Friday, October 06, 2006

Jack Straw's Comments On The Veil

So Jack Straw wants to suggest that Muslim women ban themselves from wearing the veil [BBC].

Now before we get ourselves all worked up, let's examine and debate the issue a bit.

First, read Maliha's letter to an Imam who suggested in a khutba that women in the West should wear the Niqab. She also posted an update later.

Mr Straw's statements seem to be directed at the niqab which covers the whole face. In fact, I will come out with a stronger statement.

I wish all Muslim women would STOP wearing the niqab and the burqa. Simple hijab, yes. Niqab, no.

There, I said it. I think the Niqab is old fashioned, outdated, un-Islamic, and not helpful to practicing your religion at all. It has nothing to do with being pious. It's a piece of cloth. Some Muslim women are the first to say, judge me not by what I wear but what I am. And they are the first to pass judgment on a women not wearing the hijab. The courtesy of such a judgment extends both ways, sister.

The Quran discusses hijab here:
"Say to the believing man that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that will make for greater purity for them; and Allah is well acquainted with all that they do. And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; and that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what must ordinarily appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands..." (Qur'an 24:30-31)
From the verse, we see that Allah has only loosely defined the meaning of the word modesty. That's for the better, as different situations require different applications. In Saudi Arabia, where some men are lecherous pigs who do not know how to behave with a women, the niqab is a necessity. In the West, the niqab is a barrier.

In fact, there appears to be a hadith that contradicts the niqab.
Ayesha (R) reported that Asmaa the daughter of Abu Bakr (R) came to the Messenger of Allah (S) while wearing thin clothing. He approached her and said: 'O Asmaa! When a girl reaches the menstrual age, it is not proper that anything should remain exposed except this and this. He pointed to the face and hands." (Abu Dawood)
From the rules of pilgrimage, we know that a women must NOT keep her face covered while on Hajj. Clearly therefore, Allah does not think that a women who does not cover her face is immodest. Why then, must a women cover her face?

People forget that 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. I have seen many hijabis (and I mean MOST hijabis I have encountered) to forget this fact. I don't mean a slight on any sister, but sometimes it is better for these women to NOT wear the hijab. They are not ready for it, and crave the attention that the hijab denies them. Therefore they seek attention in other ways, more sinful than had they just left their hair uncovered.

Having said all of this, however, recall that last November, Imperial College of London decided to ban hijabs and hoodies. In addition, conditions for hijab wearing women in Europe have been worsening. Schoolgirls in France cannot wear the headscarf anymore, while several Dutch and German constituencies prohibit the women teachers in public schools from wearing scarves. Therefore, should the Minister's statements be seen in the context of this new anti-hijab mentality?

Reflecting on the issue for a bit, I don't think so. Given that I myself (and some other Muslims) say the same thing, it would be hypocritical of me to criticize him. Mr Straw has said he just wanted a debate on the issue within the Muslim community in the larger context of integration, and we should take him at his word. Allah has asked us several times in the Quran to not spy or suspect each other, and the Prophet has asked us several times, if possible, to take others at their word and believe good of them. Therefore we should show maturity and debate the issue.

Given the radicals that seem to be present in the British Muslim community, I am not too hopeful of this, though.

PS. BBC has good pictures of a hijab, niqab, almira and chaddor, along with descriptions.



Anonymous said...

Good points well made.

nalumoni said...

May be it's just me, but I am not entirely sure of what you're trying to say here...

mezba said...

Sid: thanx, as soon as I saw Jack Straw make the statements I thought here we go again.

Nowal: Yes, I was a bit long winded but here is the long and short of what I am saying:

I cannot criticize Straw for saying something I feel myself - I feel uncomfortable around women who wear the niqab, I find them threatening and frightening.

In this day and age in the west, I do not see why any woman would choose to wear it and I would like them all to stop doing so.

Straw's comments were made in the context of integration, not discrimination as in some other European states. Politically, he is quite left wing. People who are taking offense at his statements should reevaluate the situation.

Jacques Beau Vert said...

Well well well,

Here I thought your blog had lost a lot of its appeal since I first discovered it. But I see I was at the wrong blog - this is the one that used to fascinate me so much.

I don't know where you get the time to do two blogs - kudos.

