Egypt court overturns ban on full veils in exams

CAIRO - Egypt’s High Administrative Court overturned on Wednesday a ban on female students wearing the niqab, or full face veil, in university examinations, saying it violated women’s constitutional rights.

By (AFP)

Published: Fri 22 Jan 2010, 1:01 AM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 7:41 AM

The case, and that of a religious edict banning the niqab in girls’ school dormitories, has bounced back and forth among various courts since Minister of Higher Education Hany Helal imposed the ban in October.

Helal said the niqab was used to cover up cheating, including students sitting exams in the place of colleagues, but 55 students appealed against the ban. A Cairo court had ruled earlier this month in favour of the ban.

“Freedom to wear the niqab is guaranteed by human rights and constitutional liberties, and a girl’s right to dress the way she sees fit in accordance with her beliefs and her social environment is a firm right that cannot be violated,” Wednesday’s court ruling said.

It is the highest court to have ruled on the issue so far.

“The niqab cannot be used to oppress women,” the court said, adding that university campuses should be places of intellectualism and freedom. However, it said a student wearing the niqab must show her face when asked to for security reasons.

The government crushed Islamists seeking to set up a religious state in the 1990s and has been keen to quell Islamist opposition before a parliamentary election expected by December, and a later presidential vote.

Mid-year examinations have been underway since the beginning of the month, and a number of students at a Cairo university wore surgical masks to get round the ban.

Most Islamic scholars say they believe wearing a headscarf is a must, while few consider the niqab obligatory, with Egypt’s top religious authorities saying in December that the face veil had no basis in Islam. (Writing by Dina Zayed; Additional reporting by Saleh El Salhi; editing by David Stamp) REUTERS

Hundreds evacuated as California braces for storm

LOS ANGELES, Jan 20, 2010 (AFP) - Hundreds of homeowners in fire-ravaged areas were ordered to evacuate Wednesday as Californians braced for a powerful storm threatening torrential rain, flash floods and possible mudslides.

The storm, the third to hit into the region since Monday, was expected to dump up to 10 inches of rain in some areas before Thursday, raising fears of landslides in hilly regions denuded of vegetation by last year’s wildfires.

National Weather Service officials said the storm could produce hourly rainfall rates of up to 1.5 inches in fire-affected areas.

“Rainfall at these rates could cause significant flash flooding, with life-threatening mud and debris flows in and below the recent burn areas, especially since the grounds are saturated,” according to an NWS advisory.

Authorities on Wednesday issued evacuation orders to around 750 homes in the Los Angeles area deemed to be threatened by landslides.

Los Angeles County Fire Department Chief P. Michael Freeman said residents and public officials were “involved in a race against Mother Nature.

“And if she wins the race there’s no way we can assure that firefighters, as well-equipped and as trained as they are, will be able to get into your neighborhood and make rescues,” Freeman said.

On Tuesday, weather officials issued a rare tornado warning as a storm packing winds of 60 miles per hour battered the region.

However meteorologists warned Californians that Wednesday’s storm was likely to eclipse the weather fronts that had already battered the region.

“With the first two storms, we got lucky,” Bill Patzert, a climatologist for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory told the Los Angeles Times.

“Wednesday could be horrendous. Monday we got the right jab. Tuesday we got the left jab. Wednesday we could get the haymaker to the chin.”

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