I disdain the niqab

I’m quite frankly nauseated of the constant hypocritical chatter about the face veil aka niqab. This cause du jour should really be sold for what it truly is and not some foolish attempt at equating dress to women’s rights. While the French may be attempting to ban it, there are some interesting viewpoints from the Muslim world that need to be analyzed first before accusing the French of being “haughty”.

It is hard for me, as a Muslim woman, to accept the argument of niqab being that of a choice. In some areas of the Mid East and Muslim world, women are not given the option of wearing (or not wearing) face veils. Take Saudi Arabia for an example. Women must wear head to toe covers unless they are foreign. Further, if a female Saudi national has been discovered by the Religious Police as not being properly covered, she usually gets a few swats with a baton or could be arrested and flogged.

The Taliban was also renowned for their punishments for women who do not “properly veil”. Women were also beaten with sticks or flogged. While this law has changed in Afghanistan, many women feel that they still have to wear the burqah or else. These ridiculously oppressive ideas have started to spread into other areas of the Muslim world where women are being pressured into wearing niqab by family members or by society.

Women wearing niqab used to be a rarity in many Muslim countries like Egypt, Jordan, or Palestine. Yet through savvy media usage, extremely conservative Muslims have found audiences ready to hear about the importance of face veiling and the restriction of dress among women. They site sexual harassment rates, the beauty of women, amongst other issues and use it as a way to control the masses. It’s propaganda for those who see it as manipulation and for those who agree, it’s dawah to an increasingly “unislamic” society.

These “unIslamic” Muslim societies also have variations of bans on the niqab. In some places, niqabis cannot gain employment in the public sector, in others, they cannot enter college campuses, and in some places, the niqab is not allowed in public at all.

And let’s face it-the niqab is not Islamic in origin. Pagan Sumerian priestesses covered their faces around 5000 B.C. Byzantine and Persian high society women wore face veils so everyone knew they were not of the lower classes. Arab pagan clans were also known to wear face veils in ceremonies and others wore it so that the women were distinguished from the female slaves. This sort of “I’m better than you” idea surrounding the face veil is something that I have come across from time to time.

The few niqabis that I do know or have talked to, have given me a few different reasons for their wearing of face veils-one, from a Saudi woman who said she’d worn it for so long, she didn’t know how not to wear it, to a couple of Egyptian women who said that their husbands thought they were too pretty, too sexy not to wear it, to the Americans who say it was part of Islam but had never read it in the Qur’an, and finally the lone Northern Star in the sky-the Pakistani lady who said, “I believe that God requires me to wear it and I do it because God wants it.”

I disdain the niqab. It’s a cultural practice, like many practices, that somehow were adopted by Muslims or were practices by cultures that accepted Islam through the growth of the Islamic Empire. Yet, I do not believe I have any right to tell a woman she cannot wear it any more so than I can tell her she must wear it-it’s a personal choice that should be of the idea that it is for God and not due to vanity.

This is not the argument the French are making. The French are terrified that they will become a colonized country just like the many that they were colonizing for centuries. It is the idea that they will eventually lose their sense of self, their dedication to their heritage and culture, and that they will become something of what they destroyed in faraway lands. So they pick at something vulnerable-the dress and treatment of women.

The treatment of women in the Muslim world cannot be ignored or twisted into some sort of weird utopia that does not exist (One could easily make the argument that Muslim women are not as oppressed as Western women). This arena must be fixed so the real reason for the ban, “xenophobic/islamophobic principles” can be shown for what they are. The niqab is the carrot and stick for both sides. It’s just a matter of who learns what will be the benefit in the long run.


  • innominepatri says:

    ???That they were colonising for centuries???? Don???t you mean to say ???that their long dead ancestors were colonising for centuries????

    It seems doubtful there are many French people alive today that participated in the ???centuries of destruction??? alleged above.

    The exact same argument may be applied to Britain, Spain, Belgium, The Netherlands, Italy?? the list goes on.

    Show me one man alive today who actively participated in the pillaging of an Empire, and you???ll have a man worthy of your enmity.

    99.9% of Europeans alive today just happened to be born into a society where colonialism once occured. Why should they fear the repercussions of something they played no role in whatsoever?

    Would you put a man on trial for the crimes of his grandfather?

    And if so, would you put him on trial for the crimes his grandfather was forced to commit on pain of death?

    One theme that keeps on appearing in this debate is this sense of persecution of the moslem world, but perhaps it should be considered that these moslems may be the aggressors here.

    The veil is not religious, it is entirely cultural; that much we have established, but I have yet to read a post on the niqab where anyone considers how it is percieved in these host western cultures.

    It is considered aggressive. It is considered vulgar. It is considered offensive. There is no place for face coverings in any of the Western cultures. There are numerous reasons why.

    One of them is this:

    In the Bible the veil is the mark of a whore:

    ???When Judah saw her, he thought she was a prostitute, for she had covered her face.???
    Genesis 38:15

    Understanding is halfway to forgiveness, but there is a growing sense in the Western world that we have been very understanding, and still we are asked to forgive.

