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International – Banning the niqab

May 2016

Egypt’s lawmakers are drafting a bill to ban women from wearing the niqab (face veil) in public places and government institutions. In many Muslim-majority contexts, the traditional view is that Islam requires women to wear the niqab.

According to MP Amna Nosseir, who is also a professor of comparative jurisprudence at Al-Azhar University, it is not necessary for Muslim women to wear the niqab, because the tradition originates from Jewish culture rather than Islamic teaching.

Her argument centres around the interpretation of certain Quranic verses, which are generally translated as saying men should lower their gaze when they see a woman, so as to avoid having sinful thoughts.

She asks, ‘How did Islam impose the niqab, if Muslims are asked in the Quran to lower their gaze? If women’s faces are completely covered, men would not need to be instructed to avoid looking at women’.

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