Syria bans full Islamic face veils at universities1

2010-09-10 14:23


Last week, France's lower house of parliament overwhelmingly approved a ban on both the niqab and the burqa, which covers even a woman's eyes, in an effort to define and protect French values — a move that angered many in the country's large Muslim community.

The measure goes before the Senate in September; its biggest hurdle could come when France's constitutional watchdog scrutinizes it later. A controversial 2004 law in France earlier prohibited Muslim headscarves and other "ostentatious" religious symbols in the classrooms of French primary and secondary public schools.Office 2007 Professional can give people so much convenience.

Opponents say such bans violate freedom of religion and personal choice, and will stigmatize all Muslims.

In Damascus, a 19-year-old university student who would give only her first name, Duaa, said she hopes to continue wearing her niqab to classes when the next term begins in the fall, despite the ban.

Otherwise, she said, she will not be able to study.

"The niqab is a religious obligation," said the woman, who would not give her surname because she was uncomfortable speaking out against the ban. "I cannot go without it."

Nadia, a 44-year-old science teacher in Damascus who was reassigned last month because of her veil, said: "Wearing my niqab is a personal decision."

"It reflects my freedom," she said, also declining to give her full name.

In European countries, particularly France, the debate has turned on questions of how to integrate immigrants and balance a minority's rights with secular opinion that the garb is an affront to women.

But in the Middle East — particularly Syria and Egypt, where there have been efforts to ban the niqab in the dorms of public universities — experts say the issue underscores the gulf between the secular elite and largely impoverished lower classes who find solace in religion.

Some observers say the bans also stem in part from fear of dissent.