The Veil (Hijab) and the Face-Veil (Niqab/Nikab)
- Written by Sultana Yusuf Ali (17 yr old)
- Category: The Veil (Hijab) and the Face-Veil (Niqab/Nikab)
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An insightful and personal account of why a Western teenage girl would reject the 'wonders' of fashion, and want to cover herself in the Hijab (veil).
I probably do not fit into the preconceived notion of a “rebel”. I have no visible tattoos and minimal piercing. I do not possess a leather jacket. In fact, when most people look at me, their first thought usually is something along the lines of “oppressed female”. The brave individuals who have mustered the courage to ask me about the way I dress usually have questions like, “Do your parents make you wear that?” or, “Don’t you find that really unfair?”
A while back, a couple of girls in Montreal were kicked out of school for dressing like I do. It seems strange that a little piece of cloth would make for such a controversy. Perhaps the fear is that I am harboring an Uzi machine gun underneath it! Of course, the issue at hand is more than a mere piece of cloth. I am a Muslim woman who, like millions of other Muslim women across the globe, chooses to wear a Hijab. And the concept of the Hijab, contrary to popular opinion, is actually one of the most fundamental aspects of female empowerment. When I cover myself, I make it virtually impossible for people to judge me according to the way I look. I cannot be categorized because of my attractiveness or lack thereof. Compare this to life in today’s society: We are constantly sizing one another up on the basis of our clothing, jewelry, hair and makeup. What kind of depth can there be in a world like this?
Yes, I have a body, a physical manifestation upon this Earth. But it is the vessel of an intelligent mind and a strong spirit. It is not for the beholder to leer at or to use in advertisements to sell everything from beer to cars. Because of the superficiality of the world in which we live, external appearances are so stressed that the value of the individual counts for almost nothing. It is a myth that women in today’s society are liberated. What kind of freedom can there be when a woman cannot walk down the street without every aspect of her physical self being “checked out”? When I wear the Hijab I feel safe from all of this. I can rest assured that no one is looking at me and making assumptions about my character from the length of my skirt. There is a barrier between me and those who would exploit me.
I am first and foremost a human being, one of the saddest truths of our time is the question of the beauty myth and female self-image. Reading popular teenage magazines, you can instantly find out what kind of body image is “in” or “out”. And if you have the “wrong” body type, well, then, you’re just going to change it, aren’t you? After all, there is no way you can be overweight and still be beautiful. Look at any advertisement. Is a woman being used to sell the product? How old is she? How attractive is she? What is she wearing? More often than not, that woman will be no older than her early 20s, taller, slimmer, and more attractive than average, and dressed in skimpy clothing. Why do we allow ourselves to be manipulated like this? Whether women today wish to believe it or not, they are trying to be forced into a mould. The woman today is being coerced into selling herself, into compromising herself. This is why we have 13-year-old girls sticking their fingers down their throats to vomit and overweight adolescents hanging themselves.
When people ask me if I feel oppressed, I can honestly say no. I made this decision of my own free will. I like the fact that I am taking control of the way other people perceive me. I enjoy the fact that I don’t give anyone anything to look at and that I have released myself from the bondage of the swinging pendulum of the fashion industry and other institutions that exploit females. My body is my own business. Nobody can tell me how I should look or whether or not I am beautiful. I know that there is more to me than that. I am also able to say no comfortably when people ask me if I feel as if my sexuality is being repressed. I have taken control of my sexuality. I am thankful I will never have to suffer the fate of trying to lose/ gain weight or trying to find the exact lipstick shade that will go with my skin color - just to show the public at large. I have made choices about what my priorities are and these are not among them.
So next time you see me, don’t look at me sympathetically. I am not under duress or a male-worshiping female captive from those barbarous Arab deserts. I follow the Law of God, I’ve been liberated!
- Written by Mary. C. Ali
- Category: The Veil (Hijab) and the Face-Veil (Niqab/Nikab)
- Hits: 4700
"Why do Muslim women have to cover their heads?"
This question is one which is asked by Muslims and non-Muslims alike. For many women it is the truest test of being a Muslim.
