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Nigerian Church Bans Towering Headwraps Due to Attacks by Radical Muslims

Nigerian Church Bans Towering Headwraps

ICC Note

Nigerian churches are coming up with different methods to stop Muslim radicals from carrying out attacks at churches. One of the churches is now banning women from wearing headwraps. Security is important and we welcome the church's decision. Nigeria has failed to protect its citizens from radical Muslim attacks and the situation will get worse unless the government takes decisive actions against the Islamists.

08/29/2012 Nigeria (The Guardian)-It's an indispensable fashion accessory, worn by every Nigerian woman at some point. Some are never seen without it, including Nigeria's finance minister who calls her modest headwrap her trademark. Others, such as Nollywood actor Abiola Atanda, are known for their foot-high towers at red carpet events.

But a Nigerian church has now banned its congregation from wearing large headwraps, called geles, saying they form a "barricade" when women sit side-by-side and are a potential security risk amid attacks from militant Islamist groups.

Churchgoers who wear geles that seek to reach for the heavens will have their "big headgears" confiscated from next month, the congregation at St Theresa's Cathedral Church in the south-eastern Nigerian state of Enugu have been warned. Other churches are debating whether to follow St Theresa's head start.

"In view of the present security challenges the church has urged women to stop coming to Sunday service with big headgears and bags to enable security men to know when a bomb will be smuggled into the church," Reverend Father Uche Obodoechina said, adding that the headwraps made it difficult to identify people. Catholic churches in Nigeria usually maintain that women must cover their hair during services, which are attended by Nigerians of all ages.

Capable of towering two feet in gravity-defying folds and arcs of lace or stiff jacquard, geles are the crowning glory of traditional outfits typically worn to church and sometimes seen as status symbols based on size alone. Important occasions – of which weddings and churchgoing remain firm favourites – can prompt intricate geles, usually finished off with stone-encrusted sunglasses and flashy handbags. "Women feel naked without their geles on special occasions," said Lagos-based makeup artist Kadiatou Sangare, who often helps women tie elaborate creations.

The crackdown on geles is one of a series of increasing security measures after Nigeria endured a spate of bomb attacks on churches and mosques from militant Islamist group Boko Haram. This year it has targeted at least six churches in northern and central Nigeria, prompting fears it is trying to ignite a sectarian war among Nigeria's evenly split Muslims and Christians. It has never struck a southern Nigerian state.

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The move has divided opinion among churchgoers.

"It's a good thing," said taxi driver Idowu James. "There is no doubt some people carry big handbags to intimidate people lower down the ladder. Frankly, I don't think church is the right place for exercises in fashion parade."

Others see wearing geles to be as inalienable a right as going to church. "I've never heard such a thing and I don't think women in my own church will abide by that. Most of the week we women are working, so Sunday is the only chance to wear geles and dress up," said Lagos resident Grace George. "We want to look our best when we go to church, and you cannot do that if you expose your head."

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