Egypt's Administrative Court upheld on Tuesday a decision to ban Cairo University's academic staff from wearing the Islamic full-face veil (niqab) during classes.
Ahmed Mahran, the lawyer who filed the lawsuit against the university president Gaber Nassar, argued that the decision was unconstitutional.
Mahran, who also heads the Cairo Center for Political and Legal Studies, told The New Arab that the verdict contradicted several other rulings by the Administrative Court, including one that granted female employees the freedom to wear the niqab at their workplace in the Kafr al-Sheikh provincial council last year.
"It is illogical to ban women who choose to be modest from practicing their work, as this would be unjustified discrimination," he explained, adding that he would appeal the verdict as it contradicts earlier rulings by the Supreme Administrative Court.
According to Mahran, the 80 claimants he represents include women who do not wear the niqab, but who stand in solidarity with those affected by the ban.
Nassar issued the niqab-ban decree at the beginning of the 2015/2016 academic year in response to students who complained of "poor communication" in class.
Explaining the reason behind the niqab-ban, Nassar told The Associated Press at the time that he wanted to "cure the disease" before it became one.
According to Nassar, the niqab is especially problematic in language courses, where the cloth barrier of the veil hinders student-teacher communications, producing low grades and graduates incapable of enunciation.
|It is illogical to ban women who choose to be modest from practicing their work, as this would be unjustified discrimination.
- Ahmed Mahran
"We are not banning the niqab, we are just regulating it," Nassar said.
Nassar added that the ban was restricted to classrooms during lectures and teachers are still allowed to wear their niqab on campus.
Despite applying only to Cairo University, the decision was condemned by officials and academics from other universities across the country, as well as Islamic clerics and students, who denounced the move as discriminatory.
Presidents of public universities in other cities, such as Mansoura, Ismailia, Minya, and Qena, were among those who rejected Nassar's decree.
However, Nassar said he had the support of the Grand Mufti, Egypt's top religious authority.