SHAFAQNA -Â Chadâ€™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.
â€œWearing the burqa must stop immediately from today,â€ 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 Nâ€™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.
Chadâ€™s army has spearheaded a regional military effort to fight Boko Haram as the militant sect extended activities beyond Nigeriaâ€™s northeastern borders. After Mondayâ€™s blasts, the Chadian air force bombed Boko Haram positions inside Nigeria.
Many Muslim women in Nâ€™Djamena wear the full-face veil with just the eyes exposed known as the niqab, which is usually black. But Deubet outlawed any clothing â€œwhere you can only see the eyesâ€.
In a country where Muslims make up 53 percent of the population â€” with Christians accounting for 35 percent â€” 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 â€œtaken for our safetyâ€.
â€œWearing the burqa doesnâ€™t derive from Chadian culture,â€ he said. â€œIt comes from elsewhere. And itâ€™s recommended nowhere in the holy book (the Koran).â€
Djidda added: â€œAs a Muslim, I find that people go overboard a little with this camouflage.â€
â€“ â€˜Seize all burqas on saleâ€™ â€“
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 didnâ€™t see the connection between the burqa and terrorism.
â€œIt isnâ€™t people in burqas who commit attacks and this dress has become customary for many Chadians,â€ said Barka, a mechanic. â€œIt is difficult to implement this decision. Maybe time is needed to spread awareness.â€
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.
The Chadian regime has ordered security forces to â€œgo into the markets and seize all burqas on sale and burn themâ€, while warning of arrest and summary trial for anyone caught dressed in the veil and robe.
â€œThe Superior Council of Islamic Affairs (CSAI) finds that the governmentâ€™s decision is not contrary to the principles of Islam,â€ influential CSAI chairman Cheick Hussein Hassan Abakar has ruled.
In a poor nation that bears deep scars after the bloody inter-faith clashes during a civil war in 1979-1982, President Idriss Deby Itno has long been wary of the emergence of extremist movements.
In power since 1990, when he toppled dictator Hissene Habre â€” who is set to go on trial in Senegal for crimes against humanity on July 20 â€” Deby has repeatedly stressed that â€œthe secular nature of the state is an essential valueâ€.
â€“ â€˜Very tolerant Islamâ€™ â€“
â€œWeâ€™re lucky to have very tolerant Islam. The Muslims of Chad are mainly Sufis, they are pacifists,â€ said the secretary general of King Faisal University in Nâ€™Djamena, Abakar Walar Modou.
â€œBut Islam can be manipulated. In (the civil war) politicians tried to plunge Christians and Muslims into chaos,â€ he recalled.