Just a week after the lower house of French parliament passed a measure banning burqas amid charges of discrimination and xenophobia, Syria’s Ministry of Education has rather quietly banned the niqab—a veil that leaves only the eyes uncovered—from public and private universities. And this ban came just a month after the Ministry transferred hundreds of teachers who wore the niqab at government run primary schools to positions outside the classroom.
It would be a stretch to suggest that the Syrian ban is the result of a widespread fear of foreigners as three quarters of the country is Sunni Muslim. It reflects, rather, as R.R. Reno suggested of the French ban, a desire to protect a secular civil society. While the French dressed up their defense of Laïcité in women’s rights clothes, the Syrian Minister of Education has admitted that the niqab ban is to protect the “‘objective, secular methodology’ of Syrian Schools.”