Egyptian broadcasters demand right to wear veil

A GROUP of television presenters in Egypt say they have been banned from appearing on screen since they took to wearing the hejab, the Islamic veil.

Some say they are considering taking legal action against the state-owned broadcasting organisation as a result.

The issue of the Islamic dress code has long been controversial in Egypt and now the conflict is taking place against a quietly changing social landscape within the country with increasing numbers of professional women choosing to wear the hejab.

The presenters say they are effectively being denied the right to make this choice and point out that nothing in their contract with the state broadcaster prevents them from wearing the veil.

Strictly speaking, what they wear is not a veil, but a headscarf that covers their hair.

One of the most famous of the rebel presenters, Maha Medhet, says she has been with Egyptian television for more than ten years and has begun legal action against the state broadcaster.

According to legal documents, Ms Medhet alleges she is being punished for what she describes as her right to practise her religion.

The case highlights a dilemma for the Egyptian state. Under the country’s constitution, Islam is the state religion and Islamic sharia the main source for legislation.

However, the government apparently fears that such public display of Islamic symbols, of which the veil is the most potent, will play into the hands of Islamic activists whose aim is to enforce the ancient sharia law in all spheres of life.

Ms Medhet says that since she decided to wear the veil, in March this year, she was relegated to the role of an out-of-vision narrator. In some programmes where she used to be the sole presenter, she says, the camera no longer shows her face but only that of another, unveiled, colleague.

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