Egypt's High Administrative Court ruled in favor of banning female teaching staff at Cairo University from wearing the face veil, known as niqab, lawyer Ahmed Mahran confirmed on Monday.
This is the final ruling regarding a five-year-long case; respondents are denied the right to any appeal.
The decision made by the court rejected an appeal from 2016 that was filed against a lower court verdict by 80 Cairo University staff members. At the time, the lower court had banned the niqab due to a belief that it would affect interactions between the teachers and their students.
The initial lawsuit against the niqab was filed due to political issues in 2015 by a former head of Cairo University, Gaber Nassar, two years after the forced resignation of Islamist Mohamed Morsi, Egypt's former president.
"But it never came into effect. I do not expect it to be applied now," Mahran said, according to Arab News.
Yet, five years later, Egypt's State Commissioners Authority (SCA) still recommended sticking to the ban.
However, in contradiction to their current opinion, the SCA had recommended in February 2019 the rejection of a lawsuit demanding banning women from wearing the niqab in public places. Their argument was that it is a matter of personal freedom and that women should feel free to wear what they deem appropriate for themselves.
The court ended up basing its decision on Article 96 of the 1972 law on the regulation of universities.
The law states: "Faculty members must adhere to a university's rightful traditions and values, and strive to instill them in the students. They must establish and support direct communication with the students, and care for their social, cultural and athletic affairs."
The court believes faculty members wearing the niqab were in violation of the direct communication aspect of the law. So even if they are given the freedom to choose what to wear to work, they are still restricted by "laws and regulations, administrative decisions, administrative custom or traditions of the job."
The current head of Cairo University, Mohamed Othman Elkhosht, told local media that the institution respects the decisions made by judicial authorities, though specifics on the enforcement of the ban were left unknown.
The wearing of the niqab at Cairo University has been a long standing issue. In fact, according to Associated Press, the university banned both students and staff members from wearing the niqab on campus and in the dormitories in 2009. The ban was lifted in 2010 by a Cairo court after a professor filed a lawsuit against the university.
According to Egypt Today, Gaber Nassar not only wanted the banning of niqab at universities, but in public places across the country as well. Supporting his ideology is Member of the House of Representatives' Foreign Relations Committee MP Ghada Agamy.
During November 2018, Agamy submitted a draft law to prohibit women from wearing the niqab in public places and government institutions. The bill was meant to impose a fine of 1,000 Egyptian Pounds ($63) on women who wear the niqab in any public locations. The fine would then increase with every repeated violation.
However, after creating a great deal of controversy and being shut down by multiple members of parliament, Agamy rescinded her draft law, stating "I do not wish anything for Egypt but good, and I do not like anything that causes division."