Why Do Women Wear The Niqab

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.

Why Do Women Wear The Niqab
Why Do Women Wear The Niqab

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?



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Hey, I'm Forest, owner and writer at FrugalZeitgeist.com. I used to be a graphic designer but now I travel a fair bit and blog for a living. I love all the standard other stuff such as movies, music and socialising :).

22 thoughts on “Why Do Women Wear The Niqab”

  1. In a nutshell, women need to wear the niqab because men can’t control their urges. How would wearing this be a ‘choice’? Muslim women who wear the niqab may feel that they have the choice, but in reality they do so because if they don’t they will be criticized by society-men in particular and women who have been brainwashed to believe it is for their own well being that they do so. I am not a feminist by any means, but who are we kidding, they have no choice. Is this repression definitely, again due to the fact that men worry about their own behaviour around women – how is that the woman’s issue? Why should they be forced to wear the niqab? Until niqab wearing women admit that they are repressed, that they have no choice, there will not be change.

    1. Hey Kiran, I absolutely understand that side but isn’t this the same reason women in Western society have to cover their breasts and men don’t?

      1. Women in Canada DON’T have to cover their breasts.
        The poor US has always been ‘behind’ so they still cover up, fear.

        Why should a woman be made ‘responsible’ for a man’s actions!??

  2. Do you genuinely feel that Western women who have to cover their breasts feel repressed? I think the only ones that feel they are losing out on women’s ‘lack’ of freedom regarding their breasts are….the men. This is comparing apples to oranges, I have to believe you see that.

  3. Some natives in South America wear “ponchos”, pants to knee level for men, long bell dresses to the ankles for women. When they travel to Norh America, Europe or any other part of the world, they dress western world like, you may see them dress in their traditional attires, but that’s is really unusual. Once i asked some of this natives visiting Canada, why they weren’t in their natives costumes, they told me bluntly “we are not in South America, out of respect for the “american” culture, we dress like them”.

  4. Like many of us, we too immigrated to Canada, and we have been proud Canadians ever since!
    We all have our own religions and our own Culture backgrounds. We have our ethnic Societies, many with their own Cultural Centres. We meet few times a year. We celebrate Mothers and Fathers Day where our children recite poems in our own languages, we sing, and we dance. We discuss events in our homelands, etc. BUT! We would not even think on forcing our religion, or our cultures on others.

    Respect your fellow citizens! Keep it in your homes, and your own cultural circles! But, don’t push it on others! Because, the rest of the space is shared with millions of others, ON EQUAL FOOTING!
    If you want to be an RCMP officer, wear the proper uniform, not a turban and a ceremonial knife! Or, cover your faces.
    (As far as I know, one of the many Mohamed’s wives was very beutiful and men were staring. Finding it annoying, she started wearing a veil. Many women followed suit, at the time it being mostly a fashion fad.
    Eventually, somewhere along the lines, it was incorporated into the religion.)

    We follow CANADIAN LAWS! If any of us think otherwise, we should pack and go back to our own country!

    If you wish to partake of the Canadian generosity, please respect Canadian Culture, and Canadian Laws.


  5. The fact that western women have to cover their breasts & men don’t is discriminatory & I hope that one day western people can transcend this discriminatory practice but what hope do we have of that now that we have Islam to deal with?
    I don’t know what the world is coming to it’s like we are returning to the dark ages of religious tyranny instead of heading for a future where all people can feel a sense of safety & equality.
    You can compare the Niqab to the fact that western women ware a bra while western men are free to go topless but let us also note that topless beaches for all have been on the rise over the last few decades in the west, that’s progress that’s equality that’s our way don’t let Islam derail us.

  6. My interpretation of a women having her head covered is that she is not to be bald, hair is a covering.
    As for topless, it is legal in Ontario, Canada as women fought for the right, and our courts ruled that the breast is not a sexual organ, yet these same women are the first to yell sexual assault when a man grabs her breast, a non-sexual organ. Go figure!
    Context or perception?

    1. why not allow african tribes who don’t wear anything and let them fight for their freedom and religion in canada. i suppose all men will then be thrilled?
      islam and burka has it’s place. keep it to your own homes and temple than forcing upon us all.

  7. When in Rome, do as the Romans, when in a Muslim country, do as the Muslims, when in Canada or America do as Canadians or Americans. If you don’t want to respect and follow their culture, then stay home.

    1. Agree. You said it all. Also, keep your radicals back home too. We are civilized and please keep it that way. Women are beautiful and should be proud to show their face and makeup.

  8. “….closer to go and more like Mohammed’s wives.” Was that slip intended?
    In the bible women who covered their faces were prostitutes – this allowed them to live with dignity.

  9. ok let me clarify some points about the hijab and modesty. women choose to wear the hijab to be viewed as respectable, modest and to avoid harassments from men. Women want to avoid “objectification” as not to be regarded as sexual objects, instead they want to be view as “subjects”, have intellect, ability and talents. Women are naturally beautiful and men get attracted to them, thats law of nature. But women want to be seen under a different light as “human being” rather than sexual objects, thats why they want to wear the hijaab, not forced in to it . Hijaab provides them with protection from rape, molestation, exploitation etc. it gives the society a message that we are decent and modest.
    Canadian law and culture is fighting for the right to show off breasts, which are ones private parts but they have objection and resentment towards women who want to cover head and face??? and appear as decent human beings???

    1. how can you say that women choose to wear the hijab/niqab because they want to be viewd as women with intellect ability? That can not be further from the truth – In this day and age there are Muslim countries that deny women the basic right to vote, to go to school, to speak freely. THESE are the rights that add to intellect not the fact that one has chosen to wear the niqab. You also mention it protects women from rape/molestation? How can you say this when in some Muslim countries female genital mutiliation is still practiced! How is this keeping a women safe?? Please do not hide behind your veil and say that you do so because it is your choice, it is not your choice and never has been. When will you come out from the shadows of your men and say your are not afraid to stand up.

  10. BAN this everywhere!!!! This is CANADA we dont hide ourselves here! So tired of all this bending over for other cultures that have no respect for Canadian values

  11. What little I hear about Islam & muhammed just shows me what a bunch B.S. it all is, and how a lot of people have been brain washed for thousands of years into believing this insain B.S. , this is just another “MAN” made religion amongest many other “MAN” made religions. I don’t think most people have a clue what GOD is about.

  12. It is not a RELIGIOUS practice, it is CULTURAL. There is a big difference. The sooner people acknowledge this and take the religion angle out of the equation, the sooner this matter will be resolved. France and Canada are both Christian countries, but in one country women walk around topless while in the other they cover up their breasts. It’s CULTURAL and freedom of religion has no place in the argument.

  13. Wow, talk about the dark ages… I am a fourth generation Canadian AND I am a Muslim. I do not have a country to go back to, this IS my country. It is my right to practice my chosen religion and if anyone has a problem with this it is their problem, not mine. The fact that you assume that all Muslims are new immigrants shows just how closed minded you really are.

  14. I published everyones comments but am a little dismayed at the border-line hate. If the colonists had respected the country when they arrived in North America then the Natives would still be in charge and would have never been subjected to the humiliation they have had to deal with over the last few hundred years.

    Islam isn’t ‘taking over’. Although I don’t agree with the practise of wearing a full niqab, when it is a personal religious choice I think it is only right to accept that. Sure when cases of forced wearing are happening people need to be helped and I know its hard to judge what is what but that is the way life and people are.

    Countries should be proud of their tolerance and diversity, a lot of the time when people become immigrants it’s because the place the come from is terrible, now we should open our arms and welcome them.

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