Muslim Women Don’t Care If You Feel Uncomfortable

By Shaheen Sattar  30 Sept 2013

And neither should anyone else who decides to dress in a way that is subjectively unnerving to another person. The ridiculous subjugation of the veil as a cloth of oppression and regression truly highlights that Muslim women are not taken seriously in contemporary society. They are recognised with their veil as a commodity to men and their desires, not as independent and educated women. Boiling down the intellectual and spiritual thought process of wearing a niqab to oppression by men is wrong, and misleading. Those who hold this view are merely fuelled by the anger that a woman can use her freedom to cover her face. When a veiled woman decides to cover her face; something out of the ordinary in Britain, she is exercising her right of autonomy. It is simply because the actual act of covering ones face with a veil is so scarce within the Muslim community that she is cast with accusations of isolating herself within society.

I was taught in my early stages of Islamic Madrassah in respect to security measures and proving ones identity, it is permissible to remove ones veil. Muslim Council of Britain reiterates this in respect to a judge who allowed women to wear a veil in court, but remove it when giving evidence; “emphasise the need to be practical when there is an essential need to show ones face – for example, for reasons of security.”

A few of my friends and colleagues wear niqab, and although I do not wear it, removing my ability to wear it, renders me oppressed (rather ironically) simply because I do not have the autonomy to make a decision or non-decision. I simply cannot remember one time in my life where I have been attended to in hospital by a woman wearing a veil, neither in a police station, nor in any public sphere for that matter. What we’re discussing in great depth in the media is a minute issue that affects neither the stability of our government or puts any harmful or distressing pressure of a great deal on the public, so perhaps we should consider issues of actual importance. Please let us remember that it is an extremely small minority of Muslim women who wear the veil, discussion on this is a waste of time, money, and effort on part of our politicians and members of the public. 

Women who wear a niqab are surrendering themselves to their belief and their religion, wearing the veil for Allah, and no other being. People have to understand that having such a high belief and understanding of Islam renders this world material and only as a means to a far greater existence in the afterlife. Women, who wear the veil, do so only to be closer to God and to please Him, only. One has to understand that the small sacrifice to wear a veil is intrinsic to their relationship with God, something which one cannot understand, if you aren’t in the same position. These women, after a long process of thought, have decided to wear a veil. It is not simply a forceful act of oppression cast by a patriarchal Islamic society.

Often we think of Muslim women who wear a veil as uncivilised. The fact is that we have veiled women studying in institutions of academic excellence, top universities of not only Britain, but the world. They are working towards the common good of challenging misconceptions of Muslim women on the whole, and bettering themselves for God, as Islam emphasises the path of education. As a Muslim woman in Britain, I cannot emphasise the deal of anger and frustration I feel when ignorant people boil down my choice to wear a hijaab (and if I wanted to, niqab) as shaping the orders of tyrannical men.

Regardless of whether you think niqab should be banned in society wholeheartedly, or removed from public spheres because it makes you feel uncomfortable and in a compromised condition, banning the niqab for the small minority of women, challenges the very foundations of female autonomy in large. Surely if this trend of challenging the autonomy of Muslim women continues, the consequences shown in protest and uproar will be far greater an issue than the unnecessary media attention on the niqab, in the first place. Laurie Penny of the New Statesman, raised a very good point on BBC’s Question Time last week – does it really matter whether we feel uncomfortable? The point I am making is that Muslim veiled women truly do not care if you feel uncomfortable by their peaceful and safe method of worship, compromising their ability to wear it in public spheres has a greater affect on women’s freedom on the whole, than it does for just the minute group that they are.


Shaheen Sattar Studies BA International Politics at King’s College London, Schools Workshop Officer at New Turn and Respond2Rohingya committee member.  

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