Egyptian MP withdraws draft law on niqab ban after angry response

Egyptian women in Alexandria during the 2018 presidential election. Calls to ban the niqab have been widely rejected. (AFP)
Updated 09 November 2018
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Egyptian MP withdraws draft law on niqab ban after angry response

  • Ghada Agamy said the face veil had become a source of sedition in Egyptian society
  • But her proposed law received little backing among MPs

CAIRO: An Egyptian MP has withdrawn a draft law to ban women wearing the niqab in public places after the proposal sparked a wave of anger.
Ghada Agamy said the face veil had become a source of sedition in Egyptian society when she introduced the plan last week.
The draft law proposed that all women would be prohibited from wearing the niqab in public places.
She suggested a fine of 1,000 Egyptian pounds ($56) for those who broke the ban and the fine should double as the act was repeated.
“Niqab aims to change the moderate character of Islam in Egypt and reflects the extremist ideology of Salafist movements, not to mention that it has split society into those with niqab and those without,” Agamy said.
But on Thursday she withdrew the draft law saying that she did not want to create a rift in Egyptian society and that the purpose was to confront the crimes using the niqab.
Agamy denied any political pressure saying: “My voice comes from my head and I withdrew to avoid divisions.”
The MP floated the idea last month after Algeria introduced a niqab ban in the workplace.
But many MPs and Egyptians rejected theidea, saying it violated individual freedoms, and that it may lead to further strife in the country, which became politically divided after the Arab Spring uprising in 2011.
Engineer Sally Ahmed, a Cairo resident, said no one has the right to ban the niqab.
“The modesty and shyness of women is something imposed in Islam and must originate from her respect for her religion and herself and her family,” Ahmed said. “If some extremists use this as a curtain to hide their terrorist acts that is not evidence that a lady with a Niqab is a terrorist too.”

But MP Mohamed Abu Hamed suggested the government should issue a decision to ban the niqab for employees in government agencies, similar to Algeria.
However, he admitted the draft law included articles against public freedoms and violated Egypt’s constitution.
“We have two Islamic countries, Tunisia and Algeria, that have imposed a ban on the niqab in public places, not to mention that France currently has the same ban,” said Abu Hamed. “Several militant movements have used women wearing niqabs to carry out terrorist acts, kidnap children or assassinate public figures,” Abu Hamed said.
The UN Human Right Committee said last month that  France’s 2010 niqab ban violated the rights of two women who were fined for wearing full-face veils in public.
 


Sudan holds ‘million-strong’ protest march

Updated 43 min 45 sec ago
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Sudan holds ‘million-strong’ protest march

  • Rally outside the army headquarters comes after the military rulers and protest leaders agreed to set up a joint committee

KHARTOUM: Sudanese protesters began gathering for a “million-strong” march Thursday to turn up the heat on the ruling military council after three of its members resigned following talks on handing over power.
The rally outside the army headquarters comes after the military rulers and protest leaders agreed to set up a joint committee, to chart the way forward two weeks after the downfall of veteran president Omar Al-Bashir.
“We call on our people, who have been demanding a transitional civilian rule, to participate in the million-strong march,” said the Alliance for Freedom and Change, the umbrella group leading the protests.
“Our sit-in will continue to protect our revolution and to ensure that all our demands are achieved,” the alliance said in a statement.
As Thursday’s protest got underway, witnesses in downtown Khartoum said crowds of protesters gathered outside the Egyptian consulate and embassy which were surrounded by riot police.
Several people held banners calling on Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi not to “interfere in our affairs,” after Cairo hosted a summit of African leaders calling for more time for a transition to civilian rule in Sudan.
Others held signs reading “no to miliary rulers,” while across the city demonstrators began arriving at the army headquarters from the states of Jazeera and White Nile.
The planned mass march follows a late-night meeting between the military council and leaders of the protest movement’s umbrella group.
“We have an agreement on most demands presented in the document of the Alliance for Freedom and Change,” Lt. Gen. Shamseddine Kabbashi, spokesman of the military council, told reporters afterwards.
He did not elaborate on the key demand of handing power to a civilian government, but said there “were no big disputes.”
The Sudanese Professionals Association, which spearheaded months of protests against Bashir, described the meeting as a step toward “confidence-building.”
“Both sides agreed on the importance of joint cooperation to steer the country toward peace and stability,” the SPA said Thursday.
Writing on Twitter, the association said a “joint committee” was being set up to “discuss outstanding disputes” as part of efforts to reach a “comprehensive agreement.”
After returning from the protest site on Thursday, activist Ahmed Najdi said he was expecting “a joint military-civilian sovereign council, which I think is the middle path and most protesters would agree to that.”
Wednesday’s meeting was followed by the military council announcing three members of the ruling body had stepped down after demands from protesters.
They were Lt. Gen. Omar Zain Al-Abdin, Lt. Gen. Jalaluddin Al-Sheikh and Lt. Gen. Al-Tayieb Babikir.
The late night developments came as Siddiq Farouk, one of the leaders of the protests, said the demonstrators were also preparing for a general strike if the military council refuses to hand power to a civilian administration.
The council, led by General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan since his predecessor quit after barely 24 hours in the post, says it has assumed power for a two-year transitional period.
Despite Bashir’s fall, demonstrators have kept up their encampment outside the military headquarters to press their demands.
For the first time, Sudanese judges said they would join the sit-in on Thursday “to support change and for an independent judiciary.”
Protesters in Khartoum were joined Wednesday by hundreds of demonstrators from the central town of Madani, the second major batch of new arrivals from outside the capital in as many days.
“Revolutionaries from Madani want civilian rule,” they chanted, according to witnesses.
The previous day a train laden with demonstrators rolled from Atbara, where protests began on December 19 against a decision by Bashir’s government to triple bread prices.
They swiftly turned into nationwide rallies against his rule and that of the military council that took his place.
The protesters have found support in Washington, which has backed their call for civilian rule.
“We support the legitimate demand of the people of Sudan for a civilian-led government, and we are here to urge and to encourage parties to work together to advance that agenda as soon as possible,” State Department official Makila James told AFP on Tuesday.