I agree wholly with you. I do not think full face-coverings work in an intergrated and fully functioning society. It makes me extremely uncomfortable to be around women with their faces covered but for their eyes. To me, it is a discomfort springing from feminism (even though most claim to wear a veil by personal choice, it still makes me uncomfortable) and too strong a public display of religion (I am personally not religious - and am comfortable around less imposing symbols).

I do not like our multicultural society - I do not feel it is very multicultural. It is too segregated with too few bridges and not enough emphasis on common interest and ground. I very much want to live in a multiethnic state that shares and respects religions, not which is segregated. I too think Straw's comments are based not on discrimination but a desire for more openness and participation in the whole community.

Anonymous said...


I loved what you said.

Anonymous said...

Respect your right to hate the burkha. Wouldn't want to wear one myself. It's a complex issue, and your insights are really interesting. Would like to hear more from women on this too - they seem to get overlooked at least in the UK media

I can't avoid the nasty feeling though that our Jack is simply riding a bandwaggon. He doesn't really give a toss - but Muslim bashing is always a handy votewinner.

Andrew (Welsh, in Bangladesh)

Anonymous said...

I don't know much about Straw's. But I kind of disagree (with all due respect, :) ) with you on "Niqab is outdated, un-Islamic" etc. Niqab was fard (there is no second opinion about it, it's just a fact, I can get reference for you if you want, there are clear unambiguous verses in the Quran about it) for the wives of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). For the wives of Muhammad (pbuh), there were other restrictions too, among which was that they were not allowed to remarry after the death of the Prophet (pbuh). So, in that case you may argue niqab is not necessary for other women. However, it's actually a very Islamic thing, even though it may not be a requirement for all. Another argument is, believing women should follow their mothers, and the wives of the Prophet (pbuh) are the mothers of the believers.

Another thing I would disagree (even though it's only my opinion)is where you said when girls do wear hijab but don't act so islamically. Yes, I know what you are talking about and there is always an issue about misrepresentation and what not. But, you should look at each act independently. So, just because you see a hijabi, you should not expect her to be praying five times a day, even though they are both fard. Just like just because someone says, "I am muhammad", I couldn't expect him to be fasting in Ramadan or abstaining from alcoholic beverages. I think it will be arrogance to dismiss people's effort just because we don't see perfection in them. She/he may not be perfect in my eyes just as much as I may not seem perfect in his/her eyes.

Make distinction between the two men: someone who prays 5 times a day vs. someone who only prays once a day. The latter person: isn't he misrepresenting Islam? Should I go to him and say, you better not pray at all because you are not representing correctly. I don't think Allah will not give us partical credits. In fact, it's the partial credits that will save us in the Day of Judgement, as I doubt any of us in this century is doing anything the way we should. It's the effort, it's the sincerity, it's the desire to please God... all that counts. Everything counts.

So if you see a hijabi, no matter how screwed up she may seem, let's not discourage her from doing what she is doing... at the end of the day, that little scarf may be the first step and you don't know what she will be like tomorrow. We are all humans, never free from temptation, etc.

Hijab is a sensitive issue and I had to struggle a lot to start it and even to continue it in the early years, and I think we need to be a lot more supportive about it, as a community. I have people in my family that are athiest, or anti-Islamist, and they caused a lot of pain. But if I were to face so much negativities even from the Muslim community (which i did in Bangladesh), I couldn't be where I am today. I love America, and the Americans, most of these people, the non-Muslims, are extremely supportive when you want to do something.

People don't realize how harsh they are to the starters.
In the same line, if someone wants to wear niqab for the sake of Allah, who am I to stop her? How dare I say anything against her decision? At the end of the day, she ain't doing anything against the religion. In the same token, if a brother is drinking and doing haram stuff and still says, I believe in Allah and the last day; who am I to say he ain't a Muslim?
Who am I to say he better not call himself a Muslim?

Sorry the response kind of got too long. But I hope I got my message across.

Anonymous said...

Niqab may not be compulsory, but if Westerners can wear tank-tops in Muslim countries, Muslim women should also have the right to wear a Niqab there.

Its a shame you may find a niqab threatening & frightening, but its your opinion and I respect that.
But just like you "would like" women to stop wearing the Niqab, there are plenty of Muslims/non-Muslims who hate the Hijab.
I am sure you would claim a hijab is harmless, but just as you, in spite of being a muslim, dislike the Niqab, know that plenty of people disike you for just being Muslim and praying and fasting.


