CAIRO: The recent decision to ban female staff from wearing the full face veil aims to put an end to student complaints of “poor communication” in class, the head of Egypt’s Cairo University said on Friday.

Although the head-to-toe covering known locally as the niqab is “not a phenomenon” among his teachers, Gaber Nassar said.

Islamic clerics and students have denounced the move as discriminatory, but Nassar said he has the backing of the Grand Mufti, Egypt’s top religious authority. The niqab, Nassar said, is especially problematic in language courses, where the cloth barrier of the veil hinders student-teacher communications — producing low grades and graduates incapable of enunciation. The vast majority of Egyptian Muslim women wear a form of veil that covers the hair but leaves the face uncovered.

However, the number of women wearing the full niqab has increased dramatically in the past 10-20 years.

In 2009, Cairo University had banned both students and staff from wearing the niqab on campus or in the university’s dorms. The ban was later overturned by a Cairo court following a lawsuit filed by a professor.

“That was unconstitutional because it said all of the university, we are saying now only the lecture halls,” Nassar said, daring anyone to challenge his decree in court. “We are not banning the niqab, we are just regulating it.”

Published in Dawn October 3rd, 2015

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