DAMASCUS, Syria

Full Islamic veils banned among students, teachers

Syria has forbidden the country’s students and teachers from wearing the niqab – the full Islamic veil that reveals only a woman’s eyes – taking aim at a garment many see as political.

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.

“We have given directives to all universities to ban niqab-wearing women from registering,” a government official in Damascus told The Associated Press on Monday.

The order affects both public and private universities and aims to protect Syria’s secular identity, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the issue. Hundreds of primary school teachers who were wearing the niqab at government-run schools were transferred last month to administrative jobs, he added.

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

JAKARTA, Indonesia

Coffee beans extracted from cat dung face Islamic ban

Indonesia’s top Islamic body says it may forbid followers from drinking the world’s most expensive coffee — extracted from the dung of a civet cat — over concerns it is unclean.

Kopi Luwak is made from hard beans that have been eaten by the nocturnal critters and then fermented in their stomachs before being pooped out and roasted. It’s highly prized for its smooth flavor and bitterless aftertaste, sometimes fetching well over $200 a pound online.

Maruf Amien, acting head of the powerful Ulema Council, said a ruling on whether Muslims should be banned from drinking the brew could be made as early as today. He said the key issue is whether or not the coffee is clean.

“If the farmers clean the beans before they are grinded, they are halal, or legitimate, and there won’t be a problem,” said Amien.

Kopi Luwak is produced on several Indonesian islands, spanning from Sumatra in the west to Sulawesi in the east, but it also can be found under different names elsewhere in Southeast Asia. Only 1,000 pounds are said to be produced annually worldwide.

Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim nation. The influential Ulema Council often issues fatwas, or edicts, including several controversial rulings against smoking and yoga. Its edicts are not legally binding, but many devout Muslim abide by them.

WASHINGTON

Review sought of decision to release Lockerbie bomber

The Obama administration has asked the governments of Scotland and Britain to review the decision last summer to release the Libyan convicted in the Lockerbie airliner bombing.

In letters to U.S. lawmakers, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the U.S. was encouraging the Scottish and British authorities to review the circumstances leading to the release of Abdel Baset al-Megrahi.

Four senators wrote Clinton last week, questioning whether oil giant BP played a behind-the-scenes role in the decision.

In her response, Clinton wrote that she remained deeply troubled by the Libyan’s release.

“That al-Megrahi is living out his remaining days outside of Scottish custody is an affront to the victims’ families, the memories of those killed in the Lockerbie bombing, and to all of those who worked tirelessly to ensure justice was served,” Clinton wrote.

British Prime Minister David Cameron called the Scottish decision “completely and utterly wrong,” in remarks to the BBC a day before beginning an official visit to Washington.

AUSTIN, Texas

Gun permits sought as way to enter Capitol more quickly

Everyone — from lobbyists to lawyers and journalists — is rushing to get permits to carry guns inside the Texas Capitol, where legislators already often tote pistols in boots and purses or stow them away inside their desks.

A unique loophole in a new security procedure means a gun permit is like a special-access pass into the domed building, allowing people who are certified to carry a gun to bypass lines at the metal detectors that were set up after a shooting incident earlier this year.

“Nobody wants to be the one standing in line behind three hundred kids wearing the same colored T-shirt,” said University of Texas political scientist Jim Henson.

“If you’re trying to get in and out really quick and there’s going to be choke points, well, people don’t want to have to deal with that.”

There’s now a frenzy for folks to get trained and licensed to carry a firearm, especially before the legislative session begins in January. It’s not required that people have a gun to enter the Capitol through the express lane. Merely holding a valid permit, and presenting it at the entrance, will get them expedited entry.