Blantyre – An ongoing dispute over the hijab – a scarf worn by Muslim women and girls – took a violent turn in eastern Malawi leaving three people injured and property damaged, police confirmed on Tuesday.
"Windows at a mosque and the local priest’s home were smashed and three people were hurt during the incident," regional police spokesman Joseph Sauka told dpa.
The clashes – between members of the Anglican church and their Muslim counterparts – erupted on Monday after young men, reportedly from the church, snatched hijabs off the heads of pupils on their way to school in M’manga, about 100 kilometres from the city of Blantyre, he said.
Parish priest Mphatso Bango told dpa that he was living in fear.
"I did not sleep at home as the people destroyed windows of my house," he said, adding that the tense situation was not normal and schools would remain shut.
At the end of last month, classes were suspended at three primary schools and a public secondary school in the area after the church disagreed that girls could wear the hijab to school.
Bango said that when the Anglican church constructed the schools and gave them to the government, a set uniform was agreed on.
However, the National Taskforce on Hijab spokesman Abdul Fadweck told dpa that the two parties had concurred over the weekend that Muslim girls could wear the headscarf until a long-term solution had been found.
Principal secretary for the education ministry, Justin Saidi, said in a statement that while generally there are no conditions attached to the handover of these schools to government, they had referred the "important" matter to a special committee.