'liya said...

"People forget that 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. I have seen many hijabis (and I mean MOST hijabis I have encountered) to forget this fact." - That's so true!! Argh! I know too many girls like this! My mom and I often wonder why do they bother wearing one? My own theory is that some girls wear them because they think it'll help land them a guy. Okay, that's not a theory, it's a fact. It's been admitted.

I have no problem with the hijab as well, but I expect women who are representing our religion in their appearence to act as decent humans.

Anonymous said...


I think your views and comments are wonderfull and makes quite alot of sense..Thanks for your marvelous input, quite interesting and innovative.


mezba said...

Neena: thanx.

Andrew: That thought is always there. Want to grab attention - criticise the Muslims and ride the "oh the crazy Moooozlems are hurt again" wave. But he has raised a valid point, that the niqab is unnecessary. Muslims cannot criticize him when most feel that way themselves.

Sabrina: Thanks for the response. Yes, I do remember reading somewhere that niqab was obligatory on the Prophet's wives. But so were a lot of other things. For example, Tahajjud namaaz was obligatory on the Prophet. He also did Sawmul Wisal - which is fasting for over 24 hours straight.

I understand what you are saying about hijab being the first step - and if someone tried to ban hijab I would be the first to oppose them. However it does look bad when as a hijabi people are engaged in all sort of sinful activities-I would say the same of a brother in thobe and other mullah gear and then smoking weed (yes, happened in college).

But I cannot criticize Jack Straw's fear of the veil when most Muslims feel the same way.

mezba said...

MM: Thanks for your comments and the respect you gave to my opinion.

Yes I understand some people will hate me no matter what I do. The Quran says in Surah 109
1. Say : O ye that reject Faith!
2. I worship not that which ye worship,
3. Nor will ye worship that which I worship.
4. And I will not worship that which ye have been wont to worship,
5. Nor will ye worship that which I worship.
6. To you be your Way, and to me mine.

These people will never like you unless you completely become ONE of THEM.

However, the niqab is a different story. I dont believe you can be a more practicing Muslim if you wear the niqab. Rather, it's a hindrance to dawah, for example. You have to see, MOST muslim women don't wear it and MOST scholars don't consider it a requirement.

They say the greatest Jihad is to fight against your own temptations. But wearin the niqab means you are hardly interacting with anyone - so where is the jihad?

Liya: Yes, people should realise when they wear a distinctive piece of cloth as Muslims, the standard is different - they ARE representing Muslims - this is the same if a brother was in mullah gear and committing sins.

Shoaib: So this post was finally provoking enough to get you out of the woodwork, eh? ;-)

mezba said...

To everyone,

Though this post can be a strong one, it's good that we can agree to disagree in a civil manner. If there are protestors outside his office behaving radically, that looks bad.

Em said...

I fully endorse MM's first paragraph.

And Sabrina, amazingly well-put, ma sha Allah! I agree with what you said on this 100%.

Aisha said...

Mezba, I agree with every word. I dont want to say more because I've seen such debates get ugly, so I shall refrain from saying more. But I appreciate that you presented another perspective.

Anonymous said...

Salam! Thank you for taking time to reply, Mezba!

Since you have so many readers, I just thought we needed some more elaboration.
Tahajjud was fard on Prophet (pbuh). However, the Prophet, because of its such enormous benefit, also did express his (pbuh) wish about making it obligatory on the Muslims, "had it not been a hardship on them. and religion is not meant to be a hardship for anyone. But given that our Prophet would do it every night, shouldn’t we at the very least make an effort to emulate his way, out of our love for him? If we can emulate the hottest model in town just because we think s/he is hot, why couldn’t we emulate our Prophet, who, by most description, was a beautiful human being, inside and out?

In the same token, the argument I meant to make, which I didn't get to complete is that, the women that wear niqab tell that you are supposed to follow your mothers, out of love and respect for them and hence emulating their way of life, no less. And in that case, it is extremely important for them to wear niqab. Just like a guy should let his beard grow as a sign of emulating the Prophet (pbuh), or a Muslim leaves his bed for tahajjud. It of course shows a higher level of Taqwa, doesn’t it? So if someone puts herself for the challenge, I will be the first one to support and help her through the process as long as we have mutual respect for each other.

