If you think the niqab is a choice, think again

Published: February 14, 2016
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Whenever I fly to Saudi Arabia, I find the women on the flight, expatriate or Saudi, donning colourful western, Middle Eastern, or Asian clothes one second, and dark abayas the moment the airplane hits the runway in Saudi Arabia? PHOTO: AMER HILABI/AFP/Getty Images

In my recent article, ‘Our national dress is the shalwar kameez, not the niqab, while examining countries in and around the geographical vicinity of the Middle East, I lamented the loss of cultural riches such as art, music, various religious festivities, as well as heritage sites like ancient temples and monasteries to a single fast-spreading inflexible ideology. To drive the point home, between a dozen countries, I compared various cultural garments with the full single-colour veil called the niqab, also known as the abaya or the burqa.

The contrast was startling.

On one end were 12 aesthetically delightful national dresses varying from one to the next like 12 seasons designed by Mother Nature herself, and on the other was a single dark and restrictive attire, standing out like a uniform for the circumscribed.

Thankfully, the thousands upon thousands that shared the article had little difficulty comprehending the symbolism:

Across dozens of countries; for every temple ransacked, for every monastery brought to its knees, for every language lost, for every painting vandalised, for every statue broken into a hundred pieces, for every book, essay, and piece of poetry declared illicit, there has been an austere binding rule.

Much like the niqab.

The degree with which this cultural appropriation scorched nations has varied.

Take a long hard look at this Middle Eastern man:

Photo: Reuters

At a British museum in 2003, he was overwhelmed with emotion when he found treasured Iraqi antiquities safe from conflict. I can only imagine the pain he feels today at the destruction of the world heritage sites in Iraq and Syria at the hands of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Unfortunately, the nuances of ‘Our national dress is the shalwar kameez, not the niqab’ were lost on some of the local readership. In response, many argued that for women, much like a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, or an Indian sari, a niqab was as an outfit of choice.

To start with, what is choice?

Does that man who lost both of his arms in a factory accident, and now stands begging for money at an intersection I pass every day, have a choice? Sure, he willingly gets out of bed every morning to do what he does, but does this translate to choice?

This is American porn actress Raylene.

Photo: Facebook

As the documentary After Porn Ends reveals, she has a small child to take care of, mental health challenges, and a stigma to overcome when seeking regular work. Sure, she willingly gets in front of a camera, but in light of her life’s struggles, how much of a choice does she really have?

I think we can all agree that when it comes to choice, there are different degrees. Action doesn’t always translate to the same level of choice.

Here are some American slaves on a sweet potato plantation in the mid 1800s.

Photo: Wikipedia Commons

There doesn’t seem to be a gun to their heads, but are they farming by choice? At the peak of slavery, many slave owners also built a narrative around how slavery was beneficial for slaves. Some slaves were psychologically conditioned into believing this. Not only did slaves called ‘House Negroes’ whip other slaves into submission for their masters, but some refused freedom when it was offered to them.

Did they have a choice?

These are women on a typical street in Saudi Arabia:

Photo: AFP

Sure, they willingly put on the abaya before leaving home, but how much of a choice do they have when wearing anything else will mean being abused by their husbands, fathers, brothers, or the armed mutawas (religious government police) prowling the streets?

How much of a choice is the niqab, if whenever I fly to Saudi Arabia, I find the women on the flight, expatriate or Saudi, donning colourful western, Middle Eastern, or Asian clothes one second, and dark abayas the moment the airplane hits the runway in Saudi Arabia?

How much of a choice is the niqab, if Pakistani women who work as domestic helpers in big cities often wear shalwar kameez when in upscale neighbourhoods, but don the black cloth when going home to avoid catcalls, sexual harassment, rape, or worse?  Is the niqab really a choice when so many Pakistani women wear it out of fear?

Moreover, why is the onus on women to protect themselves by wearing a mentally suffocating garment? Why can’t those who force the niqab wear blindfolds?

A decade ago, while new in Pakistan, I was stunned when our family was dropping off a domestic helper to her home at night, and she quickly put on the niqab when close to her neighbourhood. When I later asked her why, she said,

“Bhai, warna kirdar pay shak kertay hain aur utha kay bhi lejatay hain.”

(If I don’t, men in the area will use it as an excuse to malign my character, and perhaps kidnap me [for sexual abuse])

Here are some Muslim women in ISIS controlled Syria:

Photo: Reuters

If the niqab is a choice, why is ISIS ‘encouraging’ them to dress like this? Why aren’t they wearing a kurta, a shalwar kameez, a sari, a skirt, or a pair of jeans and a t-shirt?

