06/30/2010 01:02 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Syria Bans Female Teachers From Wearing Veils


While much attention is being paid to European countries considering banning the burka, which allows only the eyes of Muslim women to be seen, an Arab country is barring its teachers from wearing them.

Some groups in Europe consider banning the burka to be an assault on women's rights.

When confronted with the indisputable fact that some women wear them under pressure from their husbands, these groups reply that some women want to wear them. The idea is that this is their own way of interpreting the Koran.

The Syrian government sees it differently. First, they deny, as have many other Islamic scholars, that the Koran requires that they be worn.

The government also said wearing them while working for the government, as teachers, violates the country's desire to remain secular and not sectarian.

The Al Arabiya website, reported Tuesday that Damascus had fired 1,200 teachers for wearing burkas in their classrooms.

"Education in Syrian schools follows an objective, secular methodology and this is undermined by wearing the face veil," said Education Minister Ali Saad. He said other ministers would also be requiring that women stop wearing burkas to their jobs or risk dismissal.

Another website also reported on the firings.

The Syrian feminist website "Syrian Women Observatory," supported the decision. It said the face veil is a return to the Middle Ages and is a sign of extremism.

"Eliminating women's identity through covering their faces has nothing to do with religion, whether Islam or Christianity or any other faith," the website said.

This is not the first time the issue of whether women's rights should exempt them from laws in the West. Police found that women who reported spousal abuse ultimately would refuse to press charges.

In some areas in the U.S., laws were passed requiring that an arrest be made any time police responded to a report of domestic abuse.

There have been reports of women being harmed, even killed, in North America at least partly because they refused to wear burkas.

They are called honor killings. The United Nations Population Fund estimates there may be as many as 5,000 such deaths annually.

In Europe the face veil is also considered a security risk and an impediment for drivers who wear them.