Egypt’s Administrative Court has upheld a ban on women professors wearing the Islamic niqab at Cairo University, state media Ahram Online reported.
The Tuesday ruling was on a lawsuit filed against the university’s president, Dr. Gaber Nassar, by Ahmed Mahran, the head of the Cairo Center for Political and Legal Studies. Mahran represented 77 women faculty members, including some who do not wear the niqab but joined the cause in solidarity with those the ban would harm.
Nassar had issued this controversial decision in Septemeber of last year, saying that the decision was made to improve education and communication between students and their instructors and to benefit the wider public.
He also said that, in addition to having shared his proposal with all of the university deans, Law 49 of 1972 and decree 809 of 1975 grant him the authority to issue executive regulatory bylaws.
The niqab consists of covering a woman’s head and face with fabric, leaving only the eyes visible. It is not as common in Egypt as the hijab, which only requires women to cover their heads.
Some have viewed the ban from the country’s top public university as part of a nationwide crackdown on extreme forms of Islam. However, this is not the first time a university has tackled the issue of niqab. In 2008, debate ensued after Al-Azhar University, the leading Sunni Islamic school in the world, banned the niqab in all-female classrooms and dormitories.