Al-Azhar University, located in the Hamas-controlled
Gaza Strip, is obligating female students to wear a hijab even if they are Christian, according to a report published on Saturday on the London-based website Elaph.
The report added that female students ahead of graduation were recently asked to send in passport-sized photos of themselves wearing the traditional Muslim head covering to the university administration.
The university denied that there is any such protocol at the campus. Head of acceptance and registration, Dr. Musa Maruf, told Elaph that there is indeed "an old custom" for female students to wear the hijab, but noted that the university does not make problems for anyone who does not wish to cover her head.
"This is the custom at the university," he said. "It is not rooted in the rules, but for the last 18 years it has been customary for the female students to be photographed wrapped in a hijab. All the students brought pictures with a hijab, including Christian students. They did not view the issue as a problem, but if there are some who come forward, we will solve it within the confines of the university. Every problem has a solution."
The university's president for administrative affairs Dr. Ali al-Najar also clarified that there is no obligation for female students to wear a hijab, noting that some students indeed don't.
Minas Abdel Be'eri, a female Muslim student studying business at the university, was interviewed by the website and said otherwise. According to her, female students who don't wear a hijab are harassed by lecturers.
"I am not convinced of wearing a hijab," she said. "I think otherwise. For personal reasons, I wore a hijab, but decided to stop about a half a year ago. It was very difficult because society's treatment of me changed. Many students and lecturers started to fight with me."
"When I would go into a class without a hijab, the lecturer would kick me out," she added. "Especially during lessons on issues of religious practice, faith, and Koran. Sometimes I wear a hijab in order to avoid problems, but most of the time I don't come to lessons and make do with people sending me the material via Facebook or email."
"Even during the lectures, if I am not wearing a hijab, I am harassed. I am prevented from asking questions and saying what I want."
On the other hand, a female student of mathematics, Islam Shema, believes that all female students must be obligated by university statute to wear a hijab.
"Whoever enters university territory must obey its rules," she said. "Whoever wants to exercise her freedom should do so outside the university's walls. There, no one will force you to do anything. Furthermore, wearing a hijab prevents many young men from laughing at and harassing young women."
A Jordanian study published this week asserted that 87% of women between the ages of 18 and 70 in Jordan suffer from a lack of Vitamin D as a result of insufficient sun exposure and not enough milk consumption.
The researchers linked this phenomenon to wearing the hijab. According to the findings, 92% of women who wear a hijab suffer from a lack of Vitamin D. This figure increases to 96%, according to the survey, when it comes to women who cover their faces as well with a niqab.