14 Jan Islamic Veil in America
“And when you ask [his wives] for something, ask them from behind a partition. That is purer for your hearts and their hearts”. – Sura 33:53 – Quran
A Niqab is a piece of cloth that covers the face and is worn by many Muslim women in public areas. As per the popular culture belief, a Niqab traditionally is worn by Muslim women in the proximity of adult males outside of their immediate family, which usually covers the head and chest. But that is not entirely true. Let’s replace the term Hijab with Veil. Veiling was not introduced with the advent of Islam. Statuettes depicting veiled priestesses precede all major Abrahamic religions (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam), dating back as far as 2500 BCE. Influential and affluent women in ancient Mesopotamia and in the Byzantine, Greek, and Persian empires wore the veil to get respectability and protrude their high status.
Prophet Mohammed was a renowned scholar. People came to meet him from across the globe. With Muhammad’s growing influence there was a steep increase in the number of visitors who came to seek his counsel and guidance. Often, these visitors stayed the night in his premises not too far away from his wives’ apartments. It is commonly assumed that Hijab was intended to protect his wives from the gaze of such visitors.
Several Western countries including France, Spain, and Canada have proposed laws banning Muslim women from wearing a Niqab in public spaces. The U.S. does not have any laws banning burqas. Proponents consider such ban in violation of individual rights and expression of religious beliefs. Opponents argue that Niqab prevents the precise identification of a person, which is a security risk and a social hindrance.
The controversy over a Niqab stems from extraordinarily complex and complicated social structures. By religious indifference and ignorance about Islam, the post 9/11 security concerns have changed the relationship between the Muslim and the Western people. While the negative images of Islam are kindled by the major media, the face veil issue is being debated for a plethora of political purposes, both valid and invalid. Let’s explore in detail.
Veils and Niqab undoubtedly limit women from adequate participation in society. Women face difficulty while socializing. Niqab covers their faces and muffles their voices, making them inaudible and easily forgettable. The most authentic conversations are made while looking at each other faces; Niqab discourages this practice. Governments have officially cited security concerns as the reason for proposing a ban on face veils as it hinders identification of a person by relevant authorities. There have been incidents when women have refused to show their faces to Airport authorities making their identification impossible. An increase in such events can be easily exploited by extremists and can be fatal to National Security.
The primary goal of a Hijab is to repel attention from Muslim women, however rather than fulfilling its purpose, Niqab has attracted unwanted attention and in few extreme cases has led to racial harassment or violence. Official burqa bans could help and empower women who might be conflicted about removing their burqas and integrate them in western societies.
The right to religious freedom and the freedom of expression are sanctified in the First Amendment of the Constitution. The government can’t restrict Christians from wearing a cross nor can they ban Muslims from wearing a Niqab.
A popular argument is that Niqab is a symbol associated with extremism. Even if we agree to this idiotic proposition, banning symbols associated with extremism does not fundamentally combat extremism. It is more likely that non-radical Muslims will view this as an intrusion in their religion and drift towards extremism. Wearing a Niqab is no more harmful than wearing a Kurt Cobain tee. It can make some people uncomfortable, but the idea that a piece of cloth can threaten the safety, liberty, or freedom of individuals or a country is a bit paranoid.