Here is a 19-year-old Afghan girl Rokhsahana. She ran away years ago to Iran after her family forced her to marry an old man. Her people somehow got hold of her and eventually stoned her to death while she screamed and begged for mercy.

Photo: AFP

Notice the outfit they forced her to wear in her final moments. Is the veil really a symbol of choice? This woman spent her entire life suffering decisions made by other men. The niqab was but one of them.

Here are some of the 250 schoolgirls kidnapped by Nigerian terrorist outfit, Boko Haram:

Photo: Dailymail

The niqab they were forced to wear doesn’t cover their faces, but it is a version of a niqab none the less.

The Guardian reports that the women captured by Boko Haram face,

“Forced marriage and labour, rape, torture, psychological abuse and coerced religious conversion.”

Here are some schoolgirls who managed to evade Boko Haram. They have now found a new life in Oregon, United States, thanks to a non-profit organisation.

Photo: Cosmopolitan

One of the escapees, Grace, says,

“I decided I would rather die trying to escape than be killed by these men”

If the niqab is a choice, why do these young women not wear it in a place where they are free to dress as they please, away from the grip of an organisation that forces the garb?

Yes, many women in western society freely wear the niqab, but is it really a choice when they consciously or subconsciously wear it out of fear of being ridiculed or ostracised by their community? Is it really a choice when they wear it for fear of facing eternal damnation in the afterlife because of a hard-line interpretation that, according to many scholars, contradicts passages of the very scripture they follow?

Let me put it this way: Is any garment really a choice when it is worn out of fear rather than respect? Does anyone truly wear any other outfit out of dread? When was the last time a woman was killed because she didn’t wear a bikini? When was the last time a terrorist outfit made women wear jeans and t-shirts?

Consciously or subconsciously, how many other unified outfits in history have a large number of people been scared into wearing?

Of course, fear can do funny things. Sometimes, it psychologically conditions the oppressed into oppressing their own:

Photo: Alamy

Photo: Allkindsofhistory.com

Some critics argue that the niqab is similarly frowned upon by western societies as are western outfits in portions of the Muslim world.

Well, not really.

First of all, some western societies may not welcome the niqab, but are happy to see just about any other outfit in the world, be it a sari or a skirt. On the other hand, parts of the Muslim world only enforce one outfit on women, and that’s the niqab.

There is also a reason behind the burqa ban movement, and that’s because the black veil stands as a symbol of oppression.

The following outfits aren’t well received in western societies either:

Photo: Hulton Archive

Photo: Twitter

Take a look at how these slaves are dressed:

Photo: Hulton Archive

And these prisoners:

Photo: Wikipedia Commons

And people of this concentration camp:

Photo: Ushmm.org

How does it compare to this?

Photo: AFP

Tellingly, the majority of outraged comments on my ‘Our national dress is the shalwar kameez, not the niqab’ article came from men themselves. Once again, an outfit is forced upon by the powerful on the powerless, once again as a tool of suppression. Here, it is an instrument to further misogyny, convincing some of those who wear it that it is for their betterment.

Noman Ansari

Noman Ansari

The author is the editor-in-chief of IGN Pakistan, and has been reviewing films and writing opinion pieces for The Express Tribune as well as Dawn for five years. He tweets as @Pugnate (twitter.com/Pugnate)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Handa

    Knowledge and free will are of utmost importance to exercise choice! You touched upon this very well. Kudos!Recommend

  • Normsky

    I don’t know why my points are not shared….
    I come from the west where the vast majority of females wearing the niqab do so out of their own choice. I know Dr’s, teachers, accountants, dentists, housewives, married and unmarred who take the decision to wear it often against the wishes of their families. Fact. Period.
    I also know many women who want to wear a head scarf but are forced not to duse to family pressures.
    Looks like he hatred within you is coming to the fore again. Pakistani liberals have huge in common with western right wingers. Liberals in the west welcome all with open arms. Recommend

  • Oxy Moron

    I remember something I read as a child – when confronting a crowd about to stone a condemned woman to death, Jesus said something like,”By all means, but let the first stone be cast by he who’s truly pious, who’s sinless”. That saved the woman.

    We’re still witnessing women being stoned, burnt, shot, hung, hacked to death by men who think they are punishing those victims for impurity – do you think even Jesus will be able to persuade those animals otherwise today? Then what’s the chance of anyone convincing men against ‘merely’ enforcing a dress code.