The answer to the question is very simple - Muslim women observe Hijaab (covering the head and the body) because Allah has told them to do so., "O Prophet, tell your wives and daughters and the believing women to draw their outer garments around them (when they go out or are among men). That is better in order that they may be known (to be Muslims) and not annoyed..." (Qur'an 33:59)
Secondary reasons include the requirement for modesty in both men and women. Both will then be evaluated for intelligence and skills instead of looks and sexuality. A school girl was quoted as saying,
"We want to stop men from treating us like sex objects, as they have always done. We want them to ignore our appearance and to be attentive to our personalities and mind. We want them to take us seriously and treat us as equals and not just chase us around for our bodies and physical looks."
A Muslim woman who covers her head is making a statement about her identity. Anyone who sees her will know that she is a Muslim and has a good moral character. Many Muslim women who cover are filled with dignity and self esteem; they are pleased to be identified as a Muslim woman. As a chaste, modest, pure woman, she does not want her sexuality to enter into interactions with men in the smallest degree. A woman who covers herself is concealing her sexuality but allowing her femininity to be brought out.
The question of Hijab for Muslim women has been a controversy for centuries and will probably continue for many more. Often forgotten is the fact that modern Western dress is a new invention. Looking at the clothing of women as recently as seventy years ago, we see clothing similar to hijab. Those active and hard-working women of the West were not inhibited by their clothing which consisted of long, full dresses and various types of head covering.
Even more so, Muslim women who wear Hijab do not find it impractical or interfering with their activities in all levels and walks of life. Hijab is not merely a covering dress but more importantly, it is behavior, manners, speech and appearance in public. Dress is only one facet of the total being. The basic requirements for a Muslim woman's dress also apply to the Muslim man's clothing with the difference being mainly in degree. For men, modesty requires that the area between the navel and the knee be covered in front of all people except the wife. The clothing of men should not be like the dress of women, nor should it be tight or provocative. A Muslim should dress to show his identity as a Muslim. Men are not allowed to wear gold or silk. However, both are allowed for women.
For both men and women, clothing requirements are not meant to be a restriction but rather a way in which society will function in a proper, Islamic manner.
- Written by Nusaybah Ali
- Category: The Veil (Hijab) and the Face-Veil (Niqab/Nikab)
- Hits: 4343
In the past few weeks a British MP sparked a huge controversy in the U.K. on the Muslim woman’s dress commonly referred to by non-Muslim westerners as "the black veil" and by Muslims as the Niqaab. I watched the controversy as it grew fiercely spreading across the western world and how it was being portrayed in the media. Many westerners began preparing for a mighty confrontation with the Muslim women who live in their countries and who still choose to wear Niqaab. Sadly, many westerners have presumed all of them have immigrated from "back home".
Some of them describe the wearing of the Niqaab by Muslim women as “backward”, “uncomfortable for them”, and in the words of the British Prime Minister Tony Blair it is a, “mark of separation”. But although they express their feelings towards it in many ways, the overriding question on the mind of many westerners appears to be: Why are some Muslim women who are not forced to wear Niqaab still choosing to do so in free western countries?
Indeed, many westerners are baffled by this, and instead of trying to understand they turn to their own alternative explanations such as, “They must be brainwashed” because saying these women are “oppressed” just doesn’t cut it anymore. As for these westerners, then I as a Muslim woman who wears Niqaab says: leave them to their ignorant assumptions for it is the same whether we explain to them or do not explain to them; they have chosen not to understand. But there are other westerners who when they see me on the streets look more curious than cruel. And many sincerely wonder the reason for us turning to this traditional Islaamic dress when we simply aren’t forced to. And as for them perhaps it is only more of an explanation from a veiled Muslim woman that they want, and to know how Niqaab benefits us and to them I say fair enough. I have chosen to write this piece for them (specifically) and I sincerely hope that it serves well in explaining this to them.
I have witnessed many non-Muslim western writers and self-proclaimed intellectuals set out to try and explain for themselves how we, the Niqaabis, feel about Niqaab and constantly suggest it is not possible for a rational woman to want this. But I wonder what makes them qualified to speak from the Muslim woman’s perspective on Niqaab. Is there anyone more qualified to say how these Muslim women feel about wearing Niqaab other than one of these Muslim women themselves? So here I go to explain to you the benefits of wearing Niqaab. Before i do so, here is some relevant background information about me:
1. I was born and raised in Canada my whole life and therefore am (of course) a Canadian citizen; the only other country I have been to was the United States. Therefore, occasionally when I am shouted at to "go back home" to my own country I’m not really sure how to.
