Two Egyptian MPs submit draft laws to ban the niqab in public places

Gamal Essam El-Din , Sunday 4 Nov 2018

MPs Mohamed Abu Hamed and Ghada Agami said their draft laws would impose a ban on the face veil (niqab) in public places. Gamal Essam El-Din reports

File photo: Egyptian parliament (Photo: Reuters)

Two Egyptian MPs, Mohamed Abu Hamed and Ghada Agami, have submitted two draft laws aimed at imposing a ban on women wearing niqab (face veils) in public places.

Abu Hamed, an independent MP from Cairo, told reporters that the objective of his draft law is to impose a ban on wearing the niqab in public places, government institutions, hospitals, schools, etc.

Abu Hamed said the ban does not violate human rights or the freedoms enshrined in Egypt's 2014 constitution.

"We have two Islamic countries, Tunisia and Algeria, that have imposed a ban on the niqab in public places, not to mention that France currently has the same ban," said Abu Hamed, adding that “the niqab is not part of Islamic law (sharia), and extremist groups use women wearing niqab to carry out terrorist attacks.”

"Several jihadist militant movements have used women wearing niqab to carry out terrorist acts, kidnap children or assassinate public figures," said Abu Hamed.

Ghada Agami, deputy chairman of parliament's foreign affairs committee, also said that she has drafted a law banning the niqab in public places. Agami said that the niqab has become a source of sedition in Egyptian society in recent years.

"It aims to change the moderate character of Islam in Egypt and reflects the extremist ideology of Salafist [ultraconservative] movements, not to mention that it has split society into those with niqab and those without," said Agami.

Agami said that Algeria has imposed a ban on women civil servants wearing niqab at work, citing reasons of identification.

"France has also had the same ban since 2010, after it determined that it is necessary from a security standpoint and for protecting society from divisions," said Agami, adding that countries like Denmark and Netherlands have also passed similar bans on face-covering garments, while German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called for legislation to do the same.

According to Egypt's constitution and parliament's internal bylaws, laws proposed by MPs should be first discussed by the proposals and complaints committee. If approved, they should be passed to another committee in charge of discussing the subject of the law. The two laws drafted by Abu Hamed and Agami will be discussed by parliament’s proposals committee and the religious affairs committee.

Agami said that her proposed law suggests that the ban on the niqab should go into effect this month and that violators should pay a fine of at least EGP 1,000.

"Women who like the Niqab can wear it inside their homes, but in public places and official institutions all citizens should reveal their faces," said Agami.

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