    You’re wasting your time. All minds that matter on this matter have already been made up…for nothing can convince one who’s sure of his piety.Recommend

  • vinsin

    If Muslim women are not going to wear Niqab/Hijab then how Muslim men get to know whom toharrass?Recommend

  • Alter Ego

    A very very strange article.
    Comparing everything to everything , yet drawing no suitable conclusion.
    I do not want to pay my electricity bill, i do not respect our tax system but i pay it out of fear that my electricity or gas will be cut.
    I do not want to study for exam , my teacher is unfair and deducts my marks.Yet i do it out of fear that i will fail the course.
    I do not want to wait for red light , yet i do it because i fear the ever present traffic Sergent.
    You, like many of the desi liberals ,confuse modernity with vulgarity. Modernity and prosperity come from education not from taking off your clothes at every chance you get.

    “Man in early times was almost naked, and as his intellect evolved he started wearing clothes. What I am today and what I’m wearing represents the highest level of thought and civilization that man has achieved, and is not regressive. It’s the removal of clothes again that is a regression back to the ancient times.”

    Nobel Peace Prize winner “Tawakkul Karman,”Recommend

  • Rajagopal

    A ground breaking article that challenges the very root of fundamentalism and injustice. A man has no right to force an attire on someone when they exclude themselves from wearing it.Recommend

  • Lala

    I thought your previous article made sense and that you were a logical liberal, but now I am disappointed to see how you use photos and sentiments of slavery to demonise niqabs. Surely women who wear it will soon come to defend themselves. Definitely in some places women are forced to wear the niqab, but elsewhere it is a choice since women just want to walk around in public at ease without drawing stares. It has more to do with walking around liberated than caged. You can say that you weren’t implying that all women who wear niqabs are submissive and weak women, but the way you have presented your article portrays an overwhelmingly opposite stance. Stop manipulating people, your article seems to be an example for a class which could be named ‘Manipulation 101’Recommend

  • UzairH

    Noman, you are an amazing person. I feel proud that we have sensible people in our country, albeit in the minority but at least there are voices of sanity, courage, rationality, and plain human decency. Thank you for fighting the good fight, and I look forward to more articles like this one.Recommend

  • Prof

    Religious Dogma offers a very limited choice between Heaven or Hell. The burka is associated with the former.

    I’ve read of a sufi saint who once brought fire and water to a sermon. When inquired why, the sufi responded that the water was to quench the blazes of hell and the fire to set alight the heavens so that the people would do good for goodness sake and not out of fear of damnation or from lust of paradise. That was a much different dogma of a bygone era, today we are terrorized into submission.Recommend

  • Wah Bhai Wah

    You seldom offer any reason in your articles. I pity you. SalamsRecommend

  • PANKAJ TOMAR

    great articalRecommend

  • MUHAMMAD

    Hijab is the Muslim woman’s proper dress, which Allah Almighty has
    ordered her to wear when he said what means:
    *{And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and be modest, and to
    display of their adornment only that which is apparent, and to draw
    their veils over their bosoms, and not to reveal their adornment save to
    their own husbands or fathers or husbands’ fathers, or their sons or
    their husbands’ sons, or their brothers or their brothers’ sons or
    sisters’ sons, or their women, or their slaves, or male attendants who
    lack vigour, or children who know naught of women’s nakedness. And let
    them not stamp their feet so as to reveal what they hide of their
    adornment. And turn unto Allah together, O believers, in order that ye
    may succeed.}* (An-Nur 24:31)Recommend

  • Parvez

    You have laid out an argument that is almost irrefutable to the sane progressive mind. The practice of resorting to misogyny shrouded in religious colors to hold on to ones political fiefdoms or to support ones personal weaknesses, remains strong. The frail are always exploited, that is why the religious extremist first chose to destroy girls schools because they knew that education was the the most effective way a girl could gain parity with the male….and thus, God for bid look him in the eye.Recommend

  • ut

    Brilliant!Recommend

  • Zarin

    Stop pretending to understand islam when clearly you don’t. Oh and also you don’t know the difference between culture and religion, you’re always mixing the two. Take some Islamic studies classes.

    Here’s some real info for you. There are many women who wear niqab out of choice and what that choice is, is the choice to submit to God not out of fear but out of love. You know when you become so in love and are willing to go to heights for that person..it’s the same kind of love. Love is submission and commitment, a relationship the creation builds with its Creator. This is how many women around the world understand hijab. All the other reasons and benefits such as protection become secondary for these women. So please don’t talk about women, their choices, their clothing on their behalf.

