Nigeran Christian minority fears riots as Ramadan begins
The authorities of Niger fear an "explosive situation" as Ramadan began this Thursday. A curfew and a ban on collective prayers were introduced to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Both regulations, however, cause dissatisfaction among many Muslims who wish to be able to gather for religious celebrations despite the threat of the pandemic. Islam in Niger accounts for the vast majority of the nation's religious adherents. It is practised by over ninety-eight per cent of the population.
“We just want to pray in our mosques and we are determined to exercise this religious right,” threatens Hassane Dari, a young merchant from Lazaret, a popular Niamey district who spoke to the French AFP.
“We can no longer say collective prayers on Fridays, and now they don’t want us to pray during the blessed month of Ramadan,” complaints Hadjia Aïssa, a housewife from the Banizoumbou district.
The unrest began almost immediately after the government announced the new measures. The closure of mosques was particularly questioned. In Mirrya, young armed people set fire to buildings and cars. A week later, in the Tahoua region, demonstrators attacked the local town hall. The incidents continued in the capital city of Niamey and are now escalating. People do not understand the reasons for the new rules, especially since Niger is relatively weakly affected by the coronavirus epidemic.
However, the authorities have taken quite drastic measures from the beginning. Borders were closed, a state of emergency was introduced, a curfew, places of worship and schools were closed, and the capital of Niamey was isolated from the rest of the country.
In 2015, the caricatures of Muhammad in the French satirical newspaper “Charlie Hebdo” sparked anti-Christian riots although local Christians had nothing to do with it.