Algerian authorities on Thursday banned women from wearing full-face veils, or niqabs, at work, citing reasons of identification for the decision.
The country has been split between moderate and more radical forms of Islam since it was plunged into years of civil war in 1992, when a military-backed government cancelled elections that an Islamist party was poised to win.
Most Algerian women do not wear the niqab, a custom imported from more traditionally conservative Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia, but the decision is likely to be criticized by Algeria’s Salafists minority.
The Salafists endorse Saudi’s strict Wahhabi version of Sunni Islam and oppose the more mainstream Sufi Islam that dominates Algeria and other North African countries.
Violence has dramatically diminished since the war petered out around the turn of the millennium, but a hardcore of armed jihadist groups continue to launch attacks, mainly in remote areas.