Religious leaders in Senegal, a country with over 90 percent Muslim population, have differed over the proposed ban of burqa, a long loose garment covering the whole body, worn in public by Muslim women.

Terrorist acts carried out by young females hiding explosives in their burqas have pushed some African countries to ban wearing of the burqas.

Although Senegal has not yet experienced any terrorist attack, debate on the eventual ban of the burqa is already raging. Opinions on the subject have remained divided among religious leaders who have spoken about the subject.

Speaking recently on a local television, Sen. TV, the vice-chairman of an Islamic NGO called Jamra, Mame Mactar Gueye, noted that “no country can claim to be safe from terrorism.”

“The debate on the wearing of burqa should be held,” he said, adding that the “idea is not to kill Islam.”
“No country can pretend to have capacity to fight terrorism alone. All countries should take measures to fight the vice,” Gueye said, adding that countries which have not yet been affected such as Guinea and Senegal should come up with joint efforts that should be supported by the population.”

However, speaking to a local newspaper, Le Quotidien, imam Mbaye Niang who is also a member of parliament, said “there is no need to prevent people from covering their bodies as required by the Islamic religion.”
“It is a violation of people’s religious freedom that is guaranteed by our Constitution,” Niang said.

He however noted that Islam does not require women to completely cover their faces and hands. “One cannot walk in the streets with a covered face, since people are supposed to be identified,” he added.

“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 affirmed, adding that “the reason terrorists use this method is because they want to attack the religion.”

However, according to Khadim Mbacke, a researcher at the Dakar-based Black Africa Fundamental Institute, in Senegal, women do not wear a full veil and therefore there’s no need for banning it.

“There are no threats and I do not see the need for such a measure in Senegal,” Mbacke said, adding that “countries which had adopted this measure were already suffering from terrorist attacks and its imposition in Senegal will cause social instability.”

Although he acknowledged that the state has the mandate and duty of preventing any attacks, Mbacke warned that “there is a delicate line between preventive measures and respect for individual freedoms.”

On the other hand, preacher Iran Ndao is strongly opposed to any eventual ban of the full veil.
“These are attempts to weaken Islam. Terrorism has nothing to do with Islam. Terrorists are people with ill motives,” he affirmed.

Historian Penda Mbow urged the government to address the issue of wearing of burqa, a cloth which was now being used by terrorists to carry explosives.

According to Mbow, use of children wearing burqas to carry explosives was a provocative act which also required a provocative response from the government.” Enditem

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