Three of Egypt’s most prominent religious leaders announced their support for the government ban on the niqab– full face veil– in dormitories and when taking examinations. In October, Sheikh Mohamed Sayed Tantawi, head of Al-Azhar, issued a religious edict barring wearing the niqab in Azhar run all-girl schools. The Ministry subsequently barred wearing the niqab when sitting for an examination. Yesterday, a government run newspaper made clear the edict was not anti-religious, but simply making clear wearing a niqab had no roots in sharia law.
The Egyptian government has long been leery of allowing religious leaders to get too much power and in banning the niqab is sends a message that government ideas take precedence over religious ones. The Muslim Brotherhood which is the main enemy of the government charged there was an attempt to deprive females of their rights. As one Muslim Brotherhood cleric noted, “any girl is free to wear the niqab as long as she understands that when asked to reveal her face, she should do so accordingly.”
This is one war over power and it has nothing to do with religion anymore than wearing a niqab does.