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Egypt TV bans headscarves

A group of Egyptian television presenters has been shunted off screen for wearing the Islamic headscarf.

Last Modified: 07 Sep 2003 04:23 GMT
Headscarves are back in vogue in Cairo

A group of Egyptian television presenters has been shunted off screen for wearing the Islamic headscarf.

Some of the women are considering taking legal action against the state owned broadcasting organisation, the BBC reported.

The presenters say that nothing in their contract with the state broadcaster bans them from wearing a headscarf to cover their hair.

Maha Medhet, one of the most famous of the rebel presenters, told the BBC’s Magdi Abd Alhadi that she has been with Egyptian television for more than 10 years and has begun legal action against the state broadcaster.

She says that since she donned the headscarf in March this year she has been relegated to an off-screen narrator role. She sees this as an infringement of her right to practise her religion.

In some of the programmes she used to present, she has been replaced by an unveiled colleague, she says.

These professional women feel that by following the terms of the Egyptian constitution they have done nothing wrong.

Another presenter claims that she is being unfairly discriminated against because of the nature of her job, as women in other professions are permitted to wear headscarves to work.

Full circle

Muslim women in Egypt began a protest against headscarves in the 1930s, and by the 60s it had become a thing of the past.

But with the re-emergence of movements of Islamic revival, it has come back. Now it has become a legal dilemma for the Egyptian state. Under the Egyptian constitution, Islam is the state religion and Islamic Sharia law is the main source of legislation.

These professional women feel that by following the terms of their constitution they have done nothing wrong.

But the government apparently fears that such a public display of Islamic symbols, of which the headscarf is the most potent, will play into the hands of Islamic groups who aim to enforce Sharia law in all spheres of life.

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