2. English is my first and only language.
3. I am considered educated by both Muslims and non-Muslims alike, and I hope by my writing you have observed this on your own.
4. No one on planet earth has forced me to wear Niqaab and at any moment, if i wish, I can take it off and there would be no real consequences from others for doing so. Similarly, no one forces me to defend wearing Niqaab or to speak well of it, and this I also do by choice.
5. At age nine I was told to wear the Muslim headscarf (commonly referred by Muslims as Hijaab) but was able to do so still running around in jeans and a shirt. In grade ten I progressed to wearing skirts on my own. In grade twelve I began wearing the long black robe (abaaya), which is often seen on Muslim women. Later on in the year, I began Wearing niqaab and then I wore a long and loose garment over my abaya, commonly referred to by Muslims as a Khimaar (a head-scarf which covers the hair, ears, neck and ches)]. Then finally, to top it all off, I began to wear gloves. I love dressing like this and am happy to. Thus, I progressed to dressing this way, and most of my life did not do so.
6. Three years ago, I never thought I would ever wear Niqaab and had much disdain for it at the time. Silly me.
7. Among the women I know who wear Niqaab and have helped me to think differently about it are women who have converted to Islaam. Some of them are brown-skinned like me while others are white, black, Pilipino etc.
This is my perspective, and I hope you are now able to see its relevance to the issue at hand. Let's now go on to going through the many benefits there are for me and other Muslim women in wearing the Niqaab and in dressing modestly. Some of the benefits I’ve received were expected and others have surprised me. It may be wondered whether or not I'll mention any disadvantages of wearing it, but by Allah I know of no real or meaningful disadvantages that are of any concern to me.
Benefit 1: It is an Act of Worship that Can Yield Reward
Of surprise to many I’m sure, in Islaam it is well know that an act of worship goes beyond prayer. Wearing Niqaab and dressing modestly for the Muslim woman is also an act of worship, an opportunity to please Allah, which means a Muslim woman can be rewarded for it. Imagine the comfort I then feel to know that every time I wear it I may be rewarded for doing so and to constantly be wearing it throughout life takes its potential reward almost beyond imagination.
Benefit 2: You are Immediately Identified as a Muslim Woman
As women who dress like me are attributed to Islaam, there is no need to explain to others what religion I am from. Since people immediately know I’m Muslim many of them then expect certain behaviours of mine to be different from theirs because of my different religious teachings. In fact, many people kindly make way for my differences because of this acknowledgement. And truly, it is an honour to be identified as a Muslim woman.
Benefit 3: It Brings the Best Treatment from Men
I have found Muslim and Non-Muslim men alike treating me better than ever before since I began observing Niqaab. They move aside for me to let me pass, never come within my personal space, and practice decent behaviour when it is necessary for them to speak to me. You won’t find them making inappropriate gestures or remarks to me that would be deemed offensive. To my relief I am left peacefully alone to go about my business without the worry that I need to ward anyone off.
Often I’ve seen or have known of women becoming extremely angry because men who find them attractive would bother them and when these women demand that they stop these men do not take them seriously. To many men, the primary message a woman gives off is in her manner of dress which dictates to them how to treat her.
Benefit 4: More Clothes Means more Protection
When we dress in this manner around non-related men we do not incite their desires so that they may want to harm us. Rather, it effectively discourages them from bothering, molesting, or harassing us as the wearing of clothes and the covering up of beauty naturally calms the desires of the other gender rendering you to be left alone in peace. They have no business with us, and we cannot be deceived by them. And how often do we hear of young mothers becoming pregnant thinking themselves loved only to be abandoned when they are finished being toyed with. And how can a man desire a woman whose beauty is not even described to him? So naturally this type of dress is protection, it is the easiest protection to accomplish, and when we are in the company of our male relatives who would not harm us (like others men may) and in whom we can place our immediate trust regarding ourselves and our honour we don’t need to cover to this extent.
