'No one should be required to wear a niqab, or take it off' (From East London and West Essex Guardian Series)
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'No one should be required to wear a niqab, or take it off'
A few years ago my daughter asked me ‘Mum, why don’t you wear a niqab?’ I responded by saying I didn’t want to and that for me my hijaab and abaya (long dress) is enough. I also told her that I respect the choice of women who wear it and if she wanted to wear a niqaab when she grows up I would support her choice.
Currently there is a lot of discussion in the media about the niqab: what it means, whether it is compulsory for women to wear or not. I want to know why is it that men and non-practising Muslims are fuelling this discussion and why they want to prevent Muslim women from having a choice. I am very proud of the liberty given to all citizens in the country I was born in and I think that this choice is something that should be encouraged. I recently heard a prominent Imam say that most of the complaints he had from women regarding the niqab were not to do with women being forced to wear it, rather those being told to remove it!
I would never let any man (or woman) tell me what to wear. It is God who determines how I should dress - and we should not forget that there is a dress code for men too. In the Qur’an (chapter Noor), God says that believing women and men lower their gaze and guard their chastity. He tells women to not expose their beauty except that which is normally apparent. There are two interpretations for ‘normally apparent.’ Some scholars say it means the hands and face and some say whatever is apparent after the face is covered. Based on this some scholars say that the niqab is not obligatory. However, other scholars say it is obligatory. There is a difference of opinion and both of these are equally valid, as are those who say it is recommended. Differences of opinion are not unique to this issue alone, and Muslims accept both interpretations as acceptable and valid.
I strongly believe that niqab is not a cultural statement, rather it is a valid interpretation of the above extract from the Qur’an. On the other hand there is no debate about whether a Muslim woman should wear hijaab (the head covering). In fact, for those women who choose not to wear a hijaab they are the ones making a cultural choice. No one should be required to wear a niqaab, or take it off.
In my 40 years of life I have been to the hospital many times and not once have I seen clinical staff wearing a niqab- the only time staff covered their faces was when they wore a face-mask in the operating theatre. In my opinion, this whole debate is a non-issue and is being used to remove attention from more important national matters like the cost of A&E (where £6 billion is spent every year to deal with alcohol abuse), knife crime, the economy, etc.
My choice to wear a hijaab has never had any impact on my ability to work in local government (where I was previously an Assistant Director) or in my work as a business coach. People respect me for what I am able to contribute rather than how I look and I hope it’s the same for women who wear niqaab in the workplace.
Regardless of why I make the choice I do, I firmly believe in the liberty given to women in Islam and in the UK and the right to choose. If my daughter decides to wear a niqaab when she grows up I will still love and respect her regardless of the choice she makes.
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