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Egyptian television allows newsreaders to wear headscarves

A veiled anchorwoman has appeared reading the news on Egypt's state television for the first time. While the development was welcomed as a positive development by some, others fear it marks a move towards Islamism.

The newsreader, Fatma Nabil, appeared for the first time on a midday broadcast dressed in a black suit and cream colored headscarf.

Until the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak last year, women wearing headscarves had been only been allowed to work behind the camera.

Now, alongside Nabil - who had worked as a news editor - three more women who also passed screen tests will be able to appear as newsreaders wearing a headscarf.

New Information Minister Salah Abdel Maqsud, a member of moderate Islamist President Mohammed Morsi's government, said on Saturday he could see reason for woman in a hijab from being prevented from reading the news. A day later, Nabil appeared on air.

While wearing of the headscarf - common in Egypt - is seen as a personal decision, it was regarded as unacceptable in the state media under the secular administration of Mubarak, who banned it. The former president, who was in power for decades, was condemned by religious organizations for the move.

Court ruling allows a first

In January, an administrative court overruled the prohibition of veils, paving the way for the latest development. Since Egyptian television was established in 1960, no female presenter has worn a scarf.

In the moderate Islamist Muslim Brotherhood's own daily newspaper Freedom and Justice, Nabil herself welcomed the development as a sign that the revolution had accomplished a major goal in doing away with the "strange and abnormal situation" in which veils were banned.

"The veiled journalist suffered discrimination," Nabil was reported as saying by the English-language newspaper Delta World.

However, others were less positive, voicing fears that it was an early sign that the regime would try to impose a regime of Sharia law in the longer term.

"I only fear that the tide is turning and that, at some point, women without their heads covered will be banned from the television," female television journalist Mona Salman said in comments reported by the DPA news agency.

President Mohamed Morsi stepped down from the Muslim Brotherhood when he was elected president in June to take over his new constitutional role.

rc / av (AFP, dpa, dapd)