The vast majority of the time in fact we are not dressed this way. This same idea of protection can be applied regarding the two genders. As women are generally physically weaker than men and more vulnerable to this type of harm by them, she can balance out this disadvantage by wearing more clothes for protection. So weariiqaab is also befitting for our very nature as women.
Benefit 5: More Protection Means a Greater Feeling of Ease and Peace
Security is a human need that when felt naturally leaves a human being in a state of relief and encourages feelings of ease and peace. For me when I cover, I know I am shielded from every strange man who may have within them perversions, evil thoughts, or may commit lewd acts I may not know about. It is impossible to tell which of them may possess these ill traits in public, and so often do we find the most decent looking person to have committed the most heinous crimes. So we get to choose which men get to see us and we choose for them to be our male relatives (our honourable and beloved protectors). It is truly a unique power for a woman to have this choice. To know then that simply wearing Niqaab does away with much of these threats naturally leaves the Muslim woman feeling at ease and peace beneath the veil.
Benefit 6: It Makes Beauty Easy on Women
Many women nowadays, particularly in the western world, exhaust themselves before going out in public applying make-up, tending to their hair, and choosing an outfit to wear for the day; a process which takes some hours. Before heading out many cram their feet into outrageously uncomfortable high-heel shoes. Some women find the public pressure of body image so intense that they take to greater extremes and suffer from such disorders as bulimia and anorexia nervosa. Ironically, they call themselves free in doing so and equal to men yet do this primarily for the sake of men. And then upon coming home, these women in the presence of their spouse or family do not care to exert the same effort in tending to their appearance. For Muslim women it is the complete opposite, and the Niqaab plays a huge part in that. We need not struggle to please the many men outside of our homes who have no business with us but we need only please our spouse and family and that is a lot less people. After all, the relationship lies between a woman and her spouse, and not a woman and other men in society. Or at least from an Islaamic standpoint that is how meaningful relationships should be.
Benefit 7: It Helps to Preserve Praiseworthy Virtues
Among the virtues we Muslim women try to strive for, and indeed we consider them virtues, are the virtues of modesty and chastity. These are virtues all Muslims, whether male or female, strive for. When the women of society possess them then the whole of society benefits. That is because we find there is a direct link between how women of a society generally dress and how much temptation there is for men and women to fall into fornication, adultery, and other despicable acts. And it is these acts that destroy families and cause all of society to fall into corruption and weakness. Having these virtues also paves the way for gaining other virtues such as decency, honour, uprightness, integrity, piety, discipline, honesty etc. The Niqaab helps to preserve and maintain these virtues.
Many westerners mock Muslim women in veil, and praise other types of women such as Hollywood actresses and instead endeavour to be like them. I wonder what good example we can take from them. Even though these women can publicly be seen in movies performing acts that at one point in time were done only in a bedroom, they are still seen as a beacon of light for the many women of the western world and are constantly called role models. And I have never witnessed the condemning of their behaviour by westerners whilst the condemning of Niqaab and the wearing of modest clothes has been vicious. I fear it would be painfully hard and degrading to always attain their fake appearance, to be seen as a sex object, and to answer each call of this sickly vain society. So let it be seen by us in which way this leads to their happiness, goodness, and freedom. And let it be seen by us some meaningful and lasting relationships they are able to carry with their boyfriends, spouses and families as a result of their behaviour. We do not see it and we have not seen it. That is why, the behaviour of many western women and what they value can likewise be baffling to us Muslim women.
Benefit 8: It Means Freedom for Us
Can it be denied that everyone has their own notion of what freedom is? For Muslim women, freedom is not as absurdly simple as: the fewer clothes you wear the more free you are. And it does not mean you are able to do whatever you wish. We, as well as all Muslims, consider us bound by religion and our worship is to Allah not to our own vain desires. Freedom first comes to us in worshipping Allah alone and not ascribing partners to Him or giving what belongs to Him to others. This is freedom in that it satisfies the natural inclination of a human being to worship their Lord and does so in a manner that can be easily understood and that gives Him His due respect. The way Niqaab offers Muslim women freedom is that it frees us from all kinds of harm, which may come to a woman from many angles; further, it allows us to serve our Lord. Primarily I am referring to the harm that can be inflicted on women by men, when women incite their natural desires. And it also frees us from going against our nature, as we are allowed to have shame and we are not pressured into displaying our bodies to strangers. We are also freed from the expectation to please by way of our appearance every man in public - this is what we consider to be freedom. Even if westerners were to consider whether or not we are "free" according to their standards, even they would have to consider us free because we are doing what we want to do out of pure choice.
