Malawi: Muslims and Christians clash over hijab

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Two people were severely injured and scores sustained minor wounds in Mangochi area, Southern region of Malawi after two opposing groups sparred on Monday over the alleged refusal by the Anglican Church to allow Muslim girls learning in its primary school in the area to put on a Hijab.

Several properties, including schools, a church and a mosque were damaged in retaliatory attacks as the fracas spread to door to door fights. Businesses were brought to a standstill and transportation paralyzed for some hours before the Malawi Police Service intervened.

A group of Muslims armed with stones allegedly stormed M’manga Primary School, which is sponsored by the Anglican Church, protesting against the decision by the school on Sunday to not allow Muslim girls to wear the hijab in school. The angry mobs smashed the school and M’manga Anglican Parish’s glasses including priest Mphatso Bango’s house, causing a retaliation from their Christians counterparts.

According to the Muslim Association of Malawi (MUM) spokesperson Dinala Chabulika the Sunday meeting presided by the Church leadership retracted the alleged agreement to allow the pupils put on attires according to their religious doctrines.

“We had a meeting last week with the leadership of both the Anglican Church and the MUM where a resolution was made to allow the girls to put on a hijab. But during another meeting on Sunday, the diocesan education secretary said they had changed their stand. That is what angered the Muslim community and mobilized themselves to react that way,” Dinala Chabulika explained.

Attempts by education experts to reconcile the two warring parties were futile hence the issue was referred to the country’s Ministry of Education to resolve.

The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology has convened an urgent meeting for the MUM and Anglican leaders to deliberate on the issue and come up with a long-lasting solution. Meanwhile, more security officers have been deployed in the affected area to maintain peace and order.

In May this year, the government of Malawi issued an order barring any learning institution in the country from excluding any learner for dressing as per their religious customs.

By Samuel Ouma