"But I cannot criticize Jack Straw's fear of the veil when most Muslims feel the same way."

Again, I have to admit, I did not even read Straw's article. I was responding to your writings. *sheepish face* Sorry! =I

But, when you say “most” Muslims, most Muslims these days are cultural Muslims. Most Muslims don't even do the minimum, (i.e. five prayers, siyam, hajj, zakat, hijab). Most Muslims are Muslim because of their parents, they didn’t even take the time to read the Quran or Ahadaith and hence know very little about their obligations as Muslims. If a person dies in our community, I can bet any amount of money that, “most” Muslims will have NO idea how to wash a dead body, even though “most” Muslims should have some working knowledge about that. So, there your definition of "most" Muslims is "most" because they don't even do the minimum thing, let alone thinking about going beyond the minimum passing grade, and niqaab is a lot more than just minimum.

About niqaabis' jihad: I met Shaykh Yusuf Estes' daughter and had a conversation with Yusuf Estes himself. The daughter was 16, and SHE decided not to go to school, and rather be home schooled, and SHE decided to wear niqab, and SHE decided to travel around with her father help him do da'wa. A 16 yr old, being home schooled, giving upon her dreams of going to a big name college, making money, all that!! You don't think that's Jihad??? A 16 yr old white girl, born and raised in America, no boyfriend, no party, no hanging out with friends, and all for the sake of Allah, you don't think that's jihad?? Shaykh Yusuf Estes was asked by us ( a bunch of girls) about niqaab and he told us that scholars had agreed upon that niqaab is not fard, however, if you can do it and want to do it for the sake of Allah, do you not think you will be rewarded. And he also told us his wife’s story that one time they were driving in Phoenix or somewhere crazy hot at night and his wife was getting really really warm. And when he said she should take off her niqaab, as this is in the middle of the night and really hot, she said sternly, “I wear it for Allah, not you.” And since then he never told her anything about her niqab. And niqab is a BIG deal, and all niqabis do take it seriously.

And with all due respect, I will say one more thing, and I will depart. "Some girls wear hijab to get a guy" or something like that!!
SubhanAllah, nothing could sound more derogatory than this to my ears. It saddens me to see how people look at these things with so much negativity and disdain. I went to Bangladesh this past summer and the only thing all the annoying aunties got past me was that I was getting flipping old, and about to go to grad school (hence over educated for any guy), and I will never get a guy because I have a hijab on, and how bucolic and uncultured I appear. And I tried my best to get a message across that I wouldn’t marry a guy like that anyway; and of course I am better than any of the guys being talked about, which sounds arrogant, but I am glad I said that. And then I come here and see this. Sad part is, we are in the western world and call ourselves modern and what not but still have not been able to look at ourselves as human beings, we can’t comprehend ourselves to be anything beyond our gender identity. We can’t look at a single girl and NOT think about her pitifully about her single status, even though she may be perfectly happy. We look at her, and think everything she does she does it to get a guy. SubhanAllah, how low is our opinion of our fellow sisters? Why do we make judgments on people’s intention? What do we know about what’s inside someone’s heart?

This discussion reminds me of the iftar of BD Association of New England that my mom almost forced me to go, because she was craving some Bengali touch, even though I don’t care AT ALL about this whole culture thing. At the iftar, I felt a conspicuous exclusion. A hall full of 300-400 Bengalis, sigh no one looked like me.
Should I be comfortable around them? Or should they be comfortable around me? Which way should I construct my question? One lady thought I was overly religious because I said, "Alhamdulillah, I am all right". The word Alhamdulillah scares people, but the kuffar says, "thank God," all of a sudden it's completely acceptable!

What is going wrong with this ummah? Really!

Once again, sorry about such a long response!. I promise I won't come back to this topic again, inshaAllah!

Wassalam! :)

'liya said...

@ Sabrina, I'm just curious, why shouldn't my opinion be low of girls who wear hijab to get a guy? My opinion of girls who wear nothing at all to get a guy is just as low. It sounds like a ridiculous reason to wear one. And a lot of girls let it be known that that's why they wear it... and I'm not just saying that, people I KNOW wear it for all the wrong reasons. I'm not trying to make any judgements on anyone's intention, only God knows the truth, but I'm saying that this is fact as it's from their mouths themselves!

