West African country follows Chad and Cameroon in banning full-body cloak, saying decision is question of national security
By Simon Allison, Guardian News & Media Ltd
Dakar: Senegal has banned women from wearing the burka, amid rising fears of extremism in the West African country.
The interior minister, Abdoulaye Daouda, said women would no longer be allowed to wear the Islamic dress, which leaves only the eyes exposed.
Daouda said the decision was a question of national security and was designed to prevent terrorists from using the burka as a disguise.
An estimated 92 per cent of Senegal’s population is Muslim.
Although the country has not suffered a terrorist attack recently, authorities are concerned that the militant group Boko Haram, based in north-eastern Nigeria, may be trying to extend its range.
This month, police arrested five people suspected of having ties to Boko Haram as part of a nationwide crackdown.
Senegal is not alone in West Africa in banning the burka. This year Cameroon and Chad, also Muslim-majority countries, issued similar orders citing similar reasons.
“Senegal is just following the trend,” said Martin Ewi, a senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies.
He said the ban, though difficult to enforce, had been reasonably effective in both countries.
“You still have the villages and far corners of the country where people don’t always respect the ban,” he added.
However, the ban was not a foolproof solution, Ewi warned.
Two days after Chad instituted a ban, two burka-clad bombers blew themselves up in N’Djamena, killing at least 27 people including several police officers.
“They deliberately wore the burka to attract the attention of the police,” Ewi said.
The burka ban has been the subject of debate within Senegal, with commentators struggling to balance the national security imperative with religious freedom.
“Its imposition in Senegal will cause social instability … there is a delicate line between preventive measures and respect for individual freedoms,” said Khadim Mbacke, a Dakar-based researcher.
Mbaye Niang, a Muslim leader and member of parliament, said the new law was designed to protect Islam.
“We should not allow someone to cover their entire body like terrorists do. This is a tradition of some countries but it has nothing to do with Islam,” he told the local newspaper Le Quotidien.
The reason terrorists use this method was because they wanted to attack the religion, he added.
Farid Essack, a religious studies scholar at the University of Johannesburg, said that context was key and the justifications used in Muslim countries did not necessarily apply elsewhere.
“In some political contexts, I find [the banning of burkas] deeply disturbing and an extension of Islamophobia. I don’t think that the Chadian response is a manifestation of Islamophobia,” he said.
“Chad … has had several bombings, a number of them were seemingly perpetrated by [fully covered] men, and I don’t think that it is unreasonable, in that context, to insist people should not be completely veiled in public.”
Courtesy of www.theguardian.com
The religious dimensions of this debate is better left to learned scholars like Dr Manta Drammeh, but personally, I do agree with views that the burka is not an Islamic requirement for women, as a dress code…
The proper covering of the body, to protect self and preserve dignity, is what is required by Islam…Muslims must exercise modesty in our practice of our religion…
Infact, I have heard Islamic scholars saying that Allah (swt) has admonished Muslims not to go to any extremes in the practice of their religion….
If that is indeed the case, then the burka goes against Allah’s admonition, because I cannot think of any manner of dress or dressing that can be more extreme and be at the extreme opposite end to bikini (undies) and skirts than the burka..
I think it is right for countries that have serious security issues, of the nature that the world is dealing with today, to ban the burka in public…
It is no doubt, a curtailment of the rights and freedoms of individuals affected, but sometimes, difficult decisions have to be taken for the greater good, even if certain rights are restricted..
The banning of the burka is one such occasion and it is a right one in my view, given the security challenges facing nations today..
Its banning does not stop the women from practising their religion, nor does it make their acts of worship less acceptable to the Creator, as they are only required to dress modestly for their own protection, as well as, for the wellbeing of society…
Burka is Arab cultural identity which has no place in civilized society . I think the ban is in the best interest of Senegalese people. We must not allow arabization of our culture in the name of religious practice . After all majority of terrorism today is as a result of their lack of democratic values and respect for human dignity. Most Arab culture is synonymous with dictatorship because of their lack of respect , tolerance , consideration and equal treatment of fellow human beings regardless of gender or race .