Headscarf row re-opens old wounds for Algerians
A decision by Algeria’s government that women should pose for passport photographs without their Islamic headscarves has re-opened wounds still raw after nearly two decades of Islamist militant violence.
Algeria’s secular-minded government says that as part of the introduction of new biometric passports, all women should be photographed without the veil, a requirement that has angered the country’s influential religious traditionalists.
“We are in an Islamic country and the state should not be issuing laws that contradict our religion,” said Abderahmane Chibane, the head of the Muslim Ulema Association which groups leading Islamic scholars.
Algeria is emerging from a conflict that broke out after the military backed government in 1992 scrapped legislative elections that a radical Islamist party was poised to win. However, analysts say the row over passports risks damaging a truce between the government and the Islamists that has helped reduce the violence and usher in a period of relative stability.