Pakistani religious body says full-face veil “not mandatory”

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Islamabad (dpa) – An official religious body in Pakistan in an unexpected ruling has stated that Muslim women are not obliged to keep their faces fully covered.

The Council of Islamic Ideology made the announcement in the capital Islamabad late Monday after it was reported that some women from conservative families were reluctant to have their picture taken without a veil for national identity cards and passports.

Council head Maulana Mohammad Khan Sherani told media after a meeting that there was no law in Sharia binding women to cover up their extremities or their faces.

“Covering the face, the hands up to the wrists and feet is not mandatory for Muslim women,” he said.

The council is a constitutional body of Islamic experts that advises the government on religious issues.

The new ruling comes as a surprise as the body has in the past made headlines for issuing controversial and conservative rulings on women.

Only last year it was criticized for saying that girls as young as nine could be married under Islamic law if they had reached puberty.

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