    Lastly, this whole analogy of prisoners and hated groups like KKK, nazis and so on is imbecilic–if you had even half a brain.. you wouldn’t use it. Let me explain, if one decides to buy a pair of jeans what color would they most likely buy? i’m betting on blue. why? because that is the most common, classical color for jeans. It would be unlikely for me to go purchase a lime green shade of jeans duhhh. The abayas in the middle east are mostly made and sold in black because that is its most classical form in the region. However, in a western country abayas are sold in many colors and many women living there choose to wear different colors aside from just black because all black is sometimes frowned upon. As for Pakistan, just like jeans in blue are readily available so are black abayas. Although the commandment in the Qur’an that asks of women to cover can be fulfilled with a colorful chaddar as well, many women find that abaya covers more and you don’t have to worry about it falling off like you would with a chaddar. And mind you, many women in villages and even urban areas of Pakistan use a chaddar (not always black) to cover their body and face. Chaddar is very much cultural, our only culture is not just shalwar qameez, i think you left dupatta/chaddar out..oops

    Like I said this article of yours like usual is far from reality!Recommend

  • Fahimuddin

    Certainly people can write a better article of choice of ‘showing body parts’ in western societies but it may not be published by Express Tribune.Recommend

  • abhi

    Nice article again. I wonder how any one can claim that women wear burqa with their choice.Recommend

  • Keyboard Soldier

    There are way too many real facts in this article, and it is something not tolerable in the pakistani society.

    Too much truth is considered near blasphemous in pakistan.Recommend

  • AnupK

    Brilliant! The best ever i read on Tribune!Recommend

  • Raj – USA

    Great job Norman. Like your write up. Excellent compilation and comparisons. Your follow-up piece is even better than the initial peace.Recommend

  • Saad Bin Tariq

    Dear Noman Ansari,
    Your story “If you think the niqab is a choice, think again” is not more than a waste of Internet bandwidth.Recommend

  • Saudis

    My friend, you spend an awful lot of time talking about the Saudis. You need to lose this unhealthy obsession, and perhaps focus on your own country?Recommend

  • https://twitter.com/MalikSaabSays MalikSaabi

    I would totally applaud this fantastic piece of writing if I were as devoid of an eye of empathy & reality.
    While forcing of any outfit is unacceptable by authentic Islamic standards, the comparisons and arguments presented reek of the feel of a childish tantrum.
    Maybe this case could’ve been presented better…but you just sentenced your own viewpoint to death.
    Recommend

  • Nandita.

    Brilliant, Noman!
    This is my experience while travelling in Bombay local trains years ago- In the evenings, I’d come across women (returning home from work) who would get into the train wearing salwar kameez/denims and they would put on the burqa just as their station drew near. And in the mornings , women would get into the train wearing burqas and they’d then take them off in the train and not wear it during the day but would put it on while returning home in the evenings. Just goes to show that these women were wearing the burqa only in the presence of their family members- they were being forced to do so and most complied due to fear.
    Sometimes I’d pity them. I am sure it’s not easy to force yourself to be someone you are not. At other times, I’d be irritated. If educated and financially independent women don’t stand up for themselves and live life on their terms , there’s little hope for others.
    Muslims really need to understand that they themselves are responsible for the image that Islam has the world over. When people witness such incidents where muslim women are clearly not happy about wearing the hijab/niqab/burqa and are doing so only out of fear of some family member ,they will assume the worst of Islam as a religion. Can you blame them? No.
    A lot of women have written about how they wear the garment out of choice. These Poor souls don’t realise that they’ve been brainwashed into believing that’s what God wants them to do. Is God a patriarch ? Hasn’t he got bigger issues to worry about than what women are wearing?
    Recommend

  • Nana

    My goodness Noman, this piece of article is more powerful than the previous one. For once I’m so thankful to Allah and my family that I am not the one who is forced to wear niqab or hijab although my in laws are strict religious people but they have given me the choice to do otherwise. I’m the only one in their family who goes without niqab or hijab. How many are lucky like me?Recommend

  • Kasturi K

    ‘Moreover, why is the onus on women to protect themselves by wearing a
    mentally suffocating garment? Why can’t those who force the niqab wear blindfolds?’

    I’m seeking the answer to that. And don’t give me the mundane answer that Islam or Quran says that. I remember that once a woman came to Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) to complain about her husband and she wasn’t covering her head. Our Prophet (PBUH) listened to her and he didn’t ask her to cover her head. Tells me a lot. There is no coersion in religion.Recommend

  • Faulitics

    Reason is not seen by people who are acting blindRecommend

  • Hasaan Masood

    brilliant piece naumanRecommend

  • Arman Zain

    Dear Noman!

    With due respect, you got it wrong.

    When you chose something you fight for it. Cherry picking examples are not best way to illustrate choice.

