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PA official: Female dress code at Gaza university 'illegal'

Jan. 27, 2013 6:23 P.M. (Updated: March 6, 2013 12:25 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- The Palestinian Authority Minister of Higher Education on Sunday issued an official condemnation over a Gaza university's decision to implement an "Islamic" dress code for female students.

Al-Aqsa University president Salam al-Agha told Ma'an Sunday that the code, which is set to be implemented when the new semester begins, does not require the jilbab (full-length coat) or niqab (face-veil), but rather what he termed dress befitting of the university.

He said students would not be expelled for violations of the dress code.

Ali Jarbawi, PA Minister of Higher Education, issued an official response to the university's announcement, labeling the decision "illegal, and therefore null and unenforceable."

There is no system in place to define what constitutes "modest dress", Jarbawi said, and Article 11 of the Palestinian Basic Law specifically guarantees personal and public freedoms, which would overrule the decision by the Board of Al-Aqsa University.

Although the university enjoys financial, academic and administrative independence, it cannot implement policies which contradict the Basic Law, Jarbawi added.

One third-year student at the university told Ma'an: "If I had known before that the university would impose Islamic dress, I would not have registered here in the beginning."

The university president said the code would be implemented by persuasion, and staff would give lectures on appropriate dress, including loose clothes, long jackets, and wide trousers.

He said 97 percent of female students already dress appropriately, but the dress code was implemented to ensure all students dress properly to avoid attracting male desire.
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