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Egypt TV ‘bans veiled presenters’

BBC, USA
Sep. 6, 2003
Magdi Abdelhadi, BBC, Cairo
news.bbc.co.uk

ReligionNewsBlog.com • Monday September 8, 2003

A group of television presenters in Egypt say they have been banned from appearing on screen since they began wearing the Islamic veil.

Some say they are considering taking legal action against the state owned broadcasting organisation as a result.

The issue of Islamic dress code has long been controversial in Egypt and now the conflict is taking place against a quietly changing social landscape in Egypt with more and more professional women deciding to wear the veil.

The presenters say they are being denied the right to choose and nothing in their contract with the state broadcaster bans them from wearing the veil.

Strictly speaking what they wear is not a veil, but a headscarf that covers their hair.

Sidelined

One of the most famous of the rebel presenters, Maha Medhet, says she has been with Egyptian television for more than 10 years and has begun legal action against the state broadcaster.

According to legal documents, Ms Medhet alleges that she is being punished for what she describes as her right to practice her religion.

The government apparently fears that such public display of Islamic symbols, of which the veil is the most potent, will play into the hands of Islamic activists whose aim is to enforce Islamic Sharia in all spheres of life

She says that ever since she decided to wear the veil in March this year she was relegated to the role of an out of vision narrator.

In some programmes where she used to be the sole presenter, she says, the camera no longer shows her face but only that of another unveiled colleague.

Another presenter told me if women in other professions could do their job wearing the veil, why couldn’t they?

Back in vogue

The issue of Islamic dress code has long been controversial in Egypt.

Muslim women in Egypt began a protest against the veil in the 1930s, and by the 60s the veil was a thing of the past.

But with the re-emergence of movements of Islamic revival, the veil has come back. Now it has become an issue for the courts.

The case highlights a dilemma for the Egyptian state. Under the Egyptian constitution, Islam is the state religion and Islamic Sharia is the main source for legislation.

Professional women feel that they have done nothing wrong in living up to the terms of their constitution.

But the government apparently fears that such public display of Islamic symbols, of which the veil is the most potent, will play into the hands of Islamic activists whose aim is to enforce Islamic Sharia in all spheres of life.

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