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Egypt's Maria TV Requires Women Wear Niqab Full Face Veil: Channel Director Calls it 'Freedom'

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Published on Jul 25, 2012

Female faces are absent from a new Egyptian TV station. Maria TV only features women who believe that God has commanded them to conceal their faces behind a full face veil known as a Niqab.

Station manager Ahmed Abdallah: "This is a victory for women who wear the niqab after many years of suffering political, social, moral and cultural exclusion by the secularists and under the umbrella of democracy. This prejudiced treatment, that went on for 50, 60, 70 years, is now over. I hereby announce a new free era for women who wear the niqab."

The channel's female stars, dressed from head to toe in long black robes and scarves with black gloves to match, are distinguishable only by their voices and the tiny sliver of their eyes. While some scholars say that the niqab is not mandatory in Islam, the practice has many devoted followers in Egypt.

Station director Heba Serag El Din: "I applied to many TV stations to work as a director and they told me that they cannot hire a woman wearing a full face veil. I said that I work behind the scenes as a director and not a presenter but they told me that the policy was not to hire women in a niqab."

The launch of Maria TV mirrors the rise of ultra-conservative Muslims in Egypt since the fall of former leader Hosni Mubarak last year. Public dress is beginning to reflect the political trend, something not everyone feels is suitable for a modern, inclusive democracy.

Local resident Shaza Abbass: "The media should target all sections of society and not exclude any, as this TV station does."

Maria TV is named after a Coptic Christian slave who according to the Quran was given to the Prophet Muhammad, who he then married and freed. The station's manager says he chose the name because he feels it represents the freedom which women feel when being allowed to follow strict Islamic doctrine.

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