"Our métier demands communication," he says. "Confidence is reciprocal. I have to know with whom I am speaking. Women can travel to the university
and enter the gates wearing their niqabs, but in the classroom and during exams they have to show their faces."
Even something as simple as taking attendance or confirming the identity of someone sitting for an exam requires exposure. When Kazdaghli's office was
sacked, he had no way of recognizing the two black-robed figures who were throwing his papers on the floor. Only when they yelled that they were the
victims of unfair disciplinary procedures was he able to identify these two out of the university's 27,000 students.
"I can't have two kinds of students in class, those with whom I can communicate, and those with whom I can't. This is an important principle, that people
have equal access to knowledge."
"Freedom is a principle in which I believe, and this includes freedom for women," he says. "The first freedom they should be guaranteed is equal access to
knowledge. We have accepted that women can travel to the university wearing niqabs. This is their choice, and perhaps they feel safer in the street with
this kind of covering, even if I personally and as a Tunisian consider it a retrograde custom."
In the 1930s, when Muslim girls began going to school in Tunisia (against conservative opposition), they wore white head scarves, a tradition borrowed from
Egypt, says Kazdaghli. This loose covering left the face exposed. In the 1970s, the hijab was adopted. Originally a Christian tradition, borrowed from
Syria and Lebanon, says Kazdaghli, the hijab was a veil that covered both the head and neck, but still the face was exposed. In 1981, Tunisian President
Habib Bourguiba banned the wearing of head scarves.
"My generation witnessed women unveiling themselves, and now history is working in reverse," says the 58-year-old Kazdaghli. "The niqab, the full-face
veil, arrived in Tunisia only after the revolution in 2011. It is a custom borrowed from Wahhabism. This is the retrograde version of Islam, the
puritanical Islam of the desert." He repeats the word desert three times, to emphasize the alien nature of the beliefs currently flowing westward
into Libya, Mali, Tunisia, and other Mediterranean countries.
"We are having a hard time accepting these changes in Tunisia, because we have known other ways of living," says Kazdaghli. "Women have been liberated in
Tunisia, with equal rights, since 1956. This is a country open to the world," with millions of tourists and a beach culture that includes Tunisian girls
wearing bikinis (a practice the salafists intend to end).
"Wahhabism is trying to restore male authority," says Kazdaghli. "When people speak of Al-Qaeda leaders, do you ever hear them name a woman? They need
women, but subservient women. This is why they have introduced sexual jihad. They have given a religious name, jihad nikah, to something that is
nothing more than prostitution. This is why I call it a masculine, misogynist ideology."