    The porn star has a choice, either to go work hard like others or do what she does, be a porn star to make the ends meet.

    The salves in potato field had choice to either work as slaves or stand up for rights, so they did.

    In case of burqa , choice is not burqa …. Choice is being a Muslim or not? If chose to be a Muslim then you have to follow the rules, like prayer 5 times a day, don’t indulge in adultery and cover your self properly.

    so lets not confuse your audience, Unfortunately Pakistanis are already in deep identity crisis. Blogs like yours just add to it. Your choice is to define your self and then live by it. If a person defines him/her-self as Muslim then he/she has to live by it. It is true for both male and female.

    I hope its get posted .Recommend

  • knightridrr

    Covering hair is required. Watch this clip:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AALgGKSnU2g&index=2&list=PLutdSTmJ7bAKD7QHoVOc43GatI2fBFv8n

    Noman Ali Khan is the most progressive Islamic scholar. Having said that you are allowed to wear anything you want as long as it is modest. I really hope that we start appreciating our culture more and make more effort to preserve it.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Make your case……..justify it with reason, logic and fact and I am certain that ET or any other credible site will print it.Recommend

  • Zeeshan

    “Tellingly, the majority of outraged comments on my ‘Our national dress is the shalwar kameez, not the niqab’ article came from men themselves.”

    And, who are more obsessed with saving Muslim women from Muslim men if not liberal males and females like you? You noticed the gender of your detractors but not your own when you talk about Muslim women clothing? You could see others as “instrument of “misogyny”” but fail to notice your own misogyny and putrid view toward Muslim women in veils and niqab which is an extension of your Macaulisym? According to the analogy created by the liberal hollow space in your head, Muslim women in veils and niqabs are similar to men in prison garbs – hence they need to be rescued by liberal man like you.

    The war against hijab and niqab is an extension of the liberal war against Islam itself. How else to civilize Muslims if not to take away their niqab and hijab and put them in western clothing? A woman’s clothing is an important part of that war – once you remove niqab and hijab, the Muslims would evolve to be liberals like you, as the hypothesis goes.
    You have no issues with culture in which women cover up their chest , but have issues with culture in which women cover up their face? why?

    It’s not about choice or demand per se but about culture that goes against Western diktat as purveyed by liberals.

    Liberals have severe obsession toward Muslim women clothing and Muslim men sexuality.Recommend

  • Muslimah

    I wish you use your argumentative skills in some other field or topic. Here I am sorry you, are badly failed. I mean I felt you just don’t like Niqab. Religion is about complete submission. We don’t have choice to modify it. It is the duty of Islamic government to enforce teachings of Islam on its citizens.
    Secondly, No one is supporting BokoHaram and ISIS, these are not the representative outlets of religion. It seems that you don’t have your personal study. We really really need to understand the difference between the representative parties of Islam and the true sources of Islam i.e. Holy Prophet(SAW) and the companions (R.A). The most interpreted verse of Qur’an: “There shall be no compulsion in [acceptance of] the religion.”(2:256). It is for non-believers.Recommend

  • SIC

    it seems like the writer wants to impose his own choice!! women in Pakistan really has no choice, seriously. Aren’t you visit markets, colleges and universities in Lahore. women have complete choice here. some girls working in my firm wears jeans with t-shirts and some wear hijab. whats wrong in it. as skin tight jeans is not a symbol of any character or quality and so same is the case with hijab. and this pic is the last one missing.Recommend

  • Ambal

    Nice try for nothing Noman. Please go to France you will be happy there.Recommend

  • Bairooni Haath

    Hats off to the author and the Express Tribune for publishing it. He has really made the hypocrisy beniqab!Recommend

  • Talha Zubair Butt

    Noman in your regular diatribes against the niqab and burqa, you conveniently forget that the burqa has been an integral part of the Indo-Pak subcontinent’s Muslim culture for centuries. Muslim women in the Indian subcontinent, especially in the middle class, have always worn burqas. Even brides once used to don the burqa during their rukhsati, over their wedding clothes. It wasn’t till the advent of the TV and cinematic influence that Pakistani women abandoned wearing the burqa and adopted the Hindu style of just donning a dupatta casually when going out. My own grandmother and women from her generation and of previous generations always wore the burqa, long before the wahhabis had any influence in Pakistan. I can show you pictures and videos from before the 1970s of Muslim women in Lahore, Karachi, Delhi and Lucknow who are wearing the burqa en masse.Recommend

