Tunisia Veil Case Threatens 'Odious Rag' Struggle

January 3, 2008

Author: Daniel Williams

Source: Bloomberg


Saida Akremi, a Tunisian lawyer, specializes in human rights -- including the right to wear the Muslim headscarf that her country's late founder called an ``odious rag.''

In a case that has sent ripples through this North African nation, Akremi won a lawsuit on behalf of a schoolteacher contesting the scarf's ban in state buildings and schools. The ruling won't be enforced across the country, the government says, on the grounds that it divides rather than unites.

Tunisia, which became independent from France in 1956, has long presented itself as a European-oriented secular bastion in the Middle East. Its first president, Habib Bourguiba, used the ``odious rag'' term for the hijab, as the veil is called, because he viewed it as a hindrance to progress.