In the recent ‘Niqab’ debates there has been a strange lack of women’s voices who have chosen to wear the Niqab. We have heard the passionate advocacy of mostly middle-aged white males who have objected to women wearing the veil, whilst others on-line have objected on the grounds that it demeans women and then gone onto troll other women on-line.
Then there have been women who on the basis of liberal values, have decided that they must enforce their views on others irrespective of the voices and feelings of those Niqabi women that they are campaigning for. Anyone who suggests that this goes against the core of social liberalism is called an ‘apologist’ for ‘Islamism,’ (what a divisive term in itself) or worst still, a misogynist, if male. Anyone advocating for people to be free to wear what they want, is fine to do so as long as, so the narrative goes, it is not for the wearing of the Niqab.
So we thought that we give those women who wear the Niqab, the chance to voice their thoughts. For example, recently TELL MAMA posted this interview with a Muslim woman who wore the Niqab and we also came across other voices through the ‘At Home in Europe’ project which was part of the Open Society Foundation. Here are the voices of Muslim women who wear the Niqab in France:
Farah, 19, Paris
“In all my life, I have never felt as well as with the Niqab. I was somebody who would go out wearing high heels. I was putting on [nice] clothes. I was a girl, I liked fashion. I would go out frequently and all, but I never felt as good as with the Niqab. For me it represents everything, I couldn’t take it off.”
Haifa, 19, Paris
“I don’t know why, subhan Allah [Glory to God], I felt [a sense of] well-being with it, but I can’t explain. I felt protected, I felt well, and I felt at ease. [The Niqab] is my attachment to my religion. Quite simply, it’s adoration.”
Qubila, 20, Paris
[The first day] I felt really, really well. When I was walking it felt as if I was floating on a little cloud. I was so elated that I felt like crying. Things like that you have to experience. It’s hard to express them but, al hamdullilah, it was a great sensation, a sensation I know I won’t forget.”
Jameelah, 21, Paris
I had the feeling that the headscarf and the jelbab were not enough. I felt the need to develop spiritually. For me it was one of the paths. In fact, there are several paths to be nearer God. For some its prayer. So it was one of the ways that could bring me closer to God. And spiritually I yearned for something stronger in fact. But I did not consider it an obligation. For me it was something extra, it was good.”
Duniya, 29, Paris
“I always wanted [to wear it]. Since I’ve been wearing the headscarf I always held the sisters who wear [the Niqab] in esteem, because it’s the highest degree, the highest level for a woman. In other words, it’s just your Lord and yourself with no mediation. You live for your Lord. You are in perpetual adoration or at least you are trying to be in perpetual adoration.”
Roukia, 25, Paris
Honestly, it is because I found it so beautiful. But at the beginning, I didn’t say to myself, “I’m wearing it.” I was wearing it only because I thought it was really beautiful. You know, today we live in a society where everything is based on the physical [appearance], but when you have a Niqab nobody pays attention. If I meet you outdoors, and you are a sister, we will say Salam to each other and so on. We are going to talk to each other but I wouldn’t know whether you are French or Chinese, but I’ll talk to you. I’ll talk to whoever you are.; I don’t need to know what you look like. While today if you observe society it’s all just about that; it’s your physical appearance, and you must fit the norms that they have created.”
(Case study excerpts taken from, ‘Unveiling the Truth: Why 32 Muslim Women Wear the Full Face Veil in France.” Part of the ‘At Home in Europe’ project – the Open Society Foundation.)