Kyrgyzstan’s president has reportedly tried to dissuade women in the country from wearing Islamic dress due to concerns they could become radicalised.
“Our women have been wearing miniskirts since 1950s, and they never thought about wearing an explosive belt,” Almazbek Atambayev was quoted saying at a press conference last week.
His comments came following a government-sponsored campaign to discourage the country’s women from wearing the hijab, niqab and burka.
Banners are said to have been erected across the country showing women in the nation’s traditional clothing next to those clad in niqabs and burkas with the caption: “Poor people! Where are we heading to?”
The banners attracted outrage in the country, where 80 per cent of the population is Muslim, with some arguing the traditional ‘elchek’ headdress is almost as conservative as the hijab.
Others pointed to the wearing of miniskirts as being less inline with the country’s values, prompting the president’s comments.
“You can wear even tarpaulin boots on your head, but do not organise bombings. This is not religion,” he was quoted as saying.
“Let them wear even miniskirts but there must not be any blasts.”
The president went on to say how clothes can “changes one’s thoughts” and described an incident where the government was searching for escapees from a detention centre and found their wives and mistresses were trying to organise bombings.
“If you do not like Kyrgyzstan you can leave our country and go wherever you want,” he said. “We can pay your travel expenses, even to Syria.”
An estimated 350 Kyrgyz citizens are fighting with Islamic groups in the Syrian war.
Atambayev previously expressed concerns in 2014 of the “Arabisation” of society at the expense of the country’s language and traditions.