Egyptian lawmakers demand debate over minister's remarks against veil 

Daily Star  

Eighty Egyptian lawmakers on Sunday called for a parliamentary debate to discuss Culture Minister Farouq Hosni's controversial remarks describing the Islamic veil as regressive, parliamentary sources said.

 "Eighty deputies from the National Democratic Party, the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as independents have demanded that Hosni's statements be debated in Parliament as soon as possible," an official said on condition of anonymity.  

In an interview published Thursday, Hosni said that the ever-growing number of women wearing the Islamic veil in Egypt was regressive. 

"There was an age when our mothers went to university and worked without the veil. It is in that spirit that we grew up. So why this regression?" the minister said in the independent Al-Masri al-Yawm daily. 

"Each woman with her beautiful hair is like a flower, and should not be concealed from the view of others," Hosni said, arguing: "Religion today focuses on appearances too much. Hosni refused on Sunday to apologize for his criticism of the Muslim headscarf after Islamists called on him to resign.  

Hosni, an abstract painter known for his liberal views, said he was merely expressing his personal opinion and was not responsible if other people misunderstood him. "What should I apologize for? I do not apologize for something which I have not committed," he told the Arabic-language satellite news channel Al-Jazeera.  "Morals and conscience ... are the strongest hijab.

That's my personal opinion and I have not called on anyone to take off the hijab," he added. In an interview on the Egyptian television program 90 Minutes on Saturday night, Hosni said Al-Masri al-Yom had quoted him correctly but his remarks were not meant for publication. 

In Riyadh, Saudi Arabia's grand mufti, Sheikh Abdel-Aziz al-Sheikh described the remarks as "a calamity that struck Islamic lands and contradicts the teachings of the Koran.  

Hosni has weathered several storms in recent years, including a campaign by artists to force him out of office after a fire killed 46 people in a cultural center in southern Egypt in September 2005. 

Hosni eventually offered to resign but Prime Minister Ahmad Nazif asked him to stay on. Hosni's remarks about the Muslim headscarf rekindled the long debate on the subject in the Egyptian media. Several callers to the 90 Minutes program argued that wearing a headscarf was not a religious obligation. Others, including Muslim clerics, said that it was required. - Agencies

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