    Perhaps the key issue here is considering others?

    ???Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses????
    Jesus replied, ??????You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.??? This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ???Love your neighbor as yourself.??? The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.???
    Matthew 22:36-40.

    There is something I would ask you to consider when reading the comments and posts of your brothers and sisters here:

    Do any of their opinions remind you of the following quote?

    “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.”
    George Orwell; Animal Farm.


  • ghina says:


    On what basis would you say that a veil is aggressive? 

    If it was so vulgar and offensive why would brides wear it on their wedding day?

    Finally jewish exegesis states that Tamar was not recognized as a whore because she veiled.  Rather she was not recognized at all because she was veiled at every other encounter with her father-in-law.  See <http://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/tamar-midrash-and-aggadah&gt;

    Is there some kind of misunderstanding?

  • seghni says:

    the poster who doubted that there are any Frenchmen alive who participated in the pillaging of an Empire should talk to my father-in -law who fought to get the French out of his country,Algeria,which only gained independence fron France in 1962!

  • innominepatri says:

    @ ghina:

    On what basis would you say that a veil is aggressive? 

    It is culturally taboo – most western nations have much experience with terrorism – the IRA in Britain and ETA in Spain being great examples. And what do terrorists do? They cover their faces. A great example of the cultural perception of face coverings would be this:


    Or this:


    Or this:


    Unfortunately for niqabi’s, face coverings and terrorism are irrevocably linked in the western European mindset.

    It’s a question of cultural relevence, and it is extremely inconsiderate of anyone to impose a visual symbol of cultural ignorance and intolerance upon any host culture so deeply affected by decades of such travesties and the accompanying bombardment of such imagery in all forms of media.

    Of course, taking the British as an example, they also become very much single mided in the face of such aggression.

    Two world wars, in which the people were constantly in fear for their lives and loved ones, and latterly of total destruction, followed by decades of indiscriminate mass murder by groups such as the IRA cultivates a certain ‘keep calm and carry on’ mentality – being faced with something so tasteless at this point does not challenge preconception, it reinforces prejudice. As do terrorist atrocities in the name of God.

    It’s a perfect example of moslems failing to help themselves in public perception. Beauty is, after all, in the eye of the beholder. Evidently, so is malevolence.

    The wearing of face coverings is already illegal in the UK, and has been for some time, if it is believed they are being worn to hide the wearers identity. Look it up.

    This of course predates a significant Moslem population – it is related to the banning of the balaclava as an illegal political uniform. But still, there remains the point of law that the Niqab is there solely to hide the wearers identity (face = identity if we are totally honest), and therefore any Niqabi could be prosecuted for wearing one in the UK today. They would not be, because the British are a considerate people in general, but they could be; they are technically criminals.

    If it was so vulgar and offensive why would brides wear it on their wedding day?

    Superstitious pagan tradition. You should note that weddings are ordinarily private ceremonies, they hardly go shopping in a veil. They definitely do not go in a bank with their face covered – that would be a crime. You should also consider the world of difference between western wedding dress and eastern burqa. In the west, they hide blemishes, not the face. In the east they hide identity, warts and all.

    One final point is the antiquity from which they derive the use of the bridal veil. One good argument is the veil worked as medieval makeup.

    Is there some kind of misunderstanding?

    No, she disguised herself as a whore (which she was not) to become pregnant by her father in law, who would not have slept with her otherwise. In the bible, veil = whore. Of course, the morality of sleeping with a prostitute is a different debate.

    NB Judaism is not the only authority on Bible study.

    @ seghni:

    Algeria only gained independence fron France in 1962!

    That would be forty nine years ago then? Given the average age of a soldier at nineteen, they would be sixty eight years old. I’d say again; would you punish a man for the crimes of his grandfather?

    And a soldier of around seventy will have played a role in the rebuilding of Europe after World War Two.

    Maybe you should thank the Western European nations for standing up to Hitler? If they had accepted his constant pleas for peace as Germany’s Aryan brothers, there would be likely no-one left alive but white western Europeans. And perhaps their slaves. Hitler was not a nice man, and neither were his friends.

    Those people you suggest raped and pillaged your country (an arbitrary section of landmass) signed up to help rebuild the world, and their brothers, fathers and grandfathers defended it from the greatest evil the world had ever faced – genetic racism. That means white people fought white people for your right to exist. Millions died. For you, your freedom of religion, and your freedom of expression. And mine too.

    It would be a shame if those they fought for were to remove freedom of expression or freedom of religion from themselves (Afghanistan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Egypt, Iran), and a sin if they were to remove it from others. People died, armies crumbled, empires shattered – for you. There should have been no occupations or colonialism afterwards, that much is certain. The rest of the world should have paid a tribute of thanks to every nation involved in combatting such great evil, and then there would have been no need for it.

    The guys you see as agressors were ordered to do the things they did – blame the governments, not the heroes forced to commit horror in their name. I’d say again, would you punish a man for the crimes his grandfather was forced to commit on pain of death?

    If it wasn’t for those governments and soldiers, the world would be a very dull place. A very stable place, but very dull.

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