‘Why it is so important for us to wear the veil’

Amongst the 1.4 million Muslim women in Britain, Shalina Litt is one of a tiny minority who choose to cover their face entirely. This choice has come under intense scrutiny over the last few days, after a judge ruled that a 22-year-old woman from Hackney, East London, could not wear the full veil while being cross-examined in court. So when Birmingham community worker Shalina steps out in her niqab, she has come to expect the worst. “It gets a really bad reaction,” the 34 year-old mother of two says. “I’ve had glass kicked at me and when you drive people are extra aggressive. They will roll down their window to shout at you and at times like this when hatred of covered-up women becomes most heated you find that people are very aggressive,”

 

Unlike some who wear the niqab, Shalina does not feel obliged to keep it on at all non-family occasions. She explains: “Nobody is forcing me to do it and I can lift it up at any time. When I see my elderly white neighbour, I make sure I lift it up and show her my face. I actually find it cooler to wear on a hot day, but if it’s uncomfortable or I’ve got a cold and I’m bunged up, I’m not going to wear it. It’s a religious choice. Shalina, who has two young children, says she would be happy for her daughter to wear a veil, but that it would be her choice. “It’s a very liberating and empowering experience. I’m not oppressed by ageism, sexism or racism because nobody can see.”

 

Julie Siddiqi, executive director of the Islamic Society of Britain, who converted to Islam in 1995, believes the niqab is unnecessary but worries that there has been an overreaction to it. “It’s pathetic that some people are presenting this as a national issue”, she said. “This is a few thousand women and we need to keep that in perspective.

 

Rabiha Hannan, co-editor of Islam and the Veil, a book which examines Muslim women’s use of face and hair covering, believes that people’s fears about those wearing niqabs and burqas need to be addressed.

Wearing niqab should be woman’s choice, says Theresa May

The Government should not tell women what to wear, the Home Secretary has said amid ongoing debate over the use of full-face veils. Theresa May said it is for women to “make a choice” about what clothes they wear, including veils, although there will be some circumstances when it will be necessary to ask for them to be removed.

 

The ruling followed calls by Home Office Minister Jeremy Browne for a national debate on whether the state should step in to prevent young women having the veil imposed upon them.

 

Asked if parliament needs to issue formal guidance to courts and schools on whether women should be allowed to wear a veil, the Home Secretary told Sky News: “I start from the position that I don’t think Government should tell people, I don’t think the Government should tell women, what they should be wearing.

 

“I think it’s for women to make a choice about what clothes they wish to wear, if they wish to wear a veil that is for a woman to make a choice.” There will be some circumstances in which it’s right for public bodies, for example at the border, at airport security, to say there is a practical necessity for asking somebody to remove a veil. “I think it’s for public bodies like the Border Force officials, it’s for schools and colleges, and others like the judiciary, as we’ve recently seen, to make a judgment in relation to those cases as to whether it’s necessary to ask somebody to remove the veil.

 

“But in general women should be free to decide what to wear for themselves.”

The faces behind the veil: Muslim women speak out against ban

Mainstream British media often depicts veiled Muslim women as oppressed, stay-at-home mums who spend their days shopping and cooking for their husbands. Yet, on the other side of the spectrum, there are Muslim women who wear the niqab, work, engage and participate fully in mainstream British society. While the niqab can be a symbol of oppression overseas in places where women have no choice in the matter, here in the UK it takes on a very different symbolism – one of women refusing to be part of the present-day society’s vapid consumerism and sexualisation.

 

Four Muslim-veiled women shared their experiences of wearing the niqab and considered what a ban might mean for future generations. All outlined their frustrations on common misconceptions of veiled women as “unintellectual” and “immigrants.”

 

Aysha, 23, is a master’s student from London who started wearing the niqab when she was 17.

“When wearing the niqab it comes down to the individuals involved. My teachers were very open-minded – they did not see it as a barrier to the British way of life but respected it and treated me like a normal person. I have no problem interacting with male colleagues or teachers; the veil is there to protect me as a Muslim woman.

 

“I think the ban by the college is criminalising and discriminatory. Hundreds of women across the UK wear the veil; by banning it you are taking away their right to education, alienating them and hampering community cohesion and integration. This is not a security issue at all – ask anyone who wears the niqab and most of us will remove it to identify ourselves.”

 

Saadiyah, 22, is a cover supervisor at a school in the Midlands and started wearing the niqab aged 13.

 

“A friend of mine inspired me to start wearing the veil. I was really young at the time and had to convince my parents I was ready for it. I completed my undergraduate degree at the University of Birmingham while wearing the niqab and never saw it as a barrier. “My lecturers treated me like every other student; I took part in classes, did presentations and interacted with students both male and female. People were curious and always asked me questions but never in a negative way.

