Posts Tagged ‘Niqab’

Niqab and Freedom


Eman wrote in her Saudi Woman blog that she was unexpectedly ecstatic about the french ban of niqab! She goes on to explain that taking this decision away from women by banning the niqab is in fact the best solution to liberate the majority of women who are pressured and forced into covering their faces.

I found myself commenting on her post and not ignoring it for two reasons:

  1. She is an Educated Saudi woman
  2. She is an avid blogger who isn’t afraid to speak her mind which is something to admire about her spirit

In my comment, quoted below, I appealed to her love of freedom and expressed my curiosity in her thought process:

While I respect your right to free speech, I help but wonder how can a liberal educated woman such as yourself wishes and advocates for a decision that limits women’s freedom!

You say we are either with the 1 who chooses to cover her face willingly or the hundreds who don’t. But that is simply not true. It is quite irrational on your part. Can’t I support both of them in making their own minds? Wouldn’t introducing a concept of no forced covering had been a better course of action in your campaign?

You campaign to take away the choice from women to cover their face, just because you hate what it represents, is making you look like some kinda of dictator to me.

peace out

She quickly replied, quotes below, with a proposition and a couple of questions. So, this post represents the alternative Saudi voices blog spirit in providing an alternative perspective on the issue by trying to address Eman’s concerns and highlight the misconceptions in her take on the subject:

The Freedom Insurance Proposition

Once you figure out how you can ensure that a woman fully and willingly chose the niqab, I’ll agree with you. However real life has shown that the majority of women who wear it are pressured and sometimes forced to. Here in Saudi Arabia school doors are guarded to enforce covering the face completely.

First of all, no individual can ensure anything when it comes to a social change. This is the reason for starting such campaigns as hers against niqab. So our voices can be heard, supported by others (individuals, bloggers & traditional media) and generally generating just enough public interest on the subject for law-makers to feel the need to pass a law that will, finally, ensure whatever the objective is! In this case, no forced “niqab”; and even then, it comes down to the society and its willingness/readiness for such change.

Where is your Humanity?

Can you yourself endure a piece of black fabric on your face every time you leave the house? From a humane perspective, do you really believe that human beings were meant to start out their day that way?

No, I wouldn’t dream of enduring a “niqab” but I suspect one can get used to it with time. Also, I don’t think humans are meant to eat their way to obesity or pierce every corner of their body. However, I would find it disgraceful to relish in the fact that any government has seen it fit to deprive the people from their personal freedom which does not interfere with others freedom.

Imaginary Ignorant Muslim Women!

Many simple women I personally know abhor the face cover but endure it because they were informed by extremist shiekhs that without it they are no longer Muslims. Do you consider these women victims of ignorance and misinformation or women who freely chose to cover?

Finally, I think Eman exaggerates when she suggests that “many simple women” believe that they will lose their Islam without their “niqab”. It’s 2010, Eman.. Even the most conservative women would only say that it is a major sin to remove your “niqab”. I Can’t imagine anyone saying that a woman would automatically be considered non-muslim just for uncovering her face. Not anymore sister 🙂 and I would’ve really appreciated it if Eman took a balanced approach in depicting the situation.

peace out


Removing the Veil on the Streets of Paris


The Veil war, as I like to call it, in Europe and specially France will keep creating a lot of discussions and different points of view. In this post, I am re-publishing the opinion of Abdulrahman Al-Rashid the General Manager of Al-Arabiya TV based in Dubai and the former Editor In Chief of Al-Sharq Alawst Newspaper. He is considered one of the well known liberal voices in Saudi Arabia while some Saudis consider him a voice of the West in Arabic.

In any country that boasts that it respects freedom, the laws have never been tested as they are tested today with France starting to ban the wearing of veils covering the face by women in public institutions and when driving. Is it a law that protects freedom on the pretext that it refuses the veiling of women? Or is it a law that is hostile to freedom because it deprives a woman of wearing the veil, which she considers to be a religious necessity, or at least a personal choice?

Who is harmed? In the French Muslim community a minority of women, who wear full cover over their faces, has emerged within the conservative religious tide that reached that community. Conservative Muslim women in France used to find it sufficient to cover their hair only, and the majority of Muslim women in France from the beginning did not wear veils. Now the Niqab, i.e. covering the entire face, is one of the characteristics of the new women hardliners in France, and they are a minority.

Moreover, those harmed by the new law are the tourists coming from the Gulf countries, where the Niqab is the rule not the exception, especially in Saudi Arabia. However, this is a limited harm, because tourism includes a big world, and the women banned from wearing the Niqab can go to nearby Britain rather than France. Thus, the problem is limited as long as the European Union does not adopt the French law and impose its implementation on all EU countries, which currently is a remote possibility.

Who is behind the new legislations?

Most probably it is the women societies together with some human rights societies, which consider that a woman would not cover her entire face unless someone forces her, such as her father or her tribal society. Therefore, these organizations consider that the law ought to protect women from total veil, even if the woman says that she is covering her face voluntarily. These organizations consider themselves engaged in a confrontation with the hardliners, and will not allow women to implement the hardliners laws whatever their justifications might be.

There is a group enthusiastic about the ban that has a less ideological opinion, which considers the ban as its tactical goal. This group considers that the banning of the Niqab limits the spread of the phenomenon of extremism, which starts with clothes, and progresses to rejecting the society, and even rebelling against it by using violence.

Banning the Niqab will not become a major issue in France and most of the European countries, because the number of Niqab-wearers is a few hundreds, while the number of veiled women is in the thousands, and it is difficult to ban the veil.

The truth is that the issue is not the harm, but it is the principle of banning, which includes a clear violation of personal liberties. Whatever is said, and whatever the justifications might be for the hunting down of wearers of the Niqab, which has started, the truth is that this is a violation of the fundamental principle on which the European systems are based, namely the respect of personal liberty. This liberal principle is collapsing at the worst possible time, as the Muslim woman is being prevented from practicing her right to be veiled at a politically-suspicious time. Had this happened at a different time, perhaps it would have had less negative reflections.

The only justification that can be accepted for banning the Niqab is the security fear that terrorist or thieves might disguise themselves as women wearing Niqabs; such incidents indeed have taken place. However, the new law has not said that, as it has generalized the ban everywhere and at every time, while it would have been reasonable to impose it at the points of entry into the country, and at the security-sensitive places.

However frightening or disturbing the Niqab might look in the eyes of the feminist organizations, it remains an individual issue that falls in the domain of the right of the individual to choose. By oppressing the Niqab-wearing women France becomes the same as the rest of the countries that are accused of oppression and of limiting freedom. It is true that the Niqab is merely a cover, and the number of those harmed by the law is a few dozens, but it is an issue of principle. We all know that the most difficult issue in the concept of freedom is tolerating the others when they practice their freedoms.