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Niqab - a step too far?

Filed under: Islam, Niqab — monirabegum @ 5:58 pm

 

March 8, 2008

I will always respect your right to wear a niqab or whatever else you chose to wear but i say openly that i do not agree with it.

I feel a growing uneasiness at the increased number of young muslim women opting to wear a niqab or the full burqa in Britain today. What is the need for it? Why do you make this decision? I asked a few girls around my university on their opinions about this and received quite a positive response.

One muslim girl stated that by wearing the niqab these girls achieve a “superior connection to Allah and achieve a higher level of piety”. The first batch of girls were sure enough muslim but the second batch produced a surprising bag of results.

When asked how they felt about the growing number of muslim women in Britain wearing the niqab, several replied that they would feel “uncomfortable” approach such women as they saw the niqab as a sign of alienation. Sadly i have to agree with this view. Even as a fellow muslim myself, i would feel quite uncomfortable approaching these sisters.

I just don’t understand why modern muslim women, probably born and brought up in the UK feel the need to cover themselves to such an extent as to only show their eyes or not even at all in the case of the Burka. In fact i find it quite an insult because as a British muslim feminist i find it a sign of self oppression. As a lot of British-born muslim girls fight against oppression born from predominantly patriarchal societies influenced by Islam, for better rights and more modern attitudes, you niqabis take us a step back.

I grew up in quite a strict Bangladeshi-muslim family, where my mother has worn a hijab for most of my life. I was given the choice of whether i wanted to wear one, and i myself chose not to. I remember visiting two very different muslim nations; Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia. In Bangladesh, the number of women that wear the niqab is definitely the very few minority whereas as in Saudi Arabia it seemed to be the majority. Whereas in Bangladesh, covering your head is optional in Saudi Arabia, it is compulsory. I came to the conclusion that wearing the niqab is more a cultural thing possibly influenced more by the Wahhabism predominant in Saudi Arabia and other middle eastern countries.

Despite this, I'd assumed that the niqabis i would meet would most likely to be middle eastern yet this was not the case, most of them were Bangladeshi or Pakistani. I’m still baffled as to why. I grew up in a Bangladeshi culture and of all the “aunties” i met i only recall a few who wore the niqab yet  see a growing number of their daughters adopting this form of dress.

It leads me to think that maybe the press aren’t wrong or over exaggerating, maybe there is increasing rise in Islamism and conservative Islam. I almost feel sad to say this, but if the press are right, then i don’t want to be a part of it. Why is it that this generation of young muslims feel that their parents religious values were not enough, were not strict enough? Why do they feel they need to take it a step further. As far as I'm aware, more muslim scholars agree that wearing the niqab is not compulsory whereas wearing the hijab is. So where is the need? Why does the hijab not suffice?

It is not just for symbolisms sake that i am against the niqab. I feel it has no place multi-cultural Britain in a practical sense. Especially in the case of niqabis who are studying at university and hope to pursue a career. Whether you like it or not, niqab does scream out the word “alienation”. You are merely giving in to the negative stereotyping of muslims. How do you expect to get a decent job if you wont even show your face to your employer? It clearly sends out the message, “i do not want to integrate, i do not want to talk to you, i am stuck in the past”

The hijab on the contrary, i absolutely endorse. I think it is a liberating force which allows muslims to stay faithful to Islam but still allows you to be approachable and practical. It does not in anyway hinder communication or give off a sense of isolation.  I can imagine and will probably be proven right in thinking that a woman wearing a hijab can have a perfectly successful career with little obstacles. For women wearing the niqab, I'm afraid i cannot say the same….

