by Niqab: The Face Veil on Tuesday, August 24, 2010 at 10:25am
Why are women choosing to wear the niqab?
Increasing numbers of British Muslim women are choosing to wear the face veil. Two of those women explain to Newsnight why they adopted the niqab when their mothers did not.
Rumaysa, aged 27
(To take the niqab off would be stripping me of my identity as a woman and stripping me of my beliefs – and for me personally, I am nothing without my beliefs)
I started wearing the niqab about eight years ago and I started wearing it in the first year of university – and my decision to wear it was to help me in my religion as an act of worship. It helps me and protects me. I feel [it] empowers me, and it helps me to realise and get closer to achieving my aim, which is to please my creator.
It empowers me because when I talk I believe I have a voice, I have an opinion, I’m my own person – my own personality comes across, and when people talk to me, they don’t… think ‘she’s looking like this, she’s looking like that,’ so my voice comes across and people are judging me for who I am, rather than what I look like.
Why did the earlier generations like our parents, their parents, when they came here, why did they not wear the niqab? Their purpose was to earn a better livelihood, make money and give a better life to their children. Their aim was to come here, work, fit in with the society. And we are saying hang on, we are born here, we are part of the society. I see myself as British.
Twenty years ago, fair enough, the niqab would have been virtually non-existent. You’ve got to bear in mind it’s their choice to wear it, and as a democratic country, can we really dictate to people how they should dress?
I get mixed reactions from people. There are people who are understanding, who are educated, and if they approach you and they really want to understand why you wear the niqab and you explain it to them, they are absolutely fine with it. They understand that a face is not an essential component of communication.
And you get other people who, no matter what, they are ignorant or they are just plain racist and do not want to understand. Why should I compromise my religious beliefs to please other people, when it’s not harming them in any way whatsoever?
Of course it upsets me that this intolerance is going on, but it doesn’t make me think I want to take it off, because then I’m not being true to myself. To take the niqab off would be stripping me of my identity as a woman and stripping me of my beliefs – and for me personally, I am nothing without my beliefs.
I believe I integrate fully into British society. I go to work and the people I work with – the majority of them are non-Muslims – and they’ve been absolutely fine with me, I’ve been fine with them. They haven’t had a problem in terms of me communicating. They’ve never seen the niqab as a barrier, and they see me for who I am and they see beyond the niqab.