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Al Azhar bans the Niquab 10, October 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Egypt, Islam.
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2 comments

niqab

The Islamic World’s oldest, most revered and preeminent seat of higher education has banned women from wearing the Niqab, as pictured above, in their dormitories and in women only classrooms.

The Grand Sheikh of Al Azhar Mohammed Sayed Tantawy  decided to enforce the ban did as the Niqab is not mandated at all by Islam but is instead only a regional custom. However, there is also the very real and practical result of this ban that female students now have to show their faces to male security guards.

Such a move is unsurprising in security conscious Egypt. One one level, the legion of state security organs are ever vigilant in maintaining Mubarak in power. Keeping a closer eye on their preeminent seat of Islamic learning and preventing it from radicalizing is one aspect of this. Those wearing the Niqab are thought to be – ipso facto – of a more austere and extreme Islamic persuasion. This is not so say that they are necessarily extremists: of course they are not; but those wearing it “tends [sic] to be adopted by the most radical elements” as Dunn puts it. Additionally, Egypt’s vast security apparatus is there to protect Egypt’s economic lifeline – tourism – from debilitating terrorist attacks such as devastating attacks in 1997 in Luxor and in 2005-6 in Shark El Sheikh and in Dahab respectively.

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Al Azhar opening up in Kabul 20, March 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Central Asia.
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3 comments

Instead of a Middle Eastern country attracting foreign institutions to set up shop in some kind of ‘Education Zone’, this time the tables are turned as Egypt’s famous Al Azhar University is opening an Islamic Institute in Kabul. The Al Azhar is, of course, not only important in Egypt but one of the most influential and important seats of Islamic learning in the world. Its foray into Afghanistan is a fascinating move. These kinds of exchanges are the perfect vehicles for soft power enhancement. This is another way to describe building up a good relationship with others so that, over a given decision, ‘they’ will seek to – starkly put – do as you want because they want to help you and not because you cajole or force them to.

Hat tip: Andrew Bishop