Wearing the niqab: 'People shout Darth Vader or ninja in the street'
Zaheera Nanabawa is project director of Wingz, a community project inspired by Muslim women fighting for better opportunities in Gloucester. Here she writes about the debate on full face niqab veils.
Home Office minister Jeremy Browne has re-ignited the national debate around niqab, encouraged by people like MP Sarah Wollaston who has determined the niqab is like an “invisibility cloak” and is oppressing.
I wonder if either Jeremy or Sarah have ever spoken to a woman who wears the niqab?
Why is it that Muslim women’s voices are never highlighted in these debates?
Fortunately, most women who wear the niqab in England make the active choice to do so. Although, often, it can be very difficult as people shout “Ninja”, “Postbox,”, or “Darth Vader” at them.
Women wear the niqab as an act of worship and for spirituality, but to others this is perceived as oppression, derogatory and subjugation.
The whole concept of the Islamic principle of covering up one’s body, and being modest, is very poorly misunderstood in today’s global society where the “if you’ve got it, flaunt it” attitude reigns.
Society suffers a lot more harms and ills from the wanton display of naked flesh on free pornographic satellite channels.
Women cannot get away from being judged about the way they look. Magazines, TV, celebrities and beauty products all encourage women to be something they are not.
Covering up often demands people to look into the inside of a person and not the superficiality of the outside.
We learn to “never judge a book by its cover”, but our societal values teach us totally the opposite.
People are very intrigued by the niqab and the reason why Muslim women cover should be presented more clearly.
Ultimately, clothing is a matter of freedom and choice – strip or cover. What people wear is, and has got to be, their own business.
Security and oppression have been highlighted as reasons why the niqab should be banned.
What security concerns around niqab has the UK had?
The security threat from Muslim women in niqab is so rare that a full ban on face veils is a significantly disproportionate outcome.
Britain is not a secular society like France. British history is intertwined with different cultures, and our monarch is the head of the Church of England. We British place great pride in valuing our different belief systems, whether we are Jewish, Christian, Hindu, Sikh, Muslim, Pagan or Jedi.
A full ban on niqab in the UK is out of alignment with our British values. I welcome a debate about the face veil and its relevance in the context of airports, classrooms and courts of law – and institutions should be willing to work with Islamic scholars to find implementable solutions – as done in the case of Rebekah Dawson.
A full ban on the niqab is not the answer and policing a ban of this kind would most certainly amount to an Islamophobic witch-hunt. Policy makers would do well to show a similar determination for the real problems we have in society, instead of creating new ones.