Egypt's Education Minister Moheb El-Rafei stirred nationwide controversy when he said during an interview on Saturday night that school children must not wear the hijab.
The comments caused news outlets to report that the ministry would ban children from wearing the hijab in schools, which the ministry then denied Sunday.
When asked by host Wael El-Ebrashy on Dream channel's TV show "Ten in the Evening" if children wearing the hijab was prohibited in schools, Rafei replied "of course, a child has to move freely."
"Even God has not obligated wearing the hijab until the phase of puberty, children must have complete freedom to move and carry out activities fully," Rafei said.
The minister's comments were part of a conversation about the possibility of the ministry imposing a unified uniform in some of Egypt's public schools, a proposal which he said is part of a wider plan to improve conditions in schools.
The minister said that the proposal was currently being studied by the ministry to find out how its implementation could be possible. He didn't specifically clarify if such a unified uniform, if it were to be implemented, would or would not include the Islamic headscarf.
The Education Ministry's spokesperson Hany Kamal denied the implementation of the ban as he told Ahram Online on Sunday that the news reported was "unfounded" and that the minister was only voicing his own opinion on the matter, not a ministerial decision.
"There's no such thing as a hijab ban, wearing the hijab or taking it off is a personal freedom. I can't force anyone to take the hijab off or put it on, this is something that would make me subject to legal accountability," Kamal said.
However, the comments sparked an online debate on social media about the controversial topic with many users expressing their support for the hypothetical ban and many others expressing their dissent.
Some supporters agreed with the minister saying that the ban was correct from a religious point of view, while other supporters said that many girls in Egypt are unjustly forced to wear the hijab by their families and that a ban would resolve that issue by protecting the young girls.
On the other hand, some said that girls should have the right to wear what they want and that families are the ones who should be concerned with such decisions, some criticized a ban from a legal perspective, while others said that the comments were "Islamophobic" and that a ban would therefore be unacceptable in a country of a Muslim majority.