Egypt: Two Girls Punished for Not 'Veiling'

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- A teacher in southern Egypt punished two 12-year-old girls for coming to school unveiled by cutting their hair.

The incident, which took place in the village of Qurna in Luxor province, about 300 miles south of Cairo, reflects the increasing influence of the Islamist-dominated government of President Mohammed Morsi.

Berbesh Khaairi el-Rawi, the father of one of the children, told The Associated Press the teacher, Eman Abu Bakar, made the girls stand for two hours with their hands raised over their heads before cutting their hair.

Abu Bakar was quoted as saying she warned the girls repeatedly to cover their heads. She claims students handed a scissors to her and told her to "implement" her threats.

In a photo of Abu Bakar published by the Egyptian daily al-Ahram, Abu Bakar is wearing the niqab, the complete covering for Muslim women with a slit in the face cloth to see through. Increasing numbers of Egyptians are wearing the niqab.

El-Rawi filed a complaint with the prosecutor's office in Luxor province on October 10 but has not yet had a response. The teacher was transferred to another school.

Human rights groups in Egypt say Islamists have been emboldened by the dominance of the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafi movements in the new government, which are also playing a dominant role in drafting a new constitution.

Ziad Abdel Tawab of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights wasn't surprised by the incident.

"Whether in schools or outside schools, the general sentiment is that any abusive action, if it is justified as protection of Islam, is tolerable," Tawab said.

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