Niqaabied In the USA…

Residing in the West, I probably have different experiences with the niqaab than women would in the East. I have probably had more opposition to the niqaab from other Muslims than from non-Muslims! I am in the mood for recollecting a few of these more positive encounters.

Exhibit A: As an undergraduate Muslim female in technology (rare in the States), I was checking out IEEE Journals on Software Engineering and the like from the University library. Standing in line at the check-out desk, there was a young blond, blue-eyed white man in front of me, who kept turning around to check me out. (Haraam…you know what I mean!). After a minute or so, he says to me, “You know, I would never expect someone dressed in traditional garb to be reading such 20th century literature. Its a great contradiction you make, standing there like that.” So, that was a relatively accepting impression this person had: he had an initial bias of me being from another century, and quite rapidly, when faced with opposing evidence (the books in hand), he overcame this bias to realize that I am definitely from this century after all.

Exhibit B: When I was filing for graduation (many moons ago!), the woman who served me at the Admissions counter needed to see ID, and to confirm that I am the person on the picture, I needed to lift my niqaab. Of course, not a problem. Then she asked me, very tentatively, “Is there anyone who is making you wear this?” I, of course, said “No, I do this because I want to. My dad, perhaps to suss out the truth as to whether I am veiled out of my own conviction, always told me that I don’t have to wear it if I find it to be difficult, and he never wants me to wear it when I am with him in public anywhere. So, no, I am not wearing it for anyone else. I just love the privacy it gives me!” This woman was relieved, as she thought I was some oppressed woman, and said, “I am so happy that you do it of your own free will. I can tell from your face that you are happy so, don’t ever change—you help make our country richer in culture!”

Exhibit C: At the end of my first semester of graduate school, the chair of the Department (whom I did not know), came up to me while I was hanging out at the Department office waiting for some paperwork to be finalized. He said to me the following: “I just wanted you to know how pleased I am that you have added to the diversity of this already diverse campus. Having someone like you in our department really makes us stand out in a wonderful way.” Needless to say, I was quite surprised and am still quite touched. My Muslim friends (who are not obviously Muslim–in dressing, etc.) have told me that Muslim professors in the College of Engineering make the following comments when they see me: “What does she think she is doing? Why is dressed like this? Is she trying to make us look backward?!” And here is this elderly Caucasian male–stereotyped to be as intolerant as they come–telling me that I am welcome here! He went on to ask my name, ask what the appropriate way would be to address a Muslim woman, ask if shaking hands is appropriate. I wished him a Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and thought surely he would forget me. Two months later, he was walking in the hallway, saw me in the computer lab, and stopped to say, “Hello, Miss DigiN, I hope you had a nice winter break! Study hard! :)” My shock was staggering, in that he not only remembered my name, but pronounced it correctly!

Its quite shocking to me when Muslims can say to me:

  • You don’t have to wear that!
  • You scare people when you are dressed that way!
  • Your father/brother/husband (take your pick) has no right to make you wear that.
  • Do you think you are better than all of us girls who don’t wear it?

Its almost as if Muslims believe the Orientalist stereotypes even more than the Westerners who originated these labels!

The upshot of these stories is to say: those in the West can and do accept us niqaabis to be thinking, non-submissive, non-dogmatic, un-scary women, who are entitled to hold on to our convictions just as much as they are. Surely, those in the East should not have too much trouble following their lead–especially since our Muslims do seem to love the idea of following the leader!

Final thought: the niqaab can be a symbol of the many adversities Muslim women face and overcome. It does not have to a symbol of oppression or dogma. Lets show the world the true face of the niqaab!

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About Digital Nomad

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12 Responses to Niqaabied In the USA…

  1. 3aneeda says:

    I have a comment and please dont take it in a bad way. what was it exactly that made u decide to dress this way?? because even our religion does not enforce the niqab. covered with face and hands showing yes. but not the whole ninja style thing.

  2. ironi! says:

    3aneeda!
    <censored: content irrelevant and innappropriate for this blog>

  3. ironi! says:

    “3aneeda!
    <censored: content irrelevant and innappropriate for this blog>

    3aneeda’s blog doesn’t accept anonymous comments. so i had to come back here to let the arrow get into the right spot.

