designated the Muslim Brotherhood group as a “terrorist organization” shortly after his 2013 coup that deposed his democratically elected predecessor, the late Mohamed Morsi, who was a member of that organization.
Since then, hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood members have been killed and tens of thousands have been imprisoned.