  • Dr Abeer H

    I must say that article with no logic.the women you have mentioned who change their attire due to fear does not validate the fact that niqab is forced on every woman.what would you say about western women who tries to cover their face to avoid sunburns and skin issues due to sun exposure?i wear niqab in USA with my free choice.i am not afraid of my husband who comes late after work.it is my choice to wear it and feel comfortable with it.Recommend

  • Shahbaz Asif Tahir

    Fear Allah Subhana, and fear his humiliating punishment. Hijab is mandatory on all believing
    women. In fact it is an act of worship. The life of this world is temprory and the weight of
    a mosquito, in the sight of Allah Subhana, when compared to the hereafter. I feel sorry for
    your insane, liberal views. May Allah Subhana guide us all to the light of Islam, Ameen.Recommend

  • Sara

    absolutely agree…now a days i can see 4-5 years old pakistani girls wearing niqab, hijab, burqa etc. This cannot be “by choice”.Recommend

  • Haider Rehman Butt

    Keep it up!Recommend

  • MUHAMMAD

    The hijab or niqab is the Muslim woman’s proper dress, which Allah
    Almighty has ordered her to wear when he said what means:
    *{And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and be modest, and to
    display of their adornment only that which is apparent, and to draw
    their veils over their bosoms, and not to reveal their adornment save to
    their own husbands or fathers or husbands’ fathers, or their sons or
    their husbands’ sons, or their brothers or their brothers’ sons or
    sisters’ sons, or their women, or their slaves, or male attendants who
    lack vigour, or children who know naught of women’s nakedness. And let
    them not stamp their feet so as to reveal what they hide of their
    adornment. And turn unto Allah together, O believers, in order that ye
    may succeed.}* (An-Nur 24:31)

    This verse shows clearly that Allah has obliged women to wear hijab.Recommend

  • Biswajit Biswas

    “In case of burqa , choice is not burqa …. Choice is being a Muslim or not? ”
    What is the punishment for apostasy in Islam?Recommend

  • Muhammad Qasim

    and i can see 4-5 years old pakistani girls not wearing niqab, hijab, burqa etc. this can’t either be “BY CHOICE”Recommend

  • Noman Ansari

    To the readers lacking basic comprehension skills… the topic says ‘niqab’ not ‘hijab’. Try again.Recommend

  • Sadaf

    The argument that men’s dislike of your point of view is because they are oppressive of women is very interesting. I believe it’s quite possible for a man to disagree with you based on other reasons, most important of them being that hijab is ordained by Allah SWT, certainly not a mundane reason as some of your readers think it is.

    As a Muslim woman, I believe that Muslim women have been told by Allah to cover themselves. The ‘choice’ is similar to any other choice about obligatory commandments–whether you pray or not is up to you. This doesn’t change the fact that it’s a commandment.

    It’s disappointing that you should choose to label a garment ‘mentally-suffocating’. I live in the United States, and wear this so-called suffocating garment by my own decision. My husband would have had me throw it off, but I am a strong woman who knows my rights, and I prevailed. (Feminists should be applauding.) I know countless women, young and old, who are anything but mentally slow, suffocated or retarded. I find it insulting that you think that if I cover my hair, I must have covered my mind also.

    (BTW ‘hijab’, ‘niqab’, ‘burqa’ and ‘abaya’ are not interchangeable, but we can talk about the finer details another time.)Recommend

  • Muhammad Arslan

    Don’t we have a school of thought in Pakistan that discourages their children wearing niqab when they want to don it….I think (Mostly) in our society, its about imposition of parents will on their children without realising the wishes of their children. and this article covers only one aspect of that fact. so I believe its an incomplete article keeping in mind only specific angle of an aspect.
    In my opinion its mentality gap between generation and clesses that we are unable to bridge.Recommend

  • Fareed

    Spot on.

    If we make a choice to live as Muslims, we must abide by certain rules and that’s what our Deen is all about i.e. submitting one’s self to Allah (Creator).Recommend

  • Ahmad

    They choose to become Muslims. Knowing the things that come with it.Recommend

  • omaranis

    it is an Islamaic dress which all muslim women must wear….if some women dont like it they can declare them selves non-muslims and move to countries where they can dress as they please.
    if they choose to live in Islamic country, especially saudia, they must conform to there rules.
    its nonsense to equate it to slavery, in western countries naked women or exposing dresses dosent make them independent, they are sex slaves in that society, now thats degradation and legalized prostitution that is real slavery and opression.Recommend

  • Someone

    Awesome Noman – God Bless youRecommend

  • siesmann

    if wearing veils is being Muslim,then over 95% women claiming to be Muslimas are non-MuslimRecommend

