Senegal plans to become the fifth African country to ban Muslim women from wearing the full-face Islamic veil – known as the burqa – in public. The move is an attempt to curb extreme Islamic activity.
According to the interior minister Abdoulaye Daouda, the decision should not be seen as anti-Islamic, especially because Senegal was a mainly Muslim state.
If the plan is passed into law, the West African nation will become the fifth African country to restrict the wearing of the full-face veil, for the same reason the Senegalese are planning to do.
President Macky Sall, himself a Muslim, called for a courageous fight against militant Islamists last week. Chad, Gabon and Congo-Brazzaville have passed similar legislation, with Cameroon being the most recent after it introduced the ban in July in its Far North region.
Ironically, all of them are former colonies of France, which caused an uproar in 2011 when it passed a legislation to become the first European country to ban the full-face veil from being worn in public places.
In the particular case of Chad and Cameroon, they have been targeted by burqa-wearing suicide bombers believed to be deployed by the Nigeria-based Boko Haram group, to enter densely populated areas and detonate bombs.
Senegal has not been attacked so far by militant Islamists.
But the minister averred that the plan to ban the full-face veil was in the interest of national security. Senegalese officials announced the arrest of two Imams linked with militant groups for the first time a fortnight ago.
Last week, Mr Sall was reported as having stated that the full-face veil was not compatible with Senegalese culture and the tolerant Islam practiced by Muslims in the West African state.
Most women in the country do not wear it.