Why Do Women Wear The Niqab?
The Niqab is a face veil chosen by some muslim women to be worn in public and in-front of men or people they don’t know. We are all used to seeing women wearing the clothing and of course it’s drawn a lot of prejudice with some people declaring it as against women’s rights and other incidences seeing it being called a security risk. In fact France has recently banned the face veil and Canada just announced that it would be illegal for women to take the citizenship test with their face covered.
Even in Egypt, where I lived for two years, some universities banned the wearing of the full face veil. As far as I am aware there are no laws against the had covering, hijab, in any countries.
So why does an image of a woman with her face covered bring up so much controversy and why do islamic women dress in this way?
Why Do Women Wear The Niqab?
Why? – Women who wear the niqab or the burka (full body and face cover) do so to be modest and pious. The muslim faith has many interpretations and one passage in particular is seen to be the basis for the practise today. Some people interpret that the passage doesn’t imply all women even have to cover their hair so they chose to wear no head covering.
The passage translates, more or less, into English:
“O Prophet! Tell your wives and your daughters, and the believing women, to draw their cloaks (veils) over their bodies. That will be better that they should be known (as respectable woman) so as not to be annoyed. And Allah is Ever Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.”God is forgiving and kind.” [Quran 33:59 (Translated by Ahmed Ali)]
And it is a response to the harassment by the “hypocrites” which I believe referred to non-believers of the time. The basic interpretation could be said to be that you should cover and be modest so that men don’t harass you, something that women who veil on all levels still quote or follow today.
The actual face covering is a further interpetation of this and other passages that refer to the prophet Mohammed’s wives and their need to hide their faces. Some people who don’t veil would argue that this case was for the wives so that they did not get recognised but due to the relation between the practises of the wives and women in general some feel the interpretation was meant for all women.
In other reasoning even though the covering of face isn’t required for all women it could be seen as an extended and recommended act that will make you closer to god and more like Mohammed’s wives.
The veil has had a long history and there are records of face covering in arabia even before Islam with some byzantine women being thought to have covered and even records in earlier pagan religions.
Why the controversy? – People in general don’t adapt well to difference. Seeing women walking the street with their face covered still isn’t and may never be normal in places like the USA. The fact that it’s just the women who need to cover makes many people, including many muslims, feel that there is some part of repression and that the women must have been forced by her husband to wear the coverings. The truth is sometimes it is forced but often it is a genuine religious choice.
Why Do Women Wear The Niqab, My Thoughts….
Do I agree with the practise of wearing a face covering for women? Essentially I don’t agree it’s right but then who I am to tell people what to do? There are records in some Islamic cultures of men veiling at times out of respect for elders so the practise has not always just been a directly women aimed repressive one, at least not in all cases. I don’t think the veil of any sort should ever be law but I do think choice is just fine.
Imagine being a woman from somewhere that doesn’t dress the upper body and moving to USA. Having to cover your breasts in public could well feel like a repressive act and they may well view American women as oppressed in that sense. It’s always about perspective and understanding.
If forced, it is wrong in all circumstances, if a genuine choice then that is up to the lady. Next time you see a lady in a niqab or burka don’t be disgusted or afraid. Just treat them as another human being with different beliefs.
What do you think?