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Egypt court upholds niqab ban for university examinations

[JURIST] An Egyptian court on Sunday upheld a ban against wearing the niqab [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive], or full-face veil, while taking university examinations. The Cairo Administrative Court dismissed a lawsuit [National report] filed by 55 niqab-wearing university students challenging the ban, which was put in place by the government in October. The government said that the ban was enacted partially because students were cheating on exams by using the niqab to disguise themselves as other candidates. The students claim that the ban infringes on their religious rights. The students' lawyer says that he plans to appeal [Al Jazeera report] to a higher court.

Although many Egyptian women wear a hijab [JURIST news archive], or headscarf that leaves the face visible, use of the niqab has recently become more prevalent, creating controversy. The government also banned the niqab in public university dormitories in October, but that was overturned last month. In 2007, Egypt's Supreme Administrative Court ruled against [JURIST report] an American University of Cairo (AUC) [official website] ban against wearing the niqab on campus, finding that the private university could not require a student to unveil her face because it was her constitutional right under Egyptian law to practice her religion. The court nonetheless said it would allow a mandatory identity check of veiled women by guards. While most Muslim scholars argue that wearing a headscarf is mandatory, not all agree that Islam requires women to wear a niqab.

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