Benefit 9: It is a Befitting Action, Especially in Today's World
In the eyes of many, Niqaab is a backwards thing, a thing from the past, a tradition, and something no longer needed nowadays. On the contrary, I have found the need to wear it more than ever especially because harassment, molestation, and assault on women are more wildly rampant than ever as the morals of society as a whole have decreased. The Niqaab effectively shields against the increase of these crimes.
Although others may express their hatred for the Niqaab and those who wear it, it cannot be said by other than a Muslim woman who chooses to wear it how we feel about wearing it, and what we consider it to do for us. In light of this great Niqaab controversy I know of nobody more knowledgeable or experienced in the field of Niqaab other than the veiled Muslim woman. And I know of nobody's opinion being more relevant and important in the Niqaab debate other than hers.
Yes, I know of the Niqaab more than those who don’t wear it... And of my face-veil I know only good.
- Written by Bint Ahmad
- Category: The Veil (Hijab) and the Face-Veil (Niqab/Nikab)
- Hits: 4452
The following is a detailed dissertation on the Niqaab, with pictures and references.
Download (right click & "save target as")
*In order to access and view this PDF file you must have Adobe Reader installed.
- Written by Yvonne Ridley
- Category: The Veil (Hijab) and the Face-Veil (Niqab/Nikab)
- Hits: 5270
POLITICAL opportunist Nicolas Sarkozy forgot three fundamental lessons when he decided to denounce the burka.
The first one is that men should stay well clear of becoming embroiled in expressing opinions on women’s clothes, unless of course you happen to be called Lacroix, Gaultier, Lagerfeld or Ghesquiere.
This was a lesson learned the hard way by former British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw who was pilloried when he questioned the nikab after asking a female constituent to lift her veil so he could see her face.
Could you imagine him making the same request of any female members of the Saudi royal household during one of his galloping missions to the Middle East?
Foolishly Scotsmen Gordon Brown and John Reid, hailing from a country where men wear pleated skirts and paint their faces blue, then waded in with the grace of a couple of dancing bears.
Even the Bishop of Rochester - a man who wears a pointy hat and a purple dress - chipped in his dislike of the nikab, full face veil or burka.
Of course they were all despatched very quickly by Muslim women in Britain who proved themselves to be anything but oppressed, subjugated creatures. And just to show there'’s real solidarity across women of faith and no faith, quite a few western feminists expressed their disdain at Straw and co-while standing shoulder to shoulder with their Muslim sisters.
The second lesson is try and be sincere if you are taking up a cause. Sarkozy feigned his utmost respect for women by saying he felt the burka represented the unacceptable symbol of women'’s enslavement - today I can unveil him to be a purveyor of weasel words.
If he really cared about the subjugation of women he would seriously tackle the appalling levels of domestic violence French women suffer at the hands of French men - two million are victims of bullying, violent partners ... a staggering 400 are murdered by their spouse.
So how many women in France actually wear the burka? The answer is a very tiny minority - so much so that when the BBC'’s Emma Jane Kirby went to interview a burka-wearing woman in Paris she couldn’t find a single one!
The former BBC’'s Europe correspondent went to the Muslim quarter in the capital but all she could find were lots of women of North African origin wearing hijabs. She was given blank expressions and shrugs of the shoulder when she asked if any of them knew women who wore burkas - and the local Islamic dress shops didn’t stock any.
So why would Sarkozy launch such an onslaught on the burka, describing Muslim women who wear it as,
“Prisoners behind a grille, cut off from social life, deprived of their identity'?
As pointed out by one Islamic observer,
'“The irony is that many Muslim women would say the current headscarf ban in France has created exactly this situation for them”'.
Well the real reason had nothing to do with the burka and everything to do with Sarkozy putting pressure on the Liberal Left, throwing a few cheap shots at the expense of Muslim women while trying to pick up a few votes at their expense as well.
