Helwan University has already banished students from residence halls and has threatened to expel from campus those who turn up with their faces covered, university officials said on Friday.
“They say nothing to indecent girls, but we – the daughters of Islam – are being hounded,” said Iman Ahmed, a 21-year-old female student.
The decision was made by Abdel al-Hay Ebaid, dean of Helwan University, which is located on the edge of a large industrial estate 30km outside of Cairo.
“What I want is to protect students against those individuals who might worm their way in, disguised under a face veil,” Ebaid said.
“[Students] Their parents would kill me if a man infiltrated the women’s halls.”
Restriction of freedom
Around 2,800 female students are housed in the women’s residence halls.
Those in the anti-niqab camp are congratulating themselves that something has been done to halt the spread of “fanaticism” and “warped Islam”, while those who support the veil say the ultimatum is an invasion of their freedom and flies in the face of true Islam.
“This ban restricts my freedom,” said Rihan Sami, a student teacher, who is completely veiled and gloved.
“The [niqab] veil is my choice, and that of Islam, in battling against the shamelessness that abounds here.”
Many veiled women say the ban
In order to gain access to the campus, girls wearing the full veil must pass through a small office where a woman inspector checks them behind a curtain to verify their identities against a list of registered students.
“They only have to do the same thing for the halls of residence,” argues Sami, adding that she decided to no longer wear the veil there in order to avoid being expelled.
A “committee of free students” quickly staged demonstrations against the ban, a front, which sees a new milestone in the Islamisation of Egyptian society.
Other universities in Egypt such as Ain Shams and American University of Cairo (AUC), have tried in recent years to oppose the veil, which was being advocated by Egyptian and Saudi Arabian religious leaders.
“I don’t agree that the veil should be compulsory, and I don’t like it,” says Soad Saleh, a professor of Islamic law and former dean of the women’s faculty of Islamic studies at Al-Azhar University, which is more than a thousand years old.
Her face framed in a blue headband under a white hijab, she said that she wants to “purge Islam of false concepts: the Koran does not say women have to cover their faces, it’s an old Bedouin tradition”.
After she questioned the wearing of the face veil during an appearance on the Dream satellite television channel, Saleh came under fire from a high-ranking Islamic official, and was even threatened by a fundamentalist imam in the Giza suburb of Cairo.
Yussef Badri, a member of the Supreme Islamic Council, filed a complaint against her.
“I don’t care. The only one I fear is God,” says the professor, putting the reaction down to male chauvinism at Al-Azhar University.