Muslim scholars admit that the veil is not prescribed by Islam.
And not only in Europe. Muslim countries are not immune to the controversy over the veil. In Egypt--where some 80 percent of women are now veiled, according to sociologist Mona Abaza--the dean of Helwan University has recently expelled female students for wearing the niqab. Interestingly, Soad Saleh, a former dean of the female faculty and Islamic law professor at the most prestigious Islamic university in the world, Cairo's Al-Azhar, confirmed that the niqab is not an obligation. Gamal al-Banna, brother of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, goes further: "Neither the Koran, nor the hadith require women to wear a headscarf."
Even Yusuf al-Qaradawi says there's no obligation to wear the veil.
“It is not obligatory for Muslim women to wear the niqab. The majority of Muslim scholars and I do not support the niqab in which women cover their faces.” khalid hasan
Here in Britain, Muslim scholars agree there is no obligation in Islam to wear the veil.
Dr Abdul Bary Mailk, president of the Bradford and Leeds Ahmadiyya Muslim Association, said wearing the full face veil, or niqab, was not an obligation under Islam.
Egypt's religion minister says the veil is not a religious 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.
The veil is even banned in some Muslim countries.
However, the most divisive controversy erupted not in Europe, but in Tunisia, where the government launched a campaign to implement "Decree 108," first issued in 1981, which forbids not only the full veil (niqab) in public places, but also the less restrictive head covering (hijab).
Other Muslim countries have bans or restrictions on the veil because it is a political statement and not a religious symbol
But often forgotten amid such controversies in Europe - which tend to center on allegations of "Islamophobia" or the desire of Western nations to control a minority community - is the fact that nowhere is the debate over the Islamic veil older or more heated than in Muslim societies themselves.
From Morocco and Tunisia, to Turkey and Iran, majority Muslim states have at various times restricted, and in some cases banned, women's head coverings. To varying degrees, such restrictions stem from a view that public exhibitions of religious commitment are a political, not a personal, act - and hence a potential threat to the government.
What conclusions can we draw from the fact that Muslim scholars admit the veil is not an Islamic religious symbol and many Muslim countries ban it? To me it's clear, the veil is a political statement and as such, officials are right to ban it.