  • Mubeen Fatima

    Noman just an advice, when you are writing such article, you have to cover all the aspects of what you are writing about… this article of yours is nothing but a misconception going on in your head and you willingly decided to write about it and published. However let me clarify one thing for certain Hijab/Naqab it is not mentally or physically suffocating. For someone who has not to wear Hijab/Naqab daily, should not comment like that. I am a girl, I do veil, wear abaya and you know what that is my own choice. No one told me to dress up like that.I dont feel suffocated.i feel relaxed. there are many more examples like me.. the only thing to be kept in mind is that the way you have implied veil to be the one thing done because females are forced to do so is not correct, it s the matter of choice for many… the thing is that I admit the society is used to force their decisions without creating any awareness of what is it that is being imposed, what are its pros and cons. the way of doing it is wrong but hijab itself is not always forced upon.. neither the hijab nor the naqab.
    And for the record we are already very much notorious and such articles would do nothing but add points to it… and if you want to write on Hijab/Naqab just dig deeper into it, the concept, the history, everything..

    *and there is much more in my head that I cant write here*Recommend

  • siesmann

    Seems like majority pf Muslim women are not wearing Proper “Islamic” dress,so thereby not MuslmRecommend

  • siesmann

    It is mullah who is obsessed with women and sexuality.Keep on churning on conspiracy theoriesRecommend

  • AJ

    Very well written…I agree with writers view …..Now i am sure that many of our muslim brothers will start debating against this article only because they want to enforce their thinking…very sad to see when people have no tolerance and just try to dominate others…Recommend

  • siesmann

    Wrong;Burka came when Mullahs started ruling Pakistan(compare before 1980 and after),,and many other countries.How can a dress be an integral part of culture when it is worn by a minuscule percentage of women?Recommend

  • siesmann

    He did not say Hijab,but Niqab ans BurkaRecommend

  • siesmann

    As if God can not see them under the niqab.Recommend

  • siesmann

    Then majority of Muslim’women are not wearing proper dressRecommend

  • Arsha

    A child would any day make the choice to not wear something so restrictive. Any child would CHOOSE the freedom to play unobstructed, run around , satisfy their curiosity about anything and everything around usRecommend

  • Arsha

    Why is it always men who get so worked up about what a woman needs to wear? Why don’t you worry and put restrictions on your gender and try to control them. Please stop standing in the way of women’s empowerment, women’s rights, women’s freedom, women’s dignity, women’s happiness. Please stand aside and let women make their own choices. Recommend

  • Arsha

    You are a man. Better not stress yourself about women’s attire. They have the ability and intelligence to make their own choicesRecommend

  • s

    But where does it say you should cover your face? Niqab is covering face and it should be banned everywhere for security purposesRecommend

  • Sara

    “In case of burqa , choice is not burqa …. Choice is being a Muslim or not? If chose to be a Muslim then you have to follow the rules”

    Religion is thrusted upon you by your parents and society you happened to live in.

    “Being a Muslim” and “Chose to be a muslim” are totally contradictive. Option of “Chose ones religion” was never given to you. No human is born with a religion tag on his/ her face.Recommend

  • Kamal

    These women never “chose” this religion of niqab, hijab and burqa by themselves. It was/ is thrusted upon them by men?
    No human is born with a religion tag on his body.Recommend

  • Mahi

    Medieval minded, Lazy, mostly poor, mostly unattractive will chose niqab, hijab burqa etc to make the point “I am very religious”.Recommend

  • MUHAMMAD

    It was narrated that ‘Aa’ishah said: “The riders used to pass by us when we were with the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) in ihraam. When they came near, each
    of us would lower her jilbaab from her head over her face, and when
    they passed by we would uncover (our faces).” [Narrated by Abu Dawood, 1833; Ahmad, 24067]
    This hadith has decisive proof that Niqab is Wajib, because the blessed wives of Prophet (salallaho alaihi wasalam) kept extreme care of covering themselves and did not reveal their faces infront of strangers, however when women are with their husbands and those with whom their Nikah is impermissible (being single that is) they can take off the face veil.Recommend

  • MUHAMMAD

    If we are true Muslims then we should obey our God and obey the messenger Muhammad (P.B.U.H), we must follow the message of the
    messenger. We must follow the Quran. Here we don’t have choices or options of our own ability and intelligence.Recommend

  • SAJAD

    Articles is all about strengthening the stereotypes.Recommend

  • MUHAMMAD

    Maoulana Abul A’la Maududi (Rahimahullah) In his tafseer of
    Surah Azhab ayah #59