    Digital Nomad! I m so sorry for making such a filthy comment on your tidy blog. You can delete it after making sure 3aneeda’s been hit.

  4. 3aneeda, as you are probably aware, there are two schools of thought regarding the niqab. The three schools of thought known as Maliki, Sha’fii, and Hanbali believe the niqaab to be fardh. The Hanafi madhHab, to which I belong, believes the niqaab to be wajib. As in, if a woman finds it necessary and not harmful, then she should wear it. I found it to be necessary, as I did not like the idea of being in public without a mahram when at college. So, the niqaab gave me the privacy I so desired. I also find it to not be harmful, as I have only been rarely threatened with physical assault while wearing it. The threat level is the same as merely wearing hijaab, so its all the same to me. This website has comprehensive sources regarding the fiqh of the niqaab: http://members.tripod.com/~ibnfarooq/niqaab.htm
    🙂

  5. Ironi! or Repartee! or whoever you think are! Rather than making anonymous comments on this blog to somebody else, why don’t you reveal yourself to your intended victim, make an honest open comment on her blog, and deal with the consequences? Could it be that you are simply a coward? Thank you most kindly for giving me permission to delete your comment. Good-bye.

  6. Andy says:

    Digital Nomad! What an interesting comment it might be that you deleted!

  7. Silentear says:

    Salaam..

    “I have probably had more opposition to the niqaab from other Muslims than from non-Muslims!”

    That’s a disturbing point I feel. I speak to some Muslims who have gone as far as to make comments such as “it’s people like these (i.e. bearded guys/hijabi girls) that are holding ‘us’ all back”.

    The first time I listened to such a comment from another Muslim I was quite literally gob smacked. The conversation stopped dead lol I could not believe that could have come out of the mouth of another Muslim who was apparently of the “intelligent” variety.

    Have become accustomed to such things now but have you ever felt that strange kind of disappointment or feeling of sadness inside you when at times you can feel the uncomfortable-ness that is apparent in a (?non-practicing) Muslim who is suddenly in the company of a hijabi or a bearded guy? I can’t explain it. I realise I am waffling – I apologise! Just made me think.

    Thanks for the article. It was a good read.

  8. Silentear, Yes, I do know of what you speak on all points, unfortunately. Alhamdulillah for the discomfort, I say. So long as they feel uncomfortable about not wearing it, they still see it as an obligation. Sometimes women tell me, “I will put the hijab on soon inshallah.” May Allah help them.
    I am glad you liked the post. And welcome to our blog! 🙂

  9. 3aneeda says:

    Ironi / Rapartee – I dont feel that I have said anything that deserves a “filthy” comment?? Its my personal opinion which I am entitled to.

    Digitial – thats some very interesting information. Im ashamed to say that I was not aware of those mathahib that you mentioned above. I am a shee3ia. But personally I dont beleive in mathahib. Rabna wa7id. I dont know how it works with you but here in Oman, a lot of people discriminate against mathahib that are not the same as theirs to the extent of not letting their children marry from an outside math-hab.

  10. 3aneeda, No, there is absolutely nothing for you to be ashamed of. Its I who is ashamed of assuming that to be common knowledge.

    People find all kinds of things to discriminate against, especially when it comes to marriage. At the end of the day, we marry whoever is our naseeb and hope for the best.

    As far as madhHab is concerned, it is like having a guide in our faith, for me. Just as I would not diagnose myself, no matter how much medical information I personally hold, I would want treatment from a professional. So it is in matters of faith, that I would want a definite framework from which to draw religious interpretations. Allahu Aalam! May Allah guide us all, madhHabi or not, sunni or shi’a, to stay on the Siraat al Mustaqeen! Ameen, ya Rabb al alameen!

  11. irony says:

    3aneeda!

    Yeah, to some extent you are right. But, you know, the word ‘ninja style’ drove me crazy. I sometimes can’t stand along when people call names for certain things. Any ways, sorry, eh!

  12. Zsa says:

    Alhamdullillah, ALLAH bless you have a very strong imaan and intelligence. Pray that you will remain humble and ever seeking His blessing and protection. My prayers are with you and all Muslims alike.

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