 

“I now work as a cover supervisor at a catholic school and one of the requirements is to show your face while teaching. As a result, I remove my niqab while at work. “The way you dress should not determine whether you can access the right to education. One of the great things about Britain is that it is an open, democratic society. How can people respect other religions if our MPs and institutions are attacking this basic freedom?”

 

Samina, 35, is a full-time PhD student, researcher, consultant and mother of two, who decided to start wearing the niqab four years ago.

 

“It was very different when I started covering my face. While studying and at work, it was not an issue – most people understood why I was wearing it and respected it. Interestingly, male colleagues admired my decision and got along with me, while I had a harder time from some female counterparts. “When out in public, I’m always living in fear as people are very hostile towards me. I’ve suffered verbal abuse on numerous occasions and almost got knocked over in a Sainsbury’s car park because of the way I was dressed.

 

“The banning of the niqab will impact negatively on Muslim women – how a woman dresses should not define her. When conducting interviews for jobs, I don’t look at religion or the way people live their life, I look at their skills, abilities and intellect.”

 

Former chair for the Federation of Student Islamic Societies’ Welsh division, Sahar is a molecular geneticist for the NHS and began covering her face at 14.

 

“Wearing the niqab gives me a sense of strong Muslim identity, character, dignity and freedom. It’s totally a personal choice, I’m not oppressed, I’m not isolated, I’m highly educated and I’m a Muslim British and an active citizen. “There is no place for discrimination and racism in 21st century and actions like banning the niqab are destroying the fabric of our British society.”

 

Judge allows Muslim woman to wear niqab in London court

A Muslim woman has been allowed to make a plea in court while wearing a face-covering niqab after a judge agreed a compromise in which she was identified in private by a female police officer who then attested to her identity. The judge in the case at Blackfriars crown court in London then heard arguments as to whether the woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, should be allowed to wear the niqab, which leaves only her eyes showing, during her full trial. Judge Peter Murphy will give that decision on Monday.

 

The judge allowed her to plead not guilty in the dock wearing the niqab after a female police officer who saw the defendant’s face when her custody photograph was taken witnessed her with the veil removed in a private room. The officer then swore on oath that the correct person was in court. The woman’s barrister, Susan Meek, said she was entitled to wear the niqab under the section of the European convention on human rights relating to religious beliefs.

“She is entitled to wear it in private and in public,” Meek said. “That right to wear the niqab also extends to the courtroom. There is no legislation in the UK in respect of the wearing of the niqab. There is no law in this country banning it.”

 

The court heard details from a similar case which reached Canada’s Supreme Court last year after a judge ruled that a woman should remove her niqab when testifying in a sexual assault case so jurors could properly gauge her credibility as a witness. The Supreme Court eventually ruled such decisions should be made on a case-by-case basis. Meek argued that a jury would be able to assess the defendant from her answers and body language. She said: “Ultimately it’s the choice of the defendant if she wishes to wear it.

Muslim woman Rebekah Dawson must remove niqab while giving evidence, judge rules

Rebekah Dawson arrives at courtJudge Peter Murphy made the ruling in the case of Muslim convert Rebekah Dawson, who is facing trial for allegedly intimidating a witness. The 22-year-old had claimed her religious beliefs dictated that no male other than her husband could see her face. Lawyers for the defendant had argued that forcing the 22-year-old convert to remove her niqab in court would be a breach of her rights under Article 9 of the European Convention of Human Rights. But in a lengthy ruling, Judge Murphy said it was of “cardinal importance” to the adversarial system that a jury could see a defendant’s face while giving evidence. The issue first arose when Mrs Dawson refused to lift her veil in order to identify herself at a plea and case management hearing at Blackfriars Crown Court. The case was adjourned until last week when a compromise was reached and the judge allowed a female police officer to identify her in the privacy of a side room.

 

During his ruling, the judge revealed that Mrs Dawson, who was referred to as D, had only worn the veil since May 2012. But he said his decision would have been the same if she had worn it for years accepting that her feelings on the issue were sincere.

He went on: “I accept for the purposes of this judgment that D sincerely takes the view that as a Muslim woman, she is either not permitted or chooses not to uncover her face in the presence of men who are not members of her close family. I have been given no reason to doubt the sincerity of her belief.”

 

But in a lengthy ruling handed down today Judge Murphy said the ability for a jury to see a defendant’s demeanour during cross-examination was a principle part of the adversarial trial system. He said while the defendant would have to remove her niqab while giving evidence, screens could be erected or video links used to ensure she was only visible to the judge, the jury and counsel. He also ruled that court artists would not be permitted to sketch the defendant when her veil was removed. “No tradition or practice, whether religious or otherwise, can claim to occupy such a privileged position that the rule of law, open justice and the adversarial trial process are sacrificed to accommodate it. That is not a discrimination against religion; it is a matter of upholding the rule of law in a democratic society.”

Solicitors for Mrs Dawson have said they are considering their position but it is possible they could ask for a judicial review of the ruling.