I have nothing against the hijab and I think it's a beautiful thing, I'm just saying it should be worn for the right reason that I suppose "most muslims" don't seem to know...

Anonymous said...

interesting points.

by the way, Imperial College lifted the hoodie ban within about a month of the ban..the Union kicked up a fuss and they couldn't really sustain it...

Anonymous said...

the other thing in the whole hijab issue that goes beyond what the women are wearing and should they be wearing it is the reaction on the part of the men. it seems to be there's some sort of relationship between how much the women cover up and how lecherous the men are. and not necessarily in the way some people might think it is.

so as you rather amusingly point out, a lot of men in Saudi Arabia are rather lecherous - and the women are all cloaked up. so the standards change - are the men behaving themselves better? or are they lowering their standards of behaviour? i can say safely im far less harassed on the streets of London than on the streets of Dhaka. What might that suggest?

in any case i don't see why men should wriggle out of their responsibility as adults to control themselves - hey they ain't the only ones with sexual desires. but the Mullahs would have us think so and that it's the job of the women to keep them at bay. Modesty is modesty obviously but unfortunately the Mullahs are allowing men to think they don't have any agency or responsibility for themselves by shoving all the attention on how women should be behaving/wearing etc. Frankly they ought to be keeping their minds on other things. Very unfair in my opinion.Would it be seemly if i went and said to some man in a mosque oh excuse me your trousers are too tight i can't concentrate? no of course it wouldn't. WHy i should be keeping my eyes to myself! chi chi etc.

If they keep on like that i don't see how they can pretend the are being fair to women. And it looks bad on the religion that's what.

Personally that's why i wouldn't wear the hijab - if a man can't control himself if he looks at my hair, that ain't my problem - he needs to go to some civilized behaviour classes, or meet more women. Men need to get this message loud and clear. Actually I think most men are sensible about this but there's a small minority..

in a way i feel it sexualizes hair completely unnecessarily - in a similar way as excessive segregation fails to normalize behaviour between the sexes and actually makes contact when it happens far more sexual.

but in any case, its a woman's right to wear what she likes.

but i hear you about some women in hijabs being negative about other women who don't...a lot of unpleasantness about how 'you'll go to hell'. Not very nice or charitable is it?

mezba said...

Em: Noted.

Aisha: Another minister has now joined the "row".

Sabrina: wow, it's going to take some time to parse your comment *grin* but let me try.

First there are some things the Prophet told us not to try and emulate him - sawmul wisal (24+ hr fast being one of them). Similarly, there are some instructions given to Ummal Mumineen and meant for them only. Remaining unmarried as a widow is one of them. I believe niqab could be the other one.

See, I am having trouble connecting with the girl who decided to be homeschooled and give up contact with the world. That is not my Islam where women are to shun contact away from the world. There is nothing wrong with going to school for knowledge. Yes there are temptations but the struggle is truly when you can learn to control those temptations. I won't say anything more.

Liya: I know quite a few uncle and aunties who will say that girl is good because she is a hijabi. What I try to tell them is that hijab alone does not make good or bad.

Sonia: I didnt know about the lifting of the ban by Imperial.

Also, it's true that when women are harrased first question that people ask is what was she wearing. Here I have to be cautious, while it's not the women's fault that the men are misbehaving, if the woman is smart she would dress according to the locality. It won't be my fault if I am mugged, but I would not count money at 2 am in the open in Jane and Finch (a bad area of Toronto), if you know what I mean.

mezba said...

Again, to come back to the topic, it's not what we think of the niqab or the hijab but it's Jack Straw's comments. As a non-muslim he has the right to say what he did and the reaction of the muslim community in Britain should go a long way in proving the maturity/immaturity of the community. As can be seen from this panel, most are supportive.

See also: Jack Straw gets his debate

Anonymous said...

If you dont like the Niqab, dont wear it or dont marry a girl who does!

As I said previously, today they are criticising the Niqab, tomorrow they will criticize Muslims who dont integrate by not drinking in pubs or by demanding prayer areas.

And yes, some Muslims are seen to be "not blending" when they dont join their colleagues for a beer.


Anonymous said...

