With the recent upsurge of Boko Haram attacks, including suicide bombings increasingly carried out by young women, a number of African governments, including Congo, Chad, Cameroon and Guinea, have initiated a ban on wearing the niqab, the full-face veil.
"We have accepted this measure because we want the security of our country and our citizens," El Hadj Djibril Habdoulaye Bopaka, president of the Congolese Supreme Islamic Council, told Anadolu Agency. "If they had forbidden Muslims to pray in mosques, to build mosques, read the Quran or train young Muslims, we obviously would not have reacted the same way."
Although Congo Brazaville has been spared thus far from Boko Haram attacks, which focus mainly around the far northern region of Cameroon, on the border with Nigeria, Congo Brazaville was the first country in the Lake Chad Basin region to ban the niqab.
Eighty percent of Congo Brazaville’s population is Christian. The government has asked the Islamic Council to convince people of the new measures and explain to them that they are preventive measures against terrorism.
In Chad, another country bordering Cameroon, the same decision was taken, alongside a host of other security measures, two days after twin suicide bombings targeted the Chadian capital on June 15.
"Chadians and foreign residents in Chad are ordered to move with unveiled faces," Chadian Prime Minister Kalzebeu Pahimi told religious leaders after the N'djamena attacks.
In Cameroon, Boko Haram attacks have intensified in the Far North region.
The region’s governor, Midjiyawa Bakari, announced in mid-July a ban on niqabs “for security reasons.”
A few days later, the Littoral region followed. Governor Joseph Beti Assomo said the ban on the niqab should limit the infiltration of a militant group in the region, in which the Cameroon’s economic capital, Douala, is located.
Young girls wearing the niqab have carried out most of the suicide attacks in Cameroon.
In Guinea, President Alpha Conde announced last week that the niqab will be banned to “improve the fight against terrorism.”
Joining Cameroon and Congo Brazzaville, Conde claimed that “people who dressed in black” commit most of the suicide attacks in African countries.
“These people who harm, who dress in black to carry out attacks, destroy the property of others in the name of Islam, what they do has nothing to do with Islam. That is why I want to ban the niqab,” he said.
The Guinean president also said he will launch a national debate on the issue that will involve many Guineans.
“The national debate is important... We should not be afraid of debate. It is what can make the country move forward,” Conde said.
Gabonese Interior Minister Bertrand Mapangou said any person wearing the niqab will “be subjected to a total inspection at police checkpoints.”
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