Reading Past the Headlines
When the Middle East Monitor announced (2015-10-08) that Egypt plans to prevent niqab-wearing women from voting in Egypt’s parliamentary election scheduled to be held in two phases Oct. 18-19 Nov. 22-23, Canadian secularists cheered. The inevitable contrast between Canada’s attitude toward wearing the niqab in citizenship ceremonies and Egypt’s attitude toward the niqab during voting began:
It seems that Egypt is ahead of Canada
This contrast was further strengthened when the Middle East Monitor revealed that Cairo University has “barred lecturers from wearing the niqab.” Egypt appeared to be more progressive and more secular than Canada, where it is possible to vote “wearing a mask.”
Secularists may want to temper their enthusiasm for Egypt’s attitude toward the niqab and female attire in general.
On October 14, the Mail Online’s headline, “Egypt Bans Women from Voting If They Are Wearing ‘Revealing Attire’ … But Insists Anyone with a Niqab Veil Must Remove It So They Can Be Identified,” makes it clear that Egypt continues to control what women can wear when voting. As one secularist pointed out,
“The only tolerated costume may be the Saudi abaya.”
So before secularists decide to leave Canada because Elections Canada allows citizens to vote regardless of attire as personnel can recognize voters by their eyes, they should consider what attire the Egyptian government may require in order for its female citizens to vote.
by Veronica Abbass
- Electoral Commission to ban ‘Niqab’ wearing women from voting, Amira El-Fekki, 2015-10-08,
Daily News Egypt.
- Cairo University bans teachers from wearing niqab, Nour Youssef, 2015-10-02, The Associated Press, CTV News.