Thank you mezba for your response!
I appreciate the fact here, we all happen to disagree with each other, but AGREED to disagree in a civilized manner, and Alhamdulillah, that makes me proud!

Lakum deenukum waliya deen!



Anonymous said...

Since most muslims feel uncomfortable talking to a niqabi, it follows Jack Straw will be even more uncomfortable, and atleast he was honest in saying so. What I dont understand is the self importance of some people who wear the niqab and think this makes them better Muslims than one who doesn't. I am sorry but you want to live in this society you interact with it.

- Farah

Ify Okoye said...

If a person doesn't want to wear niqab they do not have to. But the principles of freedom and liberality that so many of these anti-niqabers like Jack Straw and Nonie Darwish claim to hold demand that a woman who wants to wear niqab is allowed to do so without being harassed otherwise those values are a mirage and do not go deeper than the veil.

Anonymous said...

going slightly off topic - i'd be interested to hear your thoughts on the Progressive Muslim Union of North America. No one this side of the Atlantic appears to have heard of them ( except the fatwa-issuing types)..

mezba said...

MM (8.06 am): Never faced the issue in Canada, I think most people understand here. Some people will be bigots no matter what.

Sabrina: Keep writing - I will be visiting your blog for no doubt your interesting take on the issue.

Farah: As MM said, some people define "interact" to another level. I think when we come here as immigrants, we need to compromise a little and the people here need to compromise a little. They should allow turbans in the RCMP and headscarves in the police forces, we should voluntarily forgoe the niqab.

Sonia: I am aware of the group. I used to read up on their website before. However I find any Muslim who talks about "reform" but lacks the basic knowledge of things Islamic to be without any credibility. I am fine with Muslims speaking of tolerating other Muslims who for example drink however saying we can 'reinterpret' Islam to allow drinking is going a bit too much. Islam is pretty clear on certain things - such as drinking, premarital sex, homosexuality, men leading mixed congregation prayers and so on. Once the group decided to imbibe those values as part of "progressive" Islam I tuned out.

Anonymous said...

Mezba, I agree with you. Being a woman if I talk to a niqaabi woman I feel humiliated and uncomfortable. I cannot talk to a mask.

Having said that, I also don't believe in too much freedom of everything - speech, actions, expression etc. Too much freedom must always end up huting someone's feelings.

Niqaab is a cultural thing - a cultural baggage which is best left at home. OK, I'll post on this on my blog and copy some of the BS I have written here.

luckyfatima said...

say dude what the hey? i am a hijab wearer-i don't appreciate your thoughts on women who wear hijabs. not very nice.

secondly, women who wear niqaab are still women underneath. niqaabi haters dehumanize them with all this talk. not nice, not fair. actually quite ugly.

i don't believe niqaab is required by religion, I do see niqaab more strongly encouraged in various cultural contexts than others, and I don't like the line of reasoning used in places where there is a lot of "niqaab is a farz" and "niqaab is a sign of a high level of religion" talk. Nor do I appreciate the highly misogynistic atmosphere in the locales where face covering is most common. I am aware that the dynamics are different among Muslims in the West, and there it is even more of a CHOICE for women who want to put on a face covering.

Niqaabis ARE STILL REGULAR PEOPLE. Don't let your visceral reaction to a cloth make you forget it.

As for Straw, he is Western whitey privileged good ole boy. For many people like him, seeing ethnic and religious minorities in his country makes him uncomfortable when these minorities adhere to cultural/religious norms of their communities by sporting clothing, mannerisms, style, hair-dos, coverings, etc., that mark them as not wanting to "assimilate." I see his vitriol against niqaabis as racsim, plain and simple. At that, his racist attitude is set in the context of the current politics of The War on Izzzlamb and terror and all that yada. How can the two be disconnected? Straw has a platform to rent his discriminatory, racist thoughts on niqaabis because of the current atmosphere, whereas otherwise he wouldn't be able to make such racist statements without normal social constraints against politicians sounding like Klan members in public in civil society.

anyway mezba, gotta disagree w/ u on this post.


Anonymous said...


I'm a month too late for this discussion but I wanted to put in my two cents worth!

As the non-hijabi, non-niqabi daughter of a niqabi mother living in the West I'd like to express my view on the topic of niqabi women unsettling some people in the West and being 'cut off' from Western society.

