In an apparent attempt to foster more moderate expressions of Islam, the African country of Morocco reportedly banned the burqa, the full-body veiled often used by conservative Muslim women.
The government has not issued a formal announcement of the move; however, local media have reported that vendors and merchants received written warnings on Monday from Interior Ministry representatives telling them to stop making and selling the religious garment.
A photograph shared widely on social media this week showed a letter bearing the stamp of the Interior Ministry.
The notice reads: “Following the observations of the authorities, we notice that you make and sell burqas – we are calling on you to get rid of these clothes within 48 hours from your receipt of this message and to refrains from producing, selling them in the future.”
Moroccan news site Le360 quoted a senior interior ministry official announcing the ban on the sale of the burqa, which is often blue and fully covers the head.
“We have taken the step of completely banning the import, manufacture and marketing of this garment in all the cities and towns of the kingdom,” the unidentified official said.
The official did not confirm whether the ban extended to wearing the burqa. The reported ban did not mention the sale or use of the hijab or the niqad, which does not cover the eyes.
About 99 percent of Morocco’s 32.6 million people identify as Muslim, while the other 1 percent identify as Christian, Jewish or Baha’i.
According to the New York Times, the use of the burqa has been relatively low in Morocco as women typically wear traditional dresses and head scarves. The burqa is common in more conservative Muslim countries like Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Farah Cherif D’Ouezzan, the founder of the Center for Cross Cultural Learning in Rabat, told the Times there still was a great deal of confusion surrounded the alleged ban because of the lack of official confirmation. She said it would also be difficult to implement.
“If it is true that there is a ban, to me, the ban is justified for security reasons,” she said. “But at the same time, there is not evidence for associating the burqa with security threats. I would like to know how many people have been arrested.”
She added: “I believe that men or women should have the right to choose how to dress. The number of women who wear the burqa in this country is still insignificant.”
The country’s official religious authorities have not taken a position on the issue.
If the ban extends to the use of the burqa, Morocco would join France and Belgium who have prohibited Muslim women of wearing the full-body veil.