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UMSC Condemns Harassment of Muslim Students Over Veils

Sheikh Juma Bakihik Cucu, the Secretary for Education at Uganda Muslim Supreme Council, says that unveiling Muslim females directly interferes with their religious freedoms enshrined in th Ugandan constitution.
Uganda National Mosque. Courtesy Picture

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The decision by a police officer to compel a female student at Kyambogo University to remove her veil before accessing the examination room has drawn the attention of the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council-UMSC. 

On Tuesday, a photo of a police officer compelling a female Muslim student to unveil before accessing the examination room went viral on social media. One of the students identified as Naswiba Nassanga later recorded a video narrating how the officer compelled her and her friend to drop their veils before they could be allowed into the examination room. 

Nassanga, who looked disturbed, said the officer whose gender she didn’t disclose asked them to remove both their inner and out veils leaving their heads bare. “…. Muslim girls are not allowed to enter an examination with veils. I have fallen a victim, we have been unveiled when we are entering the paper,” Nasanga said. 

She called on everyone viewing the video to come to their rescue, saying they were being treated unfairly. Sheikh Juma Bakihik Cucu, the Secretary for Education at Uganda Muslim Supreme Council, says that unveiling Muslim females directly interferes with their religious freedoms enshrined in th Ugandan constitution. 

He explains that in Islam veiling is not a code of dressing but rather a way of worship.

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Sheikh Cucu says that while some people want to associate the Muslim dress code with criminality, there is no fact to support this perception. 

“We, therefore, condemn it (unveiling) as Muslim leaders in the country. We want to engage the minister so that she can issue a statement on this matter because we cannot tolerate such kinds of things. If it is happening in Kyambogo now, it can escalate to other universities,” he said.

Adding that, “Undressing a girl who is used to veiling her head in public affects even performance in the examination. To us (Muslims), the nakedness of a woman starts from the head up to the toe. So, the moment you unveil her you have undressed her. It is degenerating her dignity.”

Counsel Mahmood Kakeeto, who doubles as the Secretary-General of Uganda Muslim Lawyers Association told Uganda Radio Network that what the security operatives did at Kyambogo was very unconstitutional and attracts imprisonment.

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According to Kakeeto, as Uganda Muslim Lawyers Association they are considering taking legal action against the implicated police officer. "We are still investigating the matter. Once we get enough evidence. We shall go to court…. We have seen some apologies but we don’t know whether those apologies are genuine,” he said.   

Kakeeto explained that they are not opposed to checking students, but what they disagree with is deploying male officers to check females. “They are very free to check but if you are to check them use a female officer to check ladies. If someone does not want her hair to be seen in public, take her somewhere private and check her and let her enter the examination room,” he said.  

Kyambogo university's vice-chancellor, Prof. Elly Katunguka has since issued a statement, saying the police officer acted unprofessionally. “Whereas it is a policy of the university to check all students at the entrance of the university, at the entrances at the examination rooms and inside examination rooms, we don’t agree with the manner in which the police officer did it,” he wrote in a letter.

Adding that, “the police officer has been cautioned and the police leadership is handling the matter according to their professional standards. I can promise that it will not happen again.” 

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