Egyptian Muslim preacher threatened with death in veil row

Gulf News


Cairo: A female Muslim preacher has been threatened with death for declaring that the niqab (a veil which covers the whole face except for the eyes) is not obligatory.

Suad Saleh, a famous TV preacher and a professor of Islamic jurisprudence at the University of Al Azhar, infuriated Islamists when she told a television programme that wearing the veil was a Bedouin tradition before the emergence of Islam in the seventh century.

"There is no unequivocal text in the Holy Quran that women must cover their faces," she told the private satellite channel TV Dream.

"Meanwhile, the Sunna [the Prophet Mohammad's (PBUH) traditions] show it is legal for women to uncover the face."

An angry male preacher told a mosque congregation in Giza, south of Cairo, that he was ready to kill Saleh for her claim. The man was arrested and quizzed over his alleged threat.

Controversy over the veil in Egypt has escalated over the past few weeks after veiled female students were barred from staying at a university hostel in Cairo. President of the government-run University of Helwan decreed the controversial ban, saying the order was meant to prevent men disguised in the veil from entering the female-only hostel.

Scores of students staged protests, demanding the scrapping of the ban, which they slammed as anti-Islamic.

"The university will not rescind this decision because it would be blamed if a man, covered in the niqab, walked into the female-only dormitories," Mahmoud Refaat, a director at the University of Helwan, said in press remarks.

Meanwhile, MP Ebrahim Zakaria of the Muslim Brotherhood, has lodged a complaint with the Prosecutor-General, demanding investigations into the alleged expulsion of veiled students from government-run universities.

The Muslim Brotherhood is Egypt's largest opposition force, having 88 seats in the 454-member parliament, dominated by the ruling National Democratic Party.

The debate over the niqab in Egypt came shortly after a similar row in the UK where the leader of the House of Commons, Jack Straw, asked Muslim women to remove their veil when he met them in his constituency office.

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