Chad’s ban on Islamic veil following attacks splits Muslim opinion

By Martin Zoutane and Celia Lebur ,AFP

N’DJAMENA, Chad/LIBREVILLE, Gabon — Chad’s decision to ban women from wearing the Islamic veil, which came two days after bloody suicide bombings hit the capital, has divided Muslims 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 on Wednesday, after the twin bombings left 33 people dead and more than 100 others injured in the capital N’Djamena. Nobody has claimed responsibility for the attacks, but authorities blame Nigerian jihadist 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 militant sect extended activities beyond Nigeria’s northeastern borders. After Monday’s blasts, the Chadian air force bombed Boko Haram positions inside Nigeria. Many Muslim women in N’Djamena wear the full-face veil with just the eyes exposed known as the niqab, which is usually black. But Deubet outlawed any clothing ��where you can only see the eyes.�� In a country where Muslims make up 53 percent of the population �X with Christians accounting for 35 percent �X the ban on the Islamic veil, including the completely face-covering burqa, has prompted mixed reactions. Abdelsadick Djidda, a 45-year-old teacher, said the move was ��taken for our safety.�� ��Wearing the burqa doesn’t derive from Chadian culture,�� he said. ��It comes from elsewhere. And it’s recommended nowhere in the holy book (the Quran).�� Djidda added: ��As a Muslim, I find that people go overboard a little with this camouflage.��

‘Seize all burqas on sale’ Other Muslims are shocked by the decision, which comes as the holy fasting month of Ramadan gets under way. Hassan Barka, a mechanic, said he didn’t 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,�� said Barka, a mechanic. ��It is difficult to implement this decision. Maybe time is needed to spread awareness.�� The tough prohibition is a first in Africa. Some countries like Tunisia ordered similar measures before now because of a growing risk of terrorist attacks, but they were partial and temporary steps.