21 February 2014

Tunisia to Tighten Niqab Controls

Tunis — The Tunisian interior ministry on February 14th announced stricter controls on people wearing the niqab.

"The measure is being taken because of the threat the country faces and because of terrorist suspects using the niqab... to disguise themselves and escape justice," the interior ministry said.

The ministry urged citizens to be understanding and help security units do their work.

Security forces have recently arrested a number of terrorists and criminals wearing niqabs. Authorities also pointed out that the terrorists who were hunted down in Raoued as well as those arrested in Ariana moved from Jebel Chaambi to the capital wearing niqabs.

That has led several people to call for a ban on wearing niqabs in light of the threat to the country's security and stability.

Cheikh Houcine Abidi, a Zeitouna mosque imam, said in remarks published February 13th that the government should ban wearing the niqab to prevent terrorists and criminal from carrying out their plans. He added that niqab did not exist in Islamic jurisprudence, noting that Islamic dress for Muslim women was limited to the veil.

Abidi explained that the use of the niqab for terrorist purposes to the detriment of the community and to kill people made it illicit in religious terms.

For his part, Tunisian Mufti Sheikh Hamda Said supported a potential ban on niqab for security purposes.

"The ruler can legitimately restrict the scope of what is permissible if he deems it for the good of the nation such as for the security of the country," he said in a press statement.

Mazen Chérif, an analyst who specialises in terror cases, said that history has proven that the niqab was being used for crime and anonymity. He added that the human face was an ID.

"Since security reports have demonstrated that the niqab is being used in terrorism, it is necessary to ban it," he commented.

Tunisians are divided between supporters of a potential ban on the niqab and those rejecting it

Nawel Kilani, a 23-years-old information sciences student, pointed out that the niqab was an intruder on the Islamic religion, which calls only for the veil.

"The government should enact a law to prevent this outfit in order to protect us and protect our country from terrorists and criminals," Kilani said.

Youssif Krid, a 31-year-old restaurant worker, stressed his support for the decision, saying, "The niqab is now badly used in Tunisia and has become linked to terrorism. A law banning it in Tunisia has become an urgent necessity and a national duty."

In turn, his friend Mahjoub Chabi said he supported the decision on the condition that it would be rescinded once the situation stabilised.

On the other hand Samar Ajmi, owner of a tailor shop, said that dress was part of the freedom achieved by all Tunisians after the revolution. She called for the need to accept this freedom, including both its positive and negative sides.

In this regard, the Interior Minister Lotfi Ben Jeddou said during a hearing at the Constituent Assembly on February 13th that banning the niqab would be a political decision beyond the security establishment.

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