According to reports, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) leaders have been urged to ban the wearing of full-face veils by Muslim women in line with steps to curb the growing number of Boko Haram female suicide bombings.
This appeal was made by ECOWAS President, Kadre Desire Ouedraogo when he was addressing reporters at the close of a two-day summit in Abuja that countries should enforce the ban “in line with their national realities.”
The ban would make it easier for security agents to identify women. Following reoccurring attacks by Boko Haram jihadists where young women and girls have been used as suicide bombers where they were fond of hiding explosives in their loose-fitting clothes.
Countries that have already taken this move include Congo Republic, Senegal and Cameroon.
According to Osman Mohammed a professor of political science at Kaduna State University in Nigeria who spoke on the issue, the ban may be met with resistance, particularly from conservative Muslim groups, at the same time, the right to exercise one’s religion must go hand in hand with security concerns for the public.
“It will have some social, political dimensions. Socially and culturally and religiously, predominantly Muslims wear the veil as a compulsory. So I think that [the ban] would have little bit of resistance with the conservatives such as the ones we witnessed in Kaduna that had clash with authorities. They will never accept such order. So you will have stiff resistance on one side, and also you will have some acceptance on the other side,” he said.
Mohammed said the ban has worked in Cameroon and Chad, it can also work in other West African countries if the governments of those countries educate their people about the ban.
“Except of course, public enlightenment would have to come in there, both international and domestic media have to help in public enlightenment as to why that has to happen and for how long. It has to also happen in a way that it would be a temporary measure. How temporary, I don’t know and it might not be certain,” Mohammed said.
To those who say the ban would infringe on the religious rights of the women wearing them, Mohammed said in the wake of Boko Haram’s deadly violence, national security should outweigh personal religious freedom.
“I believe that the freedom to exercise your religion should be done with total concern about security as well. I think where there is no security, religious practices will not take place as well,” Mohammed said