One 12 months on, Muslim Girls Replicate on Carrying the Niqab in a Masks-wearing World

By Anna Piela, Northwestern College

One 12 months into the pandemic, protecting face masks have come to suggest various things for various teams of individuals.

To some it is a difficulty of protest, whereas for some others it is a assertion of social accountability. Some individuals have even turned it into a method assertion and are keen to spend a whole bunch of {dollars} on designer masks.

On the similar time, racialized perceptions associated to masks have put a further burden on teams that already expertise racism and inequality. Throughout the nation, a number of Black American males have been arrested, adopted and challenged by cops who claimed they regarded “suspicious” in pandemic masks.

However in a gaggle I’ve studied since 2013 – Muslim ladies within the West who put on the niqab, or the Islamic veil, together with a headband, the experiences have been extra constructive.

Challenges confronted by many Muslim ladies

The niqab is worn by a small minority of Muslim ladies. It’s a piece of fabric tied over the scarf (hijab) that is available in quite a lot of kinds and colours. It’s generally mistakenly labeled because the burqa, which is an all-enveloping garment that largely entered the American creativeness in the course of the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan. At the moment the Western media, whereas depicting burqa-clad ladies, wrote about how the battle would assist advance the rights of Afghan ladies.

Niqab wearers are a tough group to check, and students have described them as a “uncommon and elusive spiritual sub-culture.” Regardless of this problem, I’ve been in a position to conduct three analysis initiatives that relied on interviews with ladies who wore the niqab.

Initially, I performed a bigger examine of 40 ladies that I printed in my e book “Carrying the Niqab: Muslim Girls within the UK and the US.” I additionally interviewed a gaggle of 11 ladies in April 2020 after mask-wearing turned mandated in public in lots of U.S. states and nations. In January I used to be in a position to attain 16 ladies who agreed to be interviewed about their experiences of sporting the niqab one 12 months into the pandemic.

I discovered that many not too long ago adopted the niqab as a result of strolling round with a lined face turned much less daunting as extra individuals appeared in public with face masks. As I discovered, many wished to put on the niqab to underscore the spiritual character of this observe.

Some ladies wore a masks below the niqab, aware of the well being steerage that requires masks to be constructed out of a “tightly woven cloth,” to be able to cease the virus from being unfold. Others used thick, snugly connected niqabs in lieu of a masks.

Research have proven that Muslim ladies extra more likely to expertise prejudice in public areas, employment and different providers, after they costume religiously. Over 80% of the ladies I interviewed for my e book stated they skilled some type of abuse in public, reminiscent of hostile stares, feedback, having the niqab ripped off or being bodily injured.

Laws that bans spiritual face coverings in public has been handed in some nations and territories, reminiscent of France and Quebec. On March 7, Swiss residents can be voting on a niqab ban in a nationwide referendum. Prior to now, advocates of such legal guidelines have argued that face-covering is an indication of spiritual extremism, social separation and patriarchal oppression of Muslim ladies.

Nonetheless, in the course of the pandemic, criticism has been leveled by students and activists at governments that upheld such laws whereas concurrently requiring their residents to put on masks.

In France, for instance, one is liable to pay US$165 (or 135 euros) if caught in public with out a masks, whereas sporting a niqab nonetheless carries a threat of being fined as much as $180.

Throughout my interviews in April with 11 niqab-wearing ladies in the US and Europe about their experiences of face-covering in the course of the early part of the pandemic, I discovered their responses to be guardedly constructive. Girls reported decreased ranges of the sorts of prejudice they skilled earlier than the pandemic. They attributed this to the brand new social expectation that everybody was sporting a facial masking. Many loved the sense of “invisibility” whereas sporting the niqab.

A girl from Illinois who I spoke with over Zoom (names of the respondents are withheld to protect their anonymity) stated: “There are so few of us, and nonetheless we have been instructed we have been a menace to society as a result of we lined our faces. Now that argument has simply disappeared. I simply hope this sentiment would not make a comeback as soon as the pandemic is over.”

Free to decorate religiously

Virtually a 12 months later, I went again to search out out whether or not the “masks impact” held regular for these ladies. I spoke with 16 ladies who stated that the niqab had grow to be a way more accepted possibility among the many pandemic masks. I discovered that many ladies have been switching from sporting it solely often exterior their houses to each time they have been in public areas. Some really adopted this garment for the primary time of their lives.

In a web based ballot that I ran with the assistance of the proprietor of the web Islamic trend boutique Qibtiyyah Unique UK as a part of my 2021 examine, 14 ladies out of 51 who responded stated that that they had determined to start sporting the niqab in the course of the pandemic.

One nameless respondent commented: “I really feel that is the proper alternative for any Muslimah [Muslim woman] to start out sporting the niqab. I might if I did not already.” One other wrote: “It has been a flawless transition [to wearing the niqab]. Nobody says a phrase.” One other acknowledged, “I might been experimenting with the niqab earlier than, however now, since COVID, I’ve worn the niqab full time.”

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The niqab is just not talked about by the Quran – which mandates solely modest clothes for each women and men extra typically. The Quran (24:31) says: “And inform the believing ladies to decrease their gaze and guard their chastity, and to not reveal their adornments besides what usually seems. Allow them to draw their veils over their chests, and never reveal their hidden adornments …”

A person observe

There’s a widespread false impression within the West that that is an oppressive, patriarchal observe pressured upon Muslim ladies. In actuality, a number of research have proven that many ladies select to put on the niqab – generally in opposition to their households’ preferences.

The 40 niqab wearers I interviewed for my e book thought-about it a non secular observe. A lot of them stated that the wives of Prophet Muhammad reportedly wore it usually. A girl from Texas stated: “I put on the niqab as a result of I select to comply with what I imagine to be essentially the most correct interpretation of God’s phrase that claims ladies who cowl their faces can be rewarded for fulfilling this further obligation.”

It’s a extremely particular person observe to which the ladies I interviewed got here after an extended reflection. They acknowledged that whereas the niqab could also be appropriate for them, it may not work for others. A girl from the U.Ok. defined why some ladies select to put on it whereas others do not: “The Quran says to cowl your self modestly. Now, the interpretation of that’s totally different to each group of Muslims. Some individuals imagine it simply to be the free costume. Others imagine it to be an outer garment in addition to scarf. But others would go one step additional and say it is the face masking as properly, as a result of [the Quran] says to cowl your self.”

Girls who adopted the niqab after the start of the pandemic additionally described their experiences to me. Following years of doubt in regards to the security of sporting the niqab of their neighborhoods, they felt this was one of the best time to attempt.

A girl from Pennsylvania who started sporting the niqab in late 2020 despatched me a message: “I wished to put on the niqab for a very long time, however I reside in a really white space. I used to be afraid – I do not prefer to be stared at and I already get sufficient of that in my hijab. With everybody sporting a masks, I figured now’s the time. At first, I wished to solely check it out, however actually no person checked out me twice. So I am simply sporting it, with a masks beneath.”The Conversation

Anna Piela, Visiting Scholar in Spiritual Research and Gender, Northwestern College

This text is republished from The Dialog below a Artistic Commons license. Learn the unique article.

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