Senegal Bans Burqa to Stop Terrorists Disguising In Islamic Dress
Simon Allison in Johannesburg, 18 November 2015
Senegal has banned women from wearing the burqa, amid rising fears of Islamic extremism in the west African country.
The interior minister, Abdoulaye Daouda, said women would no longer be allowed to wear the Islamic dress, which leaves only the eyes exposed. Daouda said the decision was a question of national security and was designed to prevent terrorists from using the burqa as a disguise.
An estimated 92% of Senegal’s population is Muslim. Although the country has not suffered a terrorist attack recently, authorities are concerned that the Islamic militant group Boko Haram, based in north-eastern Nigeria, may be trying to extend its range. This month, police arrested five people suspected of having ties to Boko Haram as part of a nationwide crackdown.
Senegal is not alone in west Africa in banning the burqa. This year Cameroon and Chad, also Muslim-majority countries, issued similar orders citing similar reasons. “Senegal is just following the trend,” said Martin Ewi, a senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies.
He said the ban, though difficult to enforce, had been reasonably effective in both countries. “You still have the villages and far corners of the country where people don’t always respect the ban,” he added.
However, the ban was not a foolproof solution, Ewi warned. Two days after Chad instituted a ban, two burqa-clad bombers blew themselves up in N’Djamena, killing at least 27 people including several police officers. “They deliberately wore the burqa to attract the attention of the police,” Ewi said.
The burqa ban has been the subject of debate within Senegal, with commentators struggling to balance the national security imperative with religious freedom. “Its imposition in Senegal will cause social instability … there is a delicate line between preventive measures and respect for individual freedoms,” said Khadim Mbacke, a Dakar-based researcher.
Mbaye Niang, a Muslim leader and member of parliament, said the new law was designed to protect Islam. “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 told the local newspaper Le Quotidien. The reason terrorists use this method was because they wanted to attack the religion, he added.
Farid Essack, a religious studies scholar at the University of Johannesburg, said that context was key and the justifications used in Muslim countries did not necessarily apply elsewhere.
“In some political contexts, I find [the banning of burqas] deeply disturbing and an extension of Islamaphobia. I don’t think that the Chadian response is a manifestation of Islamophobia,” he said. “Chad … has had several bombings, a number of them were seemingly perpetrated by [fully covered] men, and I don’t think that it is unreasonable, in that context, to insist people should not be completely veiled in public.”
Why Young American Women Are Joining ISIS
By Danielle Paquette
November 17 2015
Toward the end of the century, Westerners who fled their home countries to fight in Afghanistan or Bosnia shared a common characteristic: They were practically all men. Today’s militant recruits, however, represent a dramatic demographic shift.
Most are just entering adulthood. They often meet terrorists online. They’ve asked in covert chats: Do you have hair dryers, or should I bring one?
One in seven are women, according to a new report.
An estimated 4,500 Westerners have ditched home for the Islamic State or other Sunni jihadist groups in Syria or Iraq. Researchers at New America, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington, D.C., collected data on 474 of these cases. They found in news reports an unprecedented number of radicalized women sneaking across borders.
“They often appear to be typical teenagers,” said Brigitte Lebans Nacos, a political science professor at Columbia University who studies terrorism. “They ask about hair dryers. They’re looking for romance. They’re fans of ISIS, like others are fans of pop stars.”
The average age of women in New America’s data set is 21. A third of the female converts are teenagers. Many are active in jihadist Web circles, occasionally using Twitter to connect with recruiters. Others have familial ties to jihadism — relatives fighting in Syria or Iraq, a lover who’d dedicated his life to the cause.
[Read the Post’s deep look at women and the Islamic State: ‘Till martyrdom do us part’]
Roughly 250 Americans have attempted to join jihadists in Syria, according to government estimates. One in six are women. They display similar traits to Western fighters overall: young, digitally savvy and connected through blood to jihadism.
Erin Marie Saltman, a counter-extremism researcher for the Institute for Strategic Dialogue at the King’s College in London, said observers seeking to understand the phenomenon should forget gender stereotypes.
Many female recruits are drawn to Islamic State Web propaganda, Saltman said, which depicts women as “lionesses” working with men to build an extremist utopia. Some teenagers, still struggling to understand who they are, may embrace the hyper-conservative and violent ideals as they reject their own materialistic cultures. Others express anger over the perceived persecution of Muslims and a desire to find a sisterhood with similar beliefs.
“These women are denying being sexual objects of the West,” Saltman said. “They refuse to be objectified. They use the veil so they cannot be sexualized.”
In April, Buzzfeed published an interview with a 20-year-old American woman who ran away from her home in Alabama to marry an Islamic State fighter in Syria. The interview was conducted over the messaging app Kik, making it impossible to verify who actually typed the responses or whether they were coerced.
The woman, identified by other outlets as Hoda Muthana, spoke of finding no friends with mutual values in her home town.
“I literally isolated myself from all my friends and community members the last year I was in America,” she said in the interview. “As I grew closer to my deen, I lost all my friends, I found none in my community that desired to tread the path I was striving for.”
The reality she encountered in Syria is probably far from the happy partnerships perpetuated online. Experts believe everything an Islamic State woman sends into cyberspace is monitored by a man. “You’re not being allowed to go online and say ‘#gloomyMonday in the caliphate,’” Saltman said. “We know we’re looking at propaganda.”
Women in the caliphate cannot leave their houses without their husband’s permission. Those who lose their spouses in battle are forced to quickly remarry. They aren’t permitted to engage in battle, unless an emergency calls for last-resort soldiers.
Earlier this year, the al-Khanssaa Brigade, an Islamic State women’s group, released a manifesto that outlined a female fighter’s duty.
“Her creator has ruled that there was no responsibility greater for her than that of being a wife to her husband,” according to the English translation by Charlie Winter, senior researcher at the Quilliam Foundation in London. The document stated that girls as young as 9 may marry.
The Post’s Kevin Sullivan recently visited a refugee camp in Jordan, where he met women who said they’d escaped the grasp of the Islamic State. His interviews support evidence that women in the caliphate are second-class citizens.
“Those women, usually drawn by romantic notions of supporting revolutionaries and living in a state that exalts their religion, can quickly find themselves part of an institutionalized, near-assembly-line system to provide fighters with wives, sex and children …” Sullivan wrote. “Many local women find the restrictions extreme, backward and terrifying.”
Danielle Paquette is a reporter covering the intersection of people and policy. She’s from Indianapolis and previously worked for the Tampa Bay Times. Follow her on Twitter: @Dpaqreport.