3 Responses to “Niqab; a step too far?” [image]UmmNoor Says: March 19, 2008 at 11:46 pm

I am a white British revert to Islam and I wear the niqaab. Why did I take this step? Simply because I want to do as much as I can to earn reward from God, and this is one way I can do it. Aside from that, I love the extra privacy the niqaab gives. It’s not due to any cultural or family reasons that I am wearing it. As for niqaab sending out the message “I don’t want to integrate”, well I feel that is partly true. Yes, I will integrate in the sense that I will carry out my daily duties, interact with the people I have to, do whatever I need to - but - I draw the line somewhere, and the line for me is that I will keep my physical attributes hidden to people who don’t need to see them and will not gain any benefit from seeing them. As for niqaab being something “stuck in the past”, well would you then say hijaab is something stuck in the past also? What past are we talking about anyway, the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him)? If so, in my view this is a time we should ‘look up to’ as Muslims and take examples from. Were not the Wives of the Prophet, the Mothers of the Believers our best examples as women? Islam doesn’t change just because time passes and the world changes. It’s always there, obviously there are modern world considerations but the rules stay the same. If they covered, if they wore niqaab I will take that example whether people like it or not. On the issue of niqaab ‘not being compulsory’ well there’s differences of opinion between the scholars on that. Some say it’s obligatory, some say it’s highly recommended.

  1. monirabegum Says: March 20, 2008 at 1:58 am

First of all thank you for your comment. Debate is much encouraged and i wanted to hear the views of Muslims such as yourself.

When you say you want to earn as much reward from God. What do you mean? Do you mean to say that those sisters who walk about with a hijab on will not receive sufficient reward from God? Are they not modest enough because they dare to show their faces? What does a niqab provide that a hijab does not? I think it is arrogant of you to assume that wearing a niqab makes you more pious.

Secondly, you don’t have to answer this question but do you work? And if so what job do you do? If you do work i think it necessary to show your face to both employers and colleagues. Not in a vain sense that they need to see the beauty of your face but more in a practical sense. Facial expressions are crucial part to communication, they invoke friendliness and often determine trust. You cannot say that people will not benefit from them. Automatically a woman clad in black from head to toe depicts suspicion and unfriendliness whether or not that is the case.

Niqab is stuck in the past because it is form of cover practised by backward Islamic nations such as Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan. It is merely an extension of the purdah which was in no way religious but essentially a man made restriction to oppress women and their freedoms to preserve their own self serving notions of honour.

Let me ask you this if you support the niqab, would you support it if some Mullah interpreted some texts in the Qur'an to support the claim that women shouldn't go out at all, because it is immodest for anyone to see a woman’s silhouette. Would you go that far? Why don’t you go the whole hog and not talk to any man but your husband full stop.

Of course we should follow the Prophet’s example but we can not refuse to acknowledge th modern world and its progresses. To do so is to bury your head in the sand, pretend like things haven't changed when they have. Islam may not change but it always has context and for anyone not to acknowledge it, only sees religion in a superficial way. We cannot change the country we live in, so why can we not adapt. We all have to work, well most of us, we all have to make money and whether we like it or not we have to deal with non-muslims and their cultures. We can’t just pretend to do our own in not care about the picture as a whole.

Whether you like it or not, that’s the message you’re sending out. “I don’t want to talk to you, I'll do what i want and you have to respect it”. You can’t then turn around and be surprised when they don’t. If all Muslims girls in Britain started wearing niqab i don’t know where we’d be, we’d have schools full of girls whose beautiful faces will never be seen, who will growing up thinking it is wrong to talk to male teachers or sit next to boys. That is my main point, i hate the message you guys are sending out to the next generation, the “don’t integrate”. That’s what matters, how you influence people and frankly as nice a person as you may be and i have no doubt that you are, it is what you represent that i am against.

There is nothing wrong with anyone seeing someone’s faces. Sexual organs and maybe even hair are a different matter but if we cannot openly show our smiles to the world, what is the point? Where’s the common sense in that, its ludicrous! We may as well not exist.

As for the hijab, no it is not stuck in the past, i have seen women wearing western clothing with a hijab, i have yet to say the same for someone wearing a niqab. I have seen women pursue careers without it being a hindrance, i have yet to say the same thing. It is both modern, friendly, moderate, dynamic and modest, can you say the same for the niqab. I think not…

  1. Z Says: March 30, 2008 at 1:31 pm

What if the scholars that say that its compulsory are proved to be right on the day of judgement. How will you feel? do u understand what a mehram is? a woman cannot travel a certain distance with a mehram alone. Sorry for any offence. 

http://monirabegum.wordpress.com/2008/03/08/niqab-a-step-too-far/ 

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