Islamic veil ban in Chad after attacks divides Muslims

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N’Djamena (AFP) – Chad’s decision to ban women from wearing the Islamic veil, two days after bloody suicide bombings in the capital, has divided Muslims but the government defends it as part of a strategy anti-terrorism.

“Burqa wearing must cease immediately from today,” Prime Minister Kalzeube Pahimi Deubet told religious leaders on Wednesday, after the two bombings left 33 dead and more than 100 injured in the capital N’Djamena.

No one claimed responsibility for the attacks, but authorities blame the Nigerian jihadist group Boko Haram, which has carried out numerous suicide bombings in Nigeria over the past six years, sometimes by women who hid explosives under modest clothing. above.

The Chadian military has spearheaded a regional military effort to combat Boko Haram as the militant sect expanded its activities beyond Nigeria’s northeast borders. After Monday’s explosions, the Chadian Air Force shelled Boko Haram positions inside Nigeria.

Many Muslim women in N’Djamena wear the full veil with only the eyes exposed, known as the niqab, which is usually black. But Deubet banned all clothing “where you can only see the eyes”.

In a country where Muslims make up 53% of the population – Christians make up 35% – the ban on the Islamic veil, including the burqa covering the entire face, has met with mixed reactions.

Abdelsadick Djidda, a 45-year-old teacher, said the decision was “taken for our safety”.

“Wearing the burqa does not derive from Chadian culture,” he said. “It comes from somewhere else. And it is not recommended anywhere in the holy book (the Koran).”

Djidda added: “As a Muslim I find people going a little too far with this cover-up.”

– ‘Enter all burqas on sale’ –

Other Muslims are shocked by the decision, which comes as the holy fasting month of Ramadan begins.

Hassan Barka, a mechanic, said he did not see the connection between the burqa and terrorism.

“It is not people in burqas who commit attacks and this dress has become customary for many Chadians,” said Barka, a mechanic. “It is difficult to implement this decision. Maybe it takes time to raise awareness.”

The severe ban is a first in Africa. Some countries like Tunisia have ordered similar measures before due to an increasing risk of terrorist attacks, but these were partial and temporary measures.

The Chadian regime ordered the security forces “to enter the markets and seize all the burqas for sale and burn them”, while warning of arrest and summary trial for anyone caught wearing the veil and headscarf. dress.

“The Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs (CSAI) believes that the government’s decision is not contrary to the principles of Islam,” said influential president of the CSAI, Cheick Hussein Hassan Abakar.

In a poor nation that bears deep scars after bloody interfaith clashes during a civil war in 1979-1982, President Idriss Deby Itno has long been wary of the emergence of extremist movements.

In power since 1990, when he overthrew dictator Hissène Habré – who is to be tried in Senegal for crimes against humanity on July 20 – Deby has repeatedly stressed that “the secularism of the state is an essential value “.

– ‘Very tolerant Islam’ –

“We are fortunate to have a very tolerant Islam. Muslims in Chad are mostly Sufis, they are pacifists,” said Secretary General of King Faisal University in N’Djamena, Abakar Walar Modou.

“But Islam can be manipulated. In (the civil war) politicians tried to plunge Christians and Muslims into chaos,” he said.

While Boko Haram is gaining ground towards N’Djamena, which is located on the border of a narrow Cameroonian strip that separates it from Nigeria, the authorities have redoubled their vigilance in the capital.

The regime seeks to prevent radical Islam from taking hold in Chad, where conservative Wahhabis and Salafists make up between 5 and 10 percent of Muslims, according to the US State Department.

“The Boko Haram phenomenon has so far had no impact on the population, but the risk is there”, warned Walar Modou.

“The CSAI closely monitors Koranic teachings, preaching in mosques and even on the radio,” he added.

In March, the authorities dissolved a Salafist association considered a risk to public order. The international watchdog Freedom House reported in 2013 banning certain Islamic charities operating in poor neighborhoods.

“The outright ban on an association is not a solution,” said Walar Modou. “You can’t stop an ideology this way, it causes frustration.”


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