MOSCOW - Expatriate Muslim women working in Russia would be allowed to wear headscarf without covering their faces in their identification papers, in a first positive move after months of debates over hijab in Russia.
The order says that it's allowed to take photographs of persons wearing head attire that doesn't cover the face of people whose religious convictions prevent them from having their head uncovered in the presence of strangers, Federal Migration Service spokeswoman Zalina Kornilova told Interfax on Friday, January 11.
Photographing in overcoats or scarves covering up part of the chin is not allowed.
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Kornilova was citing an order by FMS head Konstantin Romodanovsky that has been in force since January 1.
The order sets new rules on photographing and fingerprinting for foreigners seeking work or applying for the registration of patents in Russia.
It was issued pertaining to an earlier 2003 ruling by the Russian Supreme Court which accepted appeals against an Interior Ministry ban on official photos showing people with their heads covered.
Kornilova added that the rules applied on expatriate Muslim women are the same ones for Russian passports.
These are the same criteria as those for photographs for Russian Federation passports, she said.
Freedom of worship is guaranteed by the Constitution of the Russian Federation and international treaties on human rights.
Islam sees hijab as an obligatory code of dress, not a religious symbol displaying one's affiliations.
As for the face veil, the majority of Muslim scholars believe that a woman is not obliged to cover her face or hands.
Scholars, however, believe that it is up to women to decide whether to take on the face veil.
The Russian Federation is home to some 23 million Muslims in the north of the Caucasus and southern republics of Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan.
Islam is Russia's second-largest religion representing roughly 15 percent of its 145 million predominantly Orthodox population.
The wearing of hijab triggered a controversy in Russia last October after five Muslim students were banned from attending classes in their school in the village of Kara-Tyube in the southern Stavropol region.
Though they were initially allowed to attend their school in September while donning hijab, they were told later that they would not be allowed in unless they took off their headscarf.
At the time, Putin backed banning the Muslim headscarf in schools.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net