Cairo, Egypt – The Egyptian minister of religious endowments has forbidden his ministry’s religious counselors from wearing the face veil, or “niqab,” the press reported on Monday.
“I totally reject the appointment of fully veiled women working as counselors meant to guide people in religious matters,” minister Hamdy Zaqzuq told the daily Al-Masri Al-Youm newspaper.
Zaqzuq’s ministry oversees religious affairs in this predominantly Muslim country as well as managing religious properties, and has appointed around 50 of these counselors across the country.
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The minister said fully veiled women working as counselors would just promote “the culture of the niqab”.
“The niqab is a matter of custom and not the faith — it has nothing to do with the religion,” he added.
According to the government daily Al-Gomhuriya, the minister said that any fully veiled religious counselors would be reassigned to administrative posts.
On Tuesday, Zaqzuq had a fully veiled religious counselor expelled from a training session for prayer leaders because she was wearing the face veil.
Egypt is the midst of a battle of women’s religious garb, in a country where growing numbers of Muslim women are covering their heads and even their faces.
The Egyptian government is increasingly starting to speak out against the the face veil, and has banned it from a number of government offices.
In November, Culture Minister Faruq Hosni came under intense criticism for describing the veil as “repressive.”
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