 

Catalonian police controls women with burqas

27 August 2013

Catalonian police has now to control all women wearing burqas. “The Catalan police is convinced that the existence of a woman covered with a niqab or a burka can be indicative, along with other elements, of an environment of radicalization or of a Salafi vision of Islam”, say the government sources. The Parliament approved on July 18, a motion under public safety arguments, that forbiddens face covering in public spaces.

“France will always protect its Muslim communities”, declares Minister

Manuel Valls, the current government’s Minister for Internal Affairs, declares during the visit of the  mosque of Ozoir-la-Ferrière (Seine-et-Marne) which has been subject to racist inscriptions that ‘France never tolerated any acts or words directed against Muslims. France will always protect the Muslims of France”. The ministers speech was part of a set of speeches made in mosques during the holy month of Ramadan. The minister called the slogans depicted on the mosque’s walls in February as ‘despicable’ and ‘unacceptable’.

While the actions and threats against Muslims increased by 35% during the first six months of the year compared to 2012, the minister said: “I will never let anyone say, nor believe that the authorities […] would favour anti-Semitic acts over anti-Muslim or anti-Christian acts. We know of this kind of rhetoric. It is false. It is shameful. This is one of division of hatred which is often guided towards another. ” He continued to speak against radicalization as a response to an increase in Islamophobia by saying that ” the Republic will always oppose those who would make France a land of conquest, which would, in the name of a misguided belief, impose laws other than the law for all.” Referring to the riots in Trappes (Yvelines), Valls stated that “the law banning the wearing of  the niqab in public places should be applied firmly […] Those who continue to advocate for wearing the niqab challenge our institutions.”

A ban of the hijab in higher education?

05.08.2013

The High Council for Integration (HCI) called for a controversial ban of the Islamic headscarf in higher education in a report leaked to the public. The publication of the report caused confusion in social networks. Questioned by the AFP, the secretary general of HCI, Benoît Normand, said that the report had been submitted in April to the President of the new National Observatory of Secularism, Jean-Louis Bianco and  should not be released before the end of the year.

For his part, Jean-Louis Bianco expressed regret over the “misunderstanding”. “The report commits only the Chair of Secularism of the HCI  who is no longer in office.” The issue of the headscarves in higher education is, according to Bianco, not part of the task plan of the National Observatory of Secularism. The 2004 national law on banning the wearing of  religious symbols in secondary schools does not apply to higher education. Only the niqab remains to be banned in public spaces including universities in France, not the hijab.

Madonna: Has the Queen of Pop Sensationalism gone too far by wearing a chainmail niqab?

 

The Queen of Pop is at it again. Madonna loves touting a gun or wearing fishnets and spandex at an age when most of us prefer to cover up. But her latest outfit is more controversial still. She has been pictured wearing a chainmail mask resembling a niqab – a face veil worn by Muslim women. The star posted a photo from her forthcoming photo-shoot with Harper’s Bazaar magazine on Instagram and Facebook, accompanied by the words: “The Revolution of Love is on…Inshallah [Arabic for ‘God willing’].”

 

It is unclear what message Madonna, who is well known for her humanitarian work with women in developing countries and as an exponent of the Kabbalah religion, meant to send via her new look. Some fans have interpreted the chainmail mask as a message of empowerment to women, but one Instagram user said: “You thing this message is empowering to women?…If this was a woman who really wanted to empower other females she could do this in many other ways…When did gagging women make them feel good?” Other fans have suggested that Madonna’s chainmail mask is a direct criticism of the oppression suffered by women in some Islamic countries.

 

Bill Paul Buttuls wrote on Facebook: “Are you saying the burqa is ‘trapping’ women?” while Ccim Le Bon commented: “Burqa covers even the eyes…and this is the NIQAB…the message is not clear…what do you mean queen?”

 

While the majority of fans posted positive comments about the outfit, and the odd joke about the Queen of Pop raiding Lady Gaga’s wardrobe, others found the photograph “disappointing” and “ reductive”.

 

Madonna and the Chains of Islam

July 7, 2013

 

Depicted with a facial veil made of steel. A Battle for Women or Marketing? Awaiting her New Project

 

After the cross, Madonna breaks down to the sound of metal. The latest provocation is likely to unleash a wave of protests more incendiary than those created by the burning of the Koran. But the material girl explains on Instagram: “The revolution of love is the game … Inshallah,” which in Arabic means “if God wills.”
The latest gossip would suggest that this will be the last project of the pop star. Not just a publicity stunt, which was launched on the eve of Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting that begins on July 9.
Madonna, the artist has posted a picture of her face covered by a niqab (Islamic veil that covers the face of women) in steel mesh.
SADO MASO-ISLAMIC. The photo is part of a series that will be released soon in the magazine Harper’s Bazaar, in which Madonna performs with her teeth in gold and diamonds – the latest fad among the stars of Hollywood – while shaking the metal veil.