To veil or not to veil…

I’m not sure why I feel so strongly about the veil/niqab/burkha, but I do. The whole niqab issue has been brought to our attention again in recent days because of a college in Birmingham who was about to ban the niqab but overturned this after much petitioning, and because of a woman who refused to take off her veil whilst in court. The court has now said, quite rightly, that she must remove it for giving evidence but is allowed to keep it on otherwise.

The first issue I want to deal with is ignorance within the Muslim community. Many Muslims poke fun at women who wear veils and call them names (behind their back) and regard them as religious fanatics. What they’ve clearly forgotten is that the wives of the Prophet Muhammad wore face coverings. Those women who we regard as the most modest, pious women in history, those who were closest to the prophet we so revere, those women who spent their lives in worship, those women who have the highest status in Islam. Those are the women who veil wearers emulate and aspire to. If we want to chastise them then that’s up to us but it’s our duty to understand why a woman would wear it. It is a religious obligation in their eyes, so who are we to object?

Personally I believe it’s not a mandatory part of Islam (fard) but it’s an optional extra if you like, to gain more reward from our creator. What I believe though is completely irrelevant as it’s up to the individual whether they want to cover their face or not. If they want to show their devotion to God, why do we get so cross about it? And it is not a cultural thing, it may be in some countries but certainly not in the UK!

I used to also feel uneasy when seeing a lady with a face veil. It’s because I didn’t understand why she was wearing it. I completely understand why so many people don’t like the face veil. It’s the same with anything we’re not familiar with, we find it strange and confusing. Underneath the veil is just another human being.

Many people bring up the question of security. Of course in academic institutions, airports, courts etc. where identification is required then a woman should remove her veil briefly. If she is a teacher, then I think she should teach without her veil but should have the right to put it on outside of lessons, within school premises. A niqab can be taken on and off quite easily, and women do take it off when required. One woman doesn’t and it’s a major headline. We also forget that only 2% of Muslim women wear niqab, that’s actually only a few hundred out of a population of 58 million or so. Is this even worth the discussion? Jeremy Browne thinks it is, amongst all the problems that we are going through, this is the one that needs a national debate. Hmm ok then.

Another point is that a woman does not wear it because she feels safer or that men won’t look at her. These things may happen inevitably, she may feel safer, feel people don’t judge her based on what she looks like, it may give her confidence or a sense of self being, but ultimately the reason is usually faith and identity as a Muslim. I don’t think men need to feel offended if a women is wearing a veil-she doesn’t think your a pervert, she’s just practicing her faith.

Very few women have the veil imposed on them, most wear it out of choice. That freedom of choice that we in the West champion, promote and preach about to the rest of the world. The face veil should not be banned as it would go against everything this country stands for. If you are a Muslim then you should certainly oppose any notion to ban the veil, and if you are a feminist then the same should stand. Whether you like the idea of the veil or hate it, every woman should be able to wear what she wants, and it’s this choice that we as Britons are so proud of and should always fight to keep.


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