There have been demonstrations by women students in Cairo after a leading cleric backed moves to ban the wearing of full women’s veils, known as the niqab, in classrooms or dormitories. Christian Fraser has been hearing both sides of the argument.
Why are an increasing number of young women in Egypt turning to the niqab? What role did the government play in the sheikh’s ruling?
And how will it be seen by the politicians of Europe, like President Nicolas Sarkozy who banned the niqab from French classrooms? And indeed the British Justice Minister, Jack Straw, who asked women to remove them in his constituency office?
“You must read my judgment,” insisted the sheikh. It was a two-page slab of scripture in classical Arabic, for which a lifetime’s education in the halls of al-Azhar would surely not have prepared me.
And so, somewhat ill-informed, I left the supreme scholars in search of my own, more earthly answers.