Chad’s ban on niqab and burqa after attacks divides Muslims

The ruling comes days after twin bombings killed 33 people and wounded more than 100 others in the capital N’Djamena.

A grab taken from a video posted on YouTube on June 2, 2015 by Boko Haram shows a member delivering a speech at an undisclosed location. Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger, have joined forces to battle Boko Haram,  AFP Photo / YouTube
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N’Djamena // Chadians are divided on a decision to ban women from wearing the niqab and the burqa two days after suicide bombings hit the capital, but the government defends it as part of an anti-terror strategy.

“Wearing the burqa must stop immediately from today,” prime minister Kalzeube Pahimi Deubet told religious leaders, after the twin bombings killed 33 people and wounded more than 100 others in the capital, N’Djamena.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks, but authorities blame Nigerian extremist group Boko Haram, which has carried out many suicide bombings inside Nigeria in the past six years, sometimes by women who hid explosives under modest outer garments.

Chad’s army has spearheaded a regional military effort to fight Boko Haram as the militants extended activities beyond Nigeria’s north-east borders. After last Monday’s blasts, the Chad air force bombed Boko Haram positions inside Nigeria.

Many Muslim women in N’Djamena wear the niqab – the full-face veil with just the eyes exposed while others wear the burqa, a one-piece garment covering the entire head and body. But Mr Deubet outlawed any clothing “where you can only see the eyes”.

In a country where Muslims make up 53 per cent of the population, the ban, has prompted mixed reactions.

Teacher Abdelsadick Djidda said the move was for safety.

“Wearing the burqa doesn’t derive from Chadian culture,” said the 45-year-old. “It comes from elsewhere. And it’s recommended nowhere in the holy book [the Quran].”

Other Muslims were shocked by the decision.

Hassan Barka, a mechanic, said he did not see the connection between the burqa and terrorism. “It isn’t people in burqas who commit attacks and this dress has become customary for many Chadians.”

The tough prohibition is a first in Africa. Some countries like Tunisia ordered similar measures, but they were partial and temporary steps.

The Chadian regime has ordered security forces to “go into the markets and seize all burqas on sale and burn them”.

It warned of arrest and summary trial for anyone caught dressed in the veil and robe.

“The Superior Council of Islamic Affairs finds that the government’s decision is not contrary to the principles of Islam,” ruled council chairman Cheick Hussein Hassan Abakar.

* Agence France-Presse