My mother and I disagree on matters of religion so I do not enter into debates about the religous reasons behind her choice to wear the niqab. Rather, I respect her decision to wear the niqab as a purely personal choice.

My middle aged niqabi mother has recently completed a diploma in Children's Services and has a particular interest in working with children with special needs. She goes to the gym, shops for her family, eats out at restaurants and generally does a multitude of ordinary things that many people think niqabis are either unwilling or unable to do.

If, in the course of her daily life, some people feel uncomfortable about her attire that is entirely their business- not hers. I have sometimes felt ill at ease with people with an 'anti-social' appearance -bikies with heavy beards and tattoos and punks with spiked up hair and piercings and so on. However, I view my discomfort in their presence as a sign of my own prejudice, NOT that their right to dress as they choose should be compromised.

The niqab is a piece of cloth that has different meanings to different people. Some elevate it to the position of supreme symbol of piety, others dismiss it as an irrelevant and backward tradition while others still see it an oppressive and misogynistic practice. In my opinion, the only view that is relevant is that of the woman wearing the pieve of cloth- the niqabi herself.

Some may say my mother is the exception to the niqabi norm but even if that were true (which I do not necessarily agree believe) that is beside the point. The point is RESPECT CHOICE.

Thanks for putting up with my long post!


Asm said...

i totally agree with anon above n with sabrina's comments...
abt ur comment "But wearin the niqab means you are hardly interacting with anyone" jus wanted 2 clarify sum of my frenz r niqabis n they are university goin engineering n life sci ppl, they definitely have a lot of interaction n its not just restricted to muslims infact the ones i noe interact mostly with non-muslims. ppl r quiet tolerant n friendly towards them...
also i don't like the way ppl generalize i mean just because u've met someone who wears a niqab n feels tht they're spiritually above others does not mean every niqabi feels that way.
neways Wearing a niqab is a very tough n courageous decision i respect it, n those that take the decision with the right intention know that niqab is not the only requisite of a gud muslimah, its just one of the many steps to please Allah.
in short i think this post is an example of intolerance, its ok 2 post ur opinion n disagree on the importance of a niqab but sayin that someone should not be allowed to wear a niqab is being intolerant. n isn't Canada supposed to be a mosaic? so y object on someone's way of dressing if its not a hindrance to anyone. n plz don't say that its a hindrance becoz other ppl can't talk to niqabis they're "frightening" n things like tht if u feel uncomfortable its ur choice not to speak to them...simple as that!

btw i find all ur posts really interesting n enjoyable...(im one of the secret lurkers lol) but this post i had 2 comment on coz i totally disagree with it...but i luv the results of this post... the fact that it has encouraged a healthy, polite n ofcourse balanced debate.

youngMuslimah said...

ok, i got lots to say, lil buys right the meantime you read this:

youngMuslimah said...

ok, first let me make this clear.

"I think the Niqab is old fashioned, outdated, un-Islamic, and not helpful to practicing your religion at all."

*gasp*. did you just say unIslamic? are you aware that the ummahatul mu'mineen covered themselves completely as they were ordered to do so in the Qur'an? so you think they were outdated and unIslamic? they covered themsleves from head to toe and were amongst the best women who ever lived. it didnt stop them from being Islamically active. many scholars actaully learned 'ilm from them.
and how do you know it doesnt help you in practicing Islam? Ive tried wearing it and it definitely elevates the level of my eman. of course this doenst mean every woman feels that way..only those who wear it out of their own choice...

" Some Muslim women are the first to say, judge me not by what I wear but what I am. And they are the first to pass judgment on a women not wearing the hijab. The courtesy of such a judgment extends both ways, sister."

yes its wrong but a muslim woman who doesnt wear hijab is still sinning. two wrongs dont make a right.

"In Saudi Arabia, where some men are lecherous pigs who do not know how to behave with a women, the niqab is a necessity. In the West, the niqab is a barrier."

since when did hijab become geographical? i find this reasoning completely illogical. so besides saudi arabia, in the rest of the world, where men know how to behave w/ women, a sister should take her hijab off? ( i know you're speaking abt niqab here, but do you realize some women hold the view that niqab just liek the hijab is wajib?)
I wont speak of the west, as i live in the east, but let me tell you mezba, niqab is a barrier cos thats what it's worn for! to create a barrier b/w you and the non-mahram men.

