"Community mother" Adama Bâ in Dakar, Senegal

"Community mother" Adama Bâ in Dakar, Senegal

“We wear our veil because this is what God wants” – Adama Bâ, Dakar

Women of Senegal wearing the Islamic niqab are joining together in groups of peaceful protest on the streets of Dakar in response to President Macky Sall’s recent denouncement of the full veil for what he said are ‘security reasons’.

“The veil does not pose a problem. But because it does not allow us to properly identify the person who is wearing it, it poses a problem of public safety. One should not be allowed accoutrements which can be used to camouflage weapons or explosives,” – President Sall

Sall said a final decision for whether Muslim women in Senegal will be able to legally wear a niqab in public will have to be made by ECOWAS, even though other countries including, Cameroon, Niger, Chad, and Congo Brazzaville have already outlawed it.

“We wear our veil because this is what God wants, it is not because of Macky Sall, my mom, or my dad, it’s because God wants us to,” said Adama Bâ, as her eyes glinted with frustration from behind her full black niqab.

Adama Bâ setting up her shop in marketplace. Dakar

Adama Bâ setting up her shop in marketplace. Dakar

In Senegal, 94% of the population identifies as Muslim and many women choose to wear a veil. But some Senegalese women say the niqab is too different from their traditional veil, which is closer to the hijab, and only covers their hair, ears and neck, leaving their faces exposed.

Veiled Senegalese women circulate in town square

A veiled Senegalese women walking in Dakar’s town square

While the Quran does not specifically call for women to completely veil themselves, the site of women wearing the niqab has caused a great deal of criticism from more secular western nations and even in majority Islamic countries like Senegal.

“Already I don’t accept those kinds of veils, they scare me” said Gnilane Faye when asked about women who choose to wear a niqab, while wearing her own white and black veil. “If you wear that veil you can do anything, no one knows if you are a man or woman or a bandit, you can do anything it’s not safe. If it were an obligation to wear a veil like that, I would no longer wear one.”

Gnilan Faye wearing Senegalese style veil.

Gnilan Faye wearing Senegalese style veil.

But there are social media groups like Niqab Lovers promoting feminism among niqab wearers and Salafi blogger, Zainab bint Younus, shares with her readers what she says it’s like to be a mother, a goth, and wear a niqab. Many other women can also be found on Twitter discussing these issues in ways that represent the diversity of views within many Muslim communities.

Women wearing veils has been a part of Senegalese society historically and is not exclusive to Muslims. After France banned the burqa in 2013, a study was done showing how, “the veil itself predates Islam and was practiced by women of several religions.” The study also reported that wearing a veil was largely linked to class. Wealthy women could afford to veil their bodies completely, while women who worked as laborers either modified their veils or did not wear them at all.

A final decision on the proposed ban is expected to be made next year but many Muslim women in Senegal say they regret it has even come to a legal debate on whether certain religious practices should ever be banned.

“Concerning the fact that they’ve denounced it, it doesn’t affect me, because it’s a proposition. If the law passes to the point where someone comes and tells us they will take it off of us by force, we will take it off… but we will all have to answer to God, you shouldn’t forget that.” – Adama Bâ