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Veiled presenters appear on Egyptian state TV for first time

CAIRO — Wearing a cream-colored headscarf and a dark suit, Fatma Nabil read the 12 o’clock news bulletin on Sunday and became Egypt’s first female news presenter ever to appear on state television while wearing a veil.

Nabil and several other female news presenters scheduled to go on air mark the end of a ban on presenters wearing the Muslim head covering, a policy that state TV has enforced throughout the half-century of its existence.

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A large majority of Egyptian women cover their hair. But under the ousted secular-leaning President Hosni Mubarak and his predecessors, female TV employees who did so would be asked to take jobs away from the cameras. Some sued against the policy and won, but a Ministry of Information run by staunch regime loyalists would ignore the rulings.

The end result was that the faces on state TV mirrored those of the wives of the ruling elite, where the style was set by women like the well-coiffed first lady Suzanne Mubarak.

Mubarak’s overthrow in a 2011 uprising, and the subsequent election of Islamist Mohammed Morsi as president, put a new face on power. Morsi wears an Islamic beard, and the country’s new first lady, Naglaa Mahmoud, covers not just her hair but the entire upper half of her body, minus her face — a veiling style associated with the working class.

The vast majority of Muslim Egyptian women wear some form of head covering — from stylish scarves to Mahmoud’s khaimar body-covering to the full face-covering niqab.

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