Morocco Bans the Burqa
Moroccan authorities have prohibited the manufacture and sale of burqas which are rarely worn by Moroccan women who prefer the hijab. According to local media reports, the measure appears to be motivated by security concerns, where “bandits have repeatedly used this garment to perpetrate their crimes.”
The Burqa is a traditional Muslim veil worn by Afghani women of the Pashtun tribe. It is a long piece of clothing, blue or brown, which completely covers the head and body with a cloth grid concealing the eyes.
According to the local press, as of this week le ministère de l’intérieur issued a communication to its agents in charge of businesses in towns, urging them not to allow the manufacture or marketing of burqas. However, no official announcement or public communication on the subject has been made by the ministry.
On January 9th, 2017, interior agents conducted “campaigns to raise awareness among traders” in Casablanca, the country’s economic capital, “to inform them of the decision of banning the burqa,” according to the website Media 24.
Official documents show that Moroccan authorities ordered traders in the north and the south of the country to stop making and selling Afghani burqas and to liquidate their stock within 48 hours.
The burqa remains an extremely marginal phenomenon in Morocco, a country torn between modernity and conservatism, whose king, Mohammed VI, is the champion of the so-called “moderate Islam.”
An almost similar piece of cloth, called the niqab, remains traditional clothing in Moroccan society. The difference between the niqab and hijab is fundamental: While the niqab almost completely covers the head except for the eyes, the hijab is a veil that only covers the hair.
In Morocco, the niqab, a veil that reveals only the eyes, is worn by certain women, especially in Salafist circles in conservative regions in the north of the country and in small towns. Thus, while responses and reactions to the ban of burqa have been limited so far, Salafists have been increasingly concerned about the scope of this decision and its possible extension to the niqab.
Ali Anouzla, a Moroccan journalist, said on his Facebook page as reported by The New York Times: “I am against the culture of banning in principle, but just to be clear, the Interior Ministry didn’t ban the hijab or niqab but banned the burqa, and the burqa isn’t part of Morocco’s culture.”
A representative of the Morocco Observatory for Human Development considered the ban of burqas a “random decision and an assault on women’s freedom of expression.”
Nuzha Saqali, a former minister for Family and Social Development, welcomed the ban and described it as “an important step in the fight against religious extremism.”