An Egyptian daily reports that the country's top Muslim cleric is planning to ban female students from wearing the face veil from schools run by al-Azhar, Sunni Islam's most prestigious institute of learning.

The independent daily Al-Masry Al-Youm said in a report Monday that Sheik Mohammed Sayyed Tantawi would soon order the ban implemented in all of al-Azhar's institutions.

A security official also said they had verbal orders to prevent students wearing the face-covering veil, known as the niqab, from entering al-Azhar schools, and dormitories of three Cairo universities for security reasons.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to discuss state policies.

Tantawi said the face veil is only a custom and not an Islamic precept.