Egypt on Monday issued a ban prohibiting students from wearing a face covering or niqab at schools, sparking a debate on social media, with many users labeling the ban oppressive while others expressed their support.
According to the education ministry’s statement published in the state-run newspaper Akhbar al-Youm, “any form of hair covering that contravenes the condition of the face being visible is not acceptable.”
Students will be allowed to wear a hijab or a headscarf if they choose so, but it must be in the color chosen by the ministry and local education directorate, the statement said.
The code will be enforced from the start of the academic year on September 30 until June 2024. The decision will apply to both public and private schools.
Critics of the new dress code took to social media accusing the government of meddling into the rights of women.
“Let women wear whatever they deem fit. We want a free & equal world for women to decide on what to wear without the state interfering with it,” a user going by the name Zainab Dabo wrote on X, formally known as Twitter.
Those opposed to the ban said that Niqab is a “religious obligation” and must not be politicized.
“Niqab is not a problem, the problem is the ignorance and intolerance of those who want to impose their views on others. Niqab is not a political statement, it is a religious obligation,” a user who identified as Rizwan kayani posted on X.
Supporters of the niqab ban hailed the decision as a “step in the right direction” for women’s freedom.
“A step in the right direction for Egypt! women life freedom all the way!!,” a user named Yasser Arafat wrote on X.
According to the education ministry’s statement, a student should decide if they want to cover their hair “based on her own personal desire without any pressure or force from any person or any other entity other than the parents.”
The statement also added that parents must be informed of their daughter’s choice and that authorities will verify the guardians’ knowledge of the student’s choice regarding head coverings.