A yr since COVID-19, Muslim girls discover sporting a niqab ‘much less daunting’ as masks turn into the norm

A yr since COVID-19, Muslim girls discover sporting a niqab ‘much less daunting’ as masks turn into the norm

Some girls wore a masks underneath the niqab, conscious of the well being steerage that requires masks to be constructed out of a “tightly woven cloth,” as a way to cease the virus from being unfold. Others used thick, snugly hooked up niqabs in lieu of a masks.

By Anna Piela

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

To some it’s a difficulty of protest, whereas for some others it’s an announcement of social accountability. Some folks have even turned it into a mode assertion and are keen to spend a whole bunch of {dollars} on designer masks.

On the identical time, racialised perceptions associated to masks have put an extra 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 law enforcement officials who claimed they appeared “suspicious” in pandemic masks.

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

Additionally learn: Rethinking the hijab: COVID-19 made masks ubiquitous; will it additionally spur shift in assumptions about veiled faces?

Challenges confronted by many Muslim girls

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

Niqab wearers are a troublesome group to review, 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 tasks that relied on interviews with girls who wore the niqab.

Initially, I performed a bigger examine of 40 girls that I printed in my ebook Sporting the Niqab: Muslim Girls within the UK and the US. I additionally interviewed a gaggle of 11 girls in April 2020 after mask-wearing grew to become mandated in public in lots of US states and international locations. In January I used to be in a position to attain 16 girls who agreed to be interviewed about their experiences of sporting the niqab one yr into the pandemic.

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

Some girls wore a masks underneath the niqab, conscious of the well being steerage that requires masks to be constructed out of a “tightly woven cloth,” as a way to cease the virus from being unfold. Others used thick, snugly hooked up niqabs in lieu of a masks.

Research have proven that Muslim girls 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 ebook stated they skilled some type of abuse in public, similar to 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 international locations and territories, similar to France and Quebec. On March 7, Swiss residents will probably be voting on a niqab ban in a nationwide referendum. Up 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 girls.

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 no masks, whereas sporting a niqab nonetheless carries a danger of being fined as much as $180.

Throughout my interviews in April with 11 niqab-wearing girls in america 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 optimistic. 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 overlaying. Many loved the sense of “invisibility” whereas sporting the niqab.

A lady 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 coated our faces. Now that argument has simply disappeared. I simply hope this sentiment doesn’t make a comeback as soon as the pandemic is over.”

Free to decorate religiously

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

A year since COVID19 Muslim women find wearing a niqab less daunting as masks become the norm

Muslim girls report feeling much less seen when sporting a niqab in public areas. Picture by way of The Dialog/Olivier Douliery/AFP by way of Getty Photos

In a web based ballot that I ran with the assistance of the proprietor of the web Islamic style boutique Qibtiyyah Unique UK as a part of my 2021 examine, 14 girls out of 51 who responded stated that they’d 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 didn’t already.” One other wrote: “It’s been a flawless transition [to wearing the niqab]. Nobody says a phrase.” One other said, “I’d been experimenting with the niqab earlier than, however now, since COVID, I’ve worn the niqab full time.”

The niqab isn’t talked about by the Quran – which mandates solely modest clothes for each women and men extra usually. The Quran (24:31) says: “And inform the believing girls 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 frequent false impression within the West that that is an oppressive, patriarchal observe pressured upon Muslim girls. In actuality, a number of research have proven that many ladies select to put on the niqab – typically towards their households’ preferences.

The 40 niqab wearers I interviewed for my ebook thought-about it a spiritual observe. Lots of them stated that the wives of Prophet Muhammad reportedly wore it repeatedly. A lady 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 girls who cowl their faces will probably be rewarded for fulfilling this additional responsibility.”

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 lady from the UK defined why some girls select to put on it whereas others don’t: “The Quran says to cowl your self modestly. Now, the interpretation of that’s totally different to each group of Muslims. Some folks imagine it simply to be the free costume. Others imagine it to be an outer garment in addition to headband. But others would go one step additional and say it’s the face overlaying as effectively, 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 the most effective time to strive.

A lady from Pennsylvania who started sporting the niqab in late 2020 despatched me a message: “I needed to put on the niqab for a very long time, however I stay in a really white space. I used to be afraid – I don’t wish 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 needed to solely check it out, however actually no one checked out me twice. So I’m simply sporting it, with a masks beneath.”A year since COVID19 Muslim women find wearing a niqab less daunting as masks become the norm

Anna Piela, Visiting Scholar in Non secular Research and Gender, Northwestern College

This text is republished from The Dialog underneath a Inventive Commons license. Learn the unique article.

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