Sunday, October 15, 2006


It's a political symbol.

Cairo, 13 Oct. (AKI) - The niqab, a Muslim headdress that leaves only the eyes exposed, is not a religious object, Egypt's religion minister said Friday, entering the debate started by British ex-minister Jack Straw, who said he asked Muslim women visiting him to show their faces to facilitate dialogue. "Nor is the niqab a duty deriving from the Sharia" added Mohammad Hamdi Zaqzouq. "I know I will be criticised for my words but I think some Muslims are committing a fundamental error, focusing on external and superficial aspects, without exploring more relevant themes, and hence providing a distorted image of Islam" he said.

Straw last month triggered debate by inviting Muslim women in Britain to leave at home their veils, saying he would like to see their faces, "understand the expression of his constituents".

"I don't think he made an offensive request, especially as the Sharia requires that women cover their heads but not that they hide behind a mantle which makes them irrecognisable" Zaqzouq said.

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