"From the rules of pilgrimage, we know that a women must NOT keep her face covered while on Hajj."

I find you post so self-contradicotry. first you start off saying niqab is unIslamic. then you quote a hadith saying a woman is not required to cover her face and hands while in ihram. doenst this prove some women during the Prophet's time did indeeed cover their faces? doenst that prove niqab is a part of Islam?

"Clearly therefore, Allah does not think that a women who does not cover her face is immodest. Why then, must a women cover her face?"

well, i can think of a few reasons.

- maybe she feels more modest in it.
-maybe she wants to follow the sunnah of the ummahtul mu'mineen.
- maybe she wants to create a *barrier* b/w herself and the non-mahram men.
-maybe she wants to take her hijab to the next level to please Allah.
-maybe she is of the opinion its wajib (which is one of the acceptable views)

"I wish all Muslim women would STOP wearing the niqab and the burqa. Simple hijab, yes. Niqab, no."

when you say the burqa do you mean the abayah?

youngMuslimah said...

" Being a woman if I talk to a niqaabi woman I feel humiliated and uncomfortable. I cannot talk to a mask."

do you relaize there might be women who are offended and perhaps humiliated to talk to you when you call yourself a muslim woman and dont wear a hijab?

"Niqaab is a cultural thing - a cultural baggage which is best left at home."

IT IS PART OF ISLAM. read sabrina's comment. theres plently of evidence that the mothers of the believers were ordered to cover themselves up.

mezba said...

At the risk of rehashing what I said here, I believe the niqab was practiced by the Mother of the Believers and it may have been obligatory on them but it's certainly not obligatory on the rest of the Muslim women. Mother of the Believers had special laws applicable only to them (such as no permission to remarry after death of Prophet pbuh and such).

If there are women who think niqab is fard or wajib on them, then they are wrong and this wrong idea should be corrected. Allah does not give Muslims permission to make something that is not fard a fard in Islam, as it creates hardships on others, so niqab is, I repeat, not fard.

Most Mother of the Believers who wore niqab actually led quiet lives in their houses - Aisha being one of the few exceptions.

I believe there has been enough research done to prove the niqab is cultural, originated from Jewish norms and is not a part of Islam. It is something imposed by culture and therefore should not be made part of Islam.

If a women wears it, she should say she is wearing due to cultural reasons or because she feels comfortable in it, not because it is mandated by Islam.

youngMuslimah said...

so i guess the topic is now changed to whether its wajib to wear a niqab. I personally dont believe covering your face is obligatory, but it is something I want to do b/c it was the sunnah of the ummatul mu'mineen. they were the best women who ever lived and should be the role models of all muslim women and not Paris Hilton, Angelina etc..
Again i'm not saying every muslim woman should wear niqab, it's a personal choice. but saying things like it's cultural is totally absurd. how can it be when the mothers of the believers wore them? it IS a part of Islam. yes i know there are ppl who wear niqab out of cultural reasons, like in saudi arabi/yemen etc a lot of women cover their face cos its expected from them. but again there are lots of women who wear niqab cos they believe it's wajib, which by the way is onbe of the valid views. there are differences in opinion, so you can follow whatever you want. and Allah knows best.

something that you may find interesting to read-

mezba said...

Since it's not wajib, therefore not a requirement of Islam, I think if any government bans it, it's ok. And today in the West, it's more of a hindrance and something that does NOT fit in the culture at all, masquerading as Islam.

youngMuslimah said...

"since it's not wajib"-----niqab is wajib according to some scholars. the way they interpret the ayah you quoted in your post is's a VALID view and people DO follow it. so even if I personally dont think niqab is wajib, there are ppl who do, and I respect that.

"I think if any government bans it, it's ok."

if westerners can wear mini skirts and roam around in malls in the countries like the UAE, then muslim women should be allowed to cover themselves completely in the west.

"And today in the West, it's more of a hindrance and something that does NOT fit in the culture at all, masquerading as Islam"

true, but if you go by what the society thinks then you're gonna get nowhere. if you do something for the sake of Allah, he'll make it easy for you. following Islam wasnt part of *culture* during the Prophet's time either. but they were patient and did dawah..i think women who wear niqab should try their best to promote a good image of Islam and not isolate themselves from the society.