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Egypt MP calls for ban of face veil in government buildings

An Egyptian MP has called for the country to follow the example of Algeria and ban women from wearing the full face veil in government buildings, the Egypt Independent has reported.

Ghada Agamy, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee of the House of Representatives, praised the Algerian government's decision as "courageous" and argued that the move was necessary for Egypt, citing national security.

"Security troubles in Egypt are accelerating these bold decisions in light of attempts to target state institutions and increasing criminal and terrorist crime rates," Agamy told reporters. "The negatives of the full-face veil are numerous and no longer compare to any positives."

Agamy argued that such a ban could not be considered a violation of personal freedom, as wearing the face veil was putting the liberties of others at risk. She added that all institutions, especially the government, have the absolute freedom to impose their own rules of work that employees have to abide by.

READ: 83 women held in Egypt prisons, says human rights activist

Last week, Algeria banned the full face veil for women in government departments for the first times, releasing a statement entitled, "The duties of employees and public servants in dress codes". It stated that women were "obliged to respect the rules and requirements of security and communication which is … [in] their interests, and requires the recognition of their identity in an automatic and permanent manner, especially in the workplace."

Whilst most Algerians do not wear the face veil, the decision was criticised by many as discriminatory towards the minority who do subscribe to the optional religious dress. Some queried as to how the piece of cloth would prevent women from carrying out their public duty, with others highlighting the controversy caused in 2010, when the government called for passport photos to feature women without their headscarves, claiming it would obscure their identity.

Egypt has witnessed a crackdown on political and religious freedom of expression in the country after the ousting of democratically elected President Mohamed Morsi and the banning of the former ruling Muslim Brotherhood party, now designated by the new regime as a terrorist organisation.

READ: Egypt detains economic expert over criticising of government

In July, Egyptian policemen saw a rare victory when a court upheld their right to sport beards in their profession, a symbol associated with conservative Islam and support for the Muslim Brotherhood. The government has cracked down on those growing beards or sporting other religion symbols, often identifying religious practice as a sign of extremism.

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