Syria bans face veils at universities

Veiled women in Damascus, Syria (file image) Wearing the full veil has caused controversy in Europe and the Middle East

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Female students wearing a full face veil will be barred from Syrian university campuses, the country's minister of higher education has said.

Ghiyath Barakat was reported to have said that the practice ran counter to the academic values and traditions of Syrian universities.

His ruling, published on the All4Syria website, was said to be in response to requests from students and parents.

The issue of full face veils has caused controversy in other countries.

Start Quote

We have never gone to the extreme left or the extreme right”

End Quote Kinda al-Shammat Law professor, Damascus

Kinda al-Shammat, a law professor and women's rights activist in Damascus, welcomed the decision and said it was in line with the Syrian belief in moderation.

"We have never gone to the extreme left or the extreme right," she told Al-Arabiya TV.

Secular identity

However the BBC's Lina Sinjab in Damascus says the ruling could be a sign that Syrian Society is becoming more conservative.

"In recent years, Syria has witnessed an Islamic revival with more and more women wearing the Hijab," she reports.

"This decision could be seen as a step by the government to enforce its secular identity."

In 2009, Egypt's then foremost Muslim cleric, Sheikh Mohammed Sayed Tantawi, barred female students from wearing the full-face veil at the al-Azhar University, Sunni Islam's centre of learning and scholarship.

He also upset other Muslim scholars by saying French Muslims should obey any law that France might enact banning the veil.

Earlier this month, France's lower house of parliament overwhelmingly approved a bill that would ban wearing the Islamic full veil in public.

It must be ratified by the Senate in September to become law.

Belgium's lower house of parliament has also passed a bill to ban clothing that hides a person's identity in public places, although it does not specifically refer to full-face Islamic veils.

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