Sarkozy, like many male politicians, is pretty gutless so in a pathetic attempt to disguise his real motivations in wanting to pick up votes, he invents a proposed ban of the burka as a defence of women's rights. This, he knows will go down well with the French electorate who see veiled women as a threat to their liberal self esteem.
Using women to win votes is a common political ploy - I remember when Tony Blair and George W Bush claimed their invasion in Afghanistan was in defence of women’s rights and designed to liberate Afghan women.
Those two even used and pushed their own doting wives to stand in front of the world'’s media to justify their husband'’s invasion of the country - on a recent visit I can tell you there are few career women emerging from the rubble of Kabul.
So next time a politician tries to drive through any form of controversial measure or make a spectacular announcement, please don’t fall for the mealy-mouthed excuse that they're doing it for the liberation of women and/or ethnic minority groups.
Reading the weekend newspaper opinion pages and columnists, I was amazed at how many supposedly intelligent, feministas fell for the Sarkozy bull. But they did - hook, line and sinker exhibiting an astonishing shallowness in their writing.
I genuinely have a feeling Sarkozy is one of these weak-kneed, lily-livered men who trembles at the thought of empowered women. And I think the sight of a woman in a burka makes him feel inferior.
Could it be that because his wife - as beautiful as she is - has bared all for every man on the planet to ogle, that the very sight of a burka-clad female makes him feel insecure in his own relationship?
As any European schoolboy can testify from the pictures Blu-tacked to his ceiling, to the crumpled, sticky torn out, somewhat crusty pages of last year’'s GQ hidden under their bed, France'’s First Lady is the stuff of male fantasies.
I suppose there must be some men around who might get a kick out of the thought of pre-pubescent boys fumbling over pictures of their wife in the buff ... or even dirty old, syphilitic men playing with themselves, but I wonder if the pocket-sized French Leader (a mere 5ft 5ins tall) is secure and confident in his marriage to a much younger woman?
Consider this, if a woman chooses to be veiled rather than show her face to a man, is she doing so to protect her husband’s feelings, in which case she could be seen as being compliant and servile, or - more importantly - is she doing so to protect her own face from the violation of a man's eyes?
Could it be that some of these women, when peering out of their burkas at the French leader, feel so special that they do not want the likes of him staring at all of their features?
And this, I believe, is what disturbs Sarkozy because if burka-clad women don’t want to be peered or leered at by men like him then this would be seen not as a show of subjugation but a sense of female superiority.
Could it be that because every bloke on the planet who wants to, can study in detail every curve and crevice of his naked young wife, that the very sight of a burka-clad female makes him feel uncomfortable in his own relationship?
After all Mrs Sarkozy can be viewed in all her naked glory by anyone who can access the internet or a copy of last year’s GQ.
And then someone paid $91,000 for a naked portrait at a Christie’s auction in New York.
On top of that it appears someone stole hundreds of “highly intimate” images of France’s First Lady and an ex-lover a couple of months ago.
Fascinating stuff, but let’s not dwell too long on this subject, I'’ve yet to raise the third lesson Sarkozy needs to learn and that is: People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.
A quick scratch beneath the thin veneer of public office reveals the French leader to be a sauteur.*
And the source of this information is non other than the long-suffering Cecilia Sarkozy, who had to put up with 18 years of being married to a man with behavioural problems including being mean, cold and a serial womaniser.
In the book Cecilia, published by Flammarion in January 2008, she said of her husband,
"He has a ridiculous side. He is undignified. Nicolas doesn't come over like a president. He has a real behaviour problem ... He needs someone to point it out to him. I did it for 18 years and I can't do it any more. I am the last person who can do it."
These, and other, extracts incensed Sarkozy and his estranged wife'’s lawyers sought an injunction to prevent publication on the grounds that the book had invaded the former first lady's privacy – not that it was inaccurate. The former French first lady Cécilia Sarkozy, divorced in October 2007, is quoted as criticising her ex-husband's morals, his parenting skills and his fitness to be president.
That must have been extremely crushing and hurtful for France’s 'little emperor’. But no more hurtful than attacking and scapegoating harmless Muslim women. I wonder if he feels as though they are judging him from behind their veils?
Well we'’re all judging France'’s ‘Little Emperor’ now and the verdict isn’t a good one
*Sauteur: A vulgar term for a serial womaniser.
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