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The ban shows a rare point of agreement between Syria’s secular, authoritarian government and the democracies of Europe: Both view the niqab as a potentially destabilizing threat.

The ban affects public and private universities and aims to protect Syria’s secular identity. Hundreds of primary school teachers who were wearing the niqab at government-run schools were transferred last month to administrative jobs.

The ban, issued Sunday by the Education Ministry, does not affect the hijab, or head scarf, which is far more common in Syria than the niqab’s billowing black robes.

Syria is the latest in a string of nations from Europe to the Middle East to weigh in on the veil, perhaps the most visible symbol of conservative Islam.

Veils have spread in other secular-leaning Arab countries, such as Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon, with Jordan’s government trying to discourage them by playing up reports of robbers who wear veils as masks.

Turkey bans Muslim head scarves in universities, with many saying attempts to allow them in schools amount to an attack on modern Turkey’s secular laws.

From wire dispatches and staff reports