    “In verse 59 the third step for social reform was taken. All the Muslim women were commanded that they should come out well covered with the outer garments and covering their faces whenever they came out of their houses for a genuine need.” (From Tasfeer of Quran by Maoulana Abul A’la Maududi in tafseer of ayah # 59 of Surah Al-Ahzaab)Recommend

  • Linux Novice

    Newborn baby chose to get oppressed?! And when they grew up they learn about apostacy?!Recommend

  • Linux Novice

    So all kids born to Muslims get a choice to leave Islam peacefully?! Some where I read something about apostacy and Islam!Recommend

  • Linux Novice

    It should be both.Recommend

  • Linux Novice

    Slavery cult!Recommend

  • Linux Novice

    Oh they claim and brainwash women to think that it is so!Recommend

  • Linux Novice

    If you feel relaxed in a burqa, you need a psychiatrist. Get well soon sister.Recommend

  • Linux Novice

    You are hiding your insecurities behind that black post box dear. Find a good psychiatrist or psychoanalyst.Recommend

  • Linux Novice

    Once the oppressive religious conversion by sword by invaders lessened and things became normal, people went back to normal and women stopped wearing burqa which was imposed on them. Now the cultural invasion through Wahabism is imposing it again.Recommend

  • Linux Novice

    No coersion in the slavery cult?! So pray say, why does I see 2yr and 3yr old kids wearing burqa all around?! Must be out of choice right, in this scorching heat?!Recommend

  • Linux Novice

    When the wahabis mind their own business, then may be?!Recommend

  • Linux Novice

    Ana Al Haq.Recommend

  • Linux Novice

    So now and then daily men and women goes regressive?!Recommend

  • Linux Novice

    Lol, valid point there.Recommend

  • Linux Novice

    They have something to hide from the society, family or even themselves. Guilt conscience is a funny thing. They think I will absolve them if they put on a show now. They don’t know that I see their hearts rather than their burqa clad temporary abodes.
    Ana Al Haq.Recommend

  • Linux Novice

    That was the point most of the people commenting here didn’t seem to understand.Recommend

  • AJ

    Dear Arman,

    Any comment on ladies in niqab who are buying short night dress..
    What you say…is this not reflecting our real face as muslims…Recommend

  • MUHAMMAD

    Well done my sister.Recommend

  • SAJAD

    Linking social & religious extremism with niqab with presumption that no sain mind can accept niqab with free will……………how creative are we……..Recommend

  • Kushal

    “At the peak of slavery, many slave owners also built a narrative around how slavery was beneficial for slaves. Some slaves were psychologically conditioned into believing this. Not only did slaves called ‘House Negroes’ whip other slaves into submission for their masters, but some refused freedom when it was offered to them.”:Recommend

  • Sohaib Rashid

    Right! So when did burqa became one of the rules for Muslim Women please do explain?Recommend

  • Mahi

    It is not Allah, but humans whisper Azaan into a child’s ears and take all his/ her freedom the moment he/ she is born.Recommend

  • Vinod

    Many Muslim women wearing the niqab in the west as they want to differentiate from the non believers.Recommend

  • ajeet

    The women look like penguins.Recommend

  • ajeet

    Looking at what’s happening in the Muslim world, I would think covering women’s faces would be the last thing on the minds of the Muslim men.Recommend

  • SIC

    and if that CHILD would opt to wear hijab or cover her face then everyone would accept it. simple is that!!Recommend

  • knightridrr

    He put one link in the article which essentially says that hijab isn’t required in Islam.Recommend

  • Oxy Moron

    Dear Arman,

    You’ve written with such gusto I almost got convinced. I have just one residual query, though – some people here seem to be doubting your assertion about a person’s choice on being born a Muslim, so I’ll leave that aside, but surely, God Almighty, who has ordained that Muslim women be dressed modestly, CERTAINLY has a choice who is to be born a Muslim – so why does He create Muslim baby girls to be born without cover.

    Recommend

  • Parvez

    Very well said. Burqa is not a choice but a tyranny. Recommend

  • Cancerian_Sethi

    // If the niqab is a choice, why do these young women not wear it in a place where they are free to dress as they please, away from the grip of an organisation that forces the garb?//

    Many women do wear them in the western countries,. Such as the USA,France,Britain etc etc. As a matter of fact, in a so-called secular country like France, banned hijab/niqab. In spite of it the Muslim women wore it and protested against the ban as amounting to deprive them of their right to the choice of dress they wish to wear !

    “Man in early times was almost naked, and as his intellect evolved he started wearing clothes.It represents the highest level of thought and civilization that man has achieved, and is not regressive. It’s the removal of clothes again that is a regression back to the ancient times.’Recommend