Monday, July 19, 2010

Syria bans face veils at universities

Woman wearing a scarf wrapped around her head ...Image via Wikipedia

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    DAMASCUS, Syria – Syria has banned the face-covering Islamic veil from the country's universities to prevent what it sees as a threat to its secular identity, as similar moves in Europe spark cries of discrimination against Muslims.
    The Education Ministry issued the ban Sunday, according to a government official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak publicly.
    The ban, which affects public and private universities, is only against the niqab — a full Islamic veil that reveals only a woman's eyes — not headscarves, which are far more commonly worn by Syrian women.
    The billowing black robe known as a niqab is not widespread in Syria, although it has become more common recently — a move that has not gone unnoticed in a country governed by a secular, authoritarian regime.

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    Syria is the latest country to weigh in on the veil, perhaps the most visible hallmark of conservative Islam. The wearing of veils has spread in other secular-leaning Arab countries such as Jordan and Lebanon, as well, with Jordan's government trying to discourage it by playing up reports of robbers who wear veils as masks.
    Turkey also bans Muslim headscarves in universities, with many saying attempts to allow them in schools amount to an attack on modern Turkey's secular laws.
    European countries including France, Spain, Belgium and the Netherlands are considering bans on the grounds that the veils are degrading to women.
    France's lower house of parliament overwhelmingly approved a ban on wearing burqa-style Islamic veils on July 13 in an effort to define and protect French values, a move that angered many in the country's large Muslim community.
    Opponents say such bans violate freedom of religion and will stigmatize all Muslims.

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