Syria bans full Islamic face veils at universities2

2010-09-10 14:23


The niqab is not widespread in Syria, although it has become more common in recent years, a development that has not gone unnoticed by the authoritarian government. Many people use Microsoft Office 2007 to help their work and life.

"We are witnessing a rapid income gap growing in Syria — there is a wealthy ostentatious class of people who are making money and wearing European clothes," said Joshua Landis, an American professor and Syria expert who runs a blog called Syria Comment.

The lower classes are feeling the squeeze, he said.

"It's almost inevitable that there's going to be backlash. The worry is that it's going to find its expression in greater Islamic radicalism," Landis said.

Four decades of secular rule under the Baath Party have largely muted sectarian differences in Syria, although the state is quick to quash any dissent. In the 1980s, Syria crushed a bloody campaign by Sunni militants to topple the regime of then-President Hafez Assad.

The veil is linked to Salafism, a movement that models itself on early Islam with a doctrine that is similar to Saudi Arabia's. In the broad spectrum of Islamic thought, Salafism is on the extreme conservative end.

In Gaza, radical Muslim groups encourage women to cover their faces and even conceal the shape of their shoulders by using layers of drapes.

It's a mistake to view the niqab as a "personal freedom," Bassam Qadhi, a Syrian women's rights activist, told local media recently.

"It is rather a declaration of extremism," Qadhi said.