Grand Sheikh Mohamed Tantawi the dean of Al-Azhar University and one of the highest Islamic authorities in Egypt and the Muslim world says so. He told a young female student to take the Niqab off when he was on a visit to one of the schools affiliated to Al Azhar (one of the most prestigious Islamic institutions) The Grand Sheikh said the Niqab is a tradition and not part of Islam, he apparently told the girl “I know more about Islam than your parents and I’m telling you to take it off”
Sheikh Tantawihas also given directives that female students going to Al Azhar University be banned from wearing the Niqab.
The move has sparked so much controversy with many female students wearing the Niqab protesting outside the state-run Cairo University, which has banned the veils from its residence hall.
Some MP’sfrom the Muslim brotherhood are asking Sheikh Tantawi to step down from being head of Al Azhar for his remarks.
Italy is now using Sheik Tantawi’s remarks to pass a law to ban the Burqa or the Niqab. Italy’s Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and his right-wing coalition have presented a proposal to ban the Niqab, or burqa.
The anti-immigration Northern League party is leading the charge, and Italian politicians are now quoting Tantawi in support of their goal.
People of Freedom Member of Parliament, Barbara Saltamartini, said that “banning the burqa cannot be considered anti-Muslim because it is not obligatory in Islam,” echoing Tantawi’s sentiments.
A prominent Canadian Muslim lobby group is calling on the federal government to ban women from wearing the burqa in public.
I go to Egypt fairly regularly to visit my family and in the past few years I’ve noticed that more women are wearing the or Burqa and not just in poorer areas but in the area where our family house is for instance, and while it’s not a rich middle class area you can’t call it poor.
I also have among my many other cousins, three girl cousins; all sisters and all wear the Niqab. They used to live in Saudi Arabia and were used to wearing it as it is the tradition in the country.
When they moved to Egypt to go to university, they continued to wear it and when I asked my uncle why they were wearing the Niqab even though they were in Egypt now and didn’t have to, he said that he told them they could take it off if they wanted and they refused.
Sheikh Tantawi’s remarks got me thinking about whether he actually reflects the opinion of the vast majority of Muslims in Egypt and elsewhere in the world. If the Niqab has nothing to do with Islam then why are more women wearing it not just in Egypt and other Arab countries but in Europe and the USA as well?