Faidat Abdulwahab, a first-year student pursuing a bachelor's degree in procurement and logistics management, says that forcing students to unveil is not only an infringement on their freedom of worship as enshrined in the constitution of Uganda but also disrespectful. She equated the act to stripping a female in public.
It was a normal Wednesday morning when Aisha Nanfuma, a student
pursuing a bachelor's degree of science in statistics at Kyambogo University, left her
hostel in Banda and headed to Kyambogo University for lectures, only to be
denied entry into the University.
Nanfuma had dressed in her long garbs with a veil, which is
typically a scarf that covers the hair and neck, as one of the virtues expected
of a female Muslim while in public. However, on reaching the entrance, she was
denied access with security demanding that she first removes her veil in the name
"The security officer told me that she was not aware what I was hiding in the veil so she said that given the current security
alertness and bomb attacks, they could not allow me inside the university with
a veil," the frustrated student
narrates. "I told her to check me as they have always done. But she insisted that
I remove it lest I was not to be granted access."
Hijab is regarded by many Muslims as a symbol of both
religion and womanhood. The Qur'an tells Muslims - men and women - to dress
modestly. Male modesty has been
interpreted to be covering the area from the navel to the knee. For women, it
is generally seen as covering everything except their face, hands, and feet
when in the presence of men they are not related or married to.
The hijab is hence the Muslim dress code for both men and
women which can be achieved when one wears in accordance to the guidelines
which include covering parts considered as part of one's nakedness as earlier
Nanfuma notes that for years she had never experienced such
an embarrassment. However, she was not the only student to face this treatment. After spending time at the
entrance, she realized that another veiled Muslim female student was standing by
the gate, having also been denied entry on the same grounds.
"She was standing in confusion possibly contemplating
whether she accepts their orderor not," she added.
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Nanfuma says that for several minutes she attempted an
argument with the security officers in vain. And as she argued, several
students including non-Muslims noticing the infringement on their rights, advised them to maintain their veil.
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Abdulwahab, a first-year student pursuing a bachelor's degree in
procurement and logistics management, says that forcing students to
unveil is not
only an infringement on their freedom of worship as enshrined in the
constitution of Uganda but also disrespectful. She equated the act to
stripping a female in public.
Faidat notes that for years Muslims have been wearing their
attire and nobody had questioned it. To her, the practice if not curbed might
evolve into something unpleasant. She adds that the university management
should desist from what she describes as an Islamophobic, illogical, hysterical, and
discriminatory decision to ban veils.
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Faidat says that if the university is concerned with security matters they should buy metal detectors.
Bashir Lule, the chairperson of Kyambogo University Muslim
Students' Association-KYUMSA, says that there have been comments on the
practice but the leadership had not got evidence or anyone who wished to
freely speak about the matter as many students fear to land into troubles with
the university management.
Lule is concerned that the acts of disrespecting female
Muslim students wearing Hijab seem to be increasing.
told URN that the
practice has been happening during the examination period with Muslim
girls being denied access to examination rooms until they unveil.
The student imam at KYUMSA Yusuf Bulaf also notes that
although the ongoing practice might not have been institutionalized, for years
students at the university have been going through such similar treatment when
they are forced to remove their 'kufi' caps and veils during an examination.
Bulaf adds that the current security alert on possible
terror attacks is making the situation worse. To him, there is a need to
discourage the practice. The student Imam notes that they have written to the
university management showing their discomfort with the practice with a need to
have the controversial "rule" reversed.
"We have proposed that the university should put up
female officers at the entrance to check ladies with veils so as not to have a breach
in security systems nor into our rights and values as Muslims," says Bulaf.
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Reuben Twinomujuni, the senior Public Relations Officer
of Kyambogo University, notes that the act was never sanctioned by the university
management but it seems to be actions of individual security officers who are
looking for means of ensuring that there is no security threat at the campus.
Nonetheless, Twinomujuni adds that management has discussed
the matter and thinks that soon security officers will be briefed on how better
this can be done without necessarily abusing the rights and freedoms of
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This is not the first time female students are being forced
to unveil while at a public university in Uganda. In 2011, Zaituni Namujju BA
Social Sciences student at Makerere was forced to remove her veil before
sitting an examination.
At that time, the lecture, Dr Eria Olowo Onyango, noted that
the lady was putting on an ‘’illegal” attire. For the lady to be allowed in the
examination room, she had to unveil, an act that caused chaos and a strike by
students and some staff members.