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While I defend womens’ right to wear niqab, it is too extreme for my liking

burka1by Abubakar N. Kasim

(October 25, 2009) – I can no longer keep silent about the issue of the niqab that has been the talk of the day for some time.

I feel that I must say something about the topic.

As a committed believing Muslim, I feel extremely uncomfortable to see a Muslim woman in niqab, especially in Canada.

In doing so, I feel that she is portraying my faith in a way that can be construed as oppressive and backward.

I feel the same when a woman goes to the other end of the spectrum in revealing almost every part of her body to the extent that everything is seen by the naked eye.

Both of these extreme forms of dress, in my view, constitute a personal expression that has gone too far and beyond the acceptable norms.

Women who choose to wear niqab or burka-style of clothing go far beyond the limits necessary and make the religion look ugly, scary and overwhelmingly difficult.

Those, on the other hand, who reveal everything in order to attract men’s attention, denigrate themselves to the lowest of the low and make their beauty as a merchandise to be sold.

The Prophet of Islam had warned Muslims to avoid excessiveness in religion.

Both the Qur’an and his teachings have strongly urged the believing men and women to be a balanced people.

Beware of excessiveness in religion, the Prophet warned.

He used to say, “Do not overburden yourselves, lest you perish. People [before you] overburdened themselves and perished.

It is stated in the Qur’an, “Thus we have made of you a nation justly balanced, that you might be witnesses over the nations and the Messenger a witness over you. (2:143)

As an airport employee, women who wear the niqab do indeed make my life and the lives of other people whom they come in contact with quite challenging.

I and my colleagues face a tremendous hardship between respecting their rights and upholding the security and safety standards.

Sometimes a discrepancy occurs where the safety of passengers onboard the aircraft is compromised when the staff do not check the ID against the hidden face properly out of fear of violating the person’s beliefs.

It is a major relief to hear that a prominent scholar like Dr. Tantawi of Egypt making it crystal clear that the practice is rather a cultural custom and not religious requirement.

However, although I disagree with the practice of women wearing the niqab or burka, I would not infringe on a woman’s right to wear such garments as a progressive organization in Canada has recently tried to do.

The Muslim Canadian Congress has called on the government to prohibit the niqab and burka – practices the group said has no place in a society that supports gender equality, as reported by Michelle Mcquigge from the Canadian Press, October 7, 2009.

“To cover your face is to conceal your identity,” congress spokeswoman Farzana Hassan said in a telephone interview, describing the issue as a matter of public safety, since concealing one’s identity is a common practice for criminals.”

Prohibiting the niqab or burka would constitute a direct violation to the person’s rights.

It would be another form of the extreme that needs to be rejected especially in a society where freedom of religion is guaranteed in the Charter of Rights.

Ultra-orthodox Muslim women who wear the Niqab or burka constitute a tiny minority in the mainstream faithful Muslim community.

I prefer the balanced approach, not only in this issue, but in everything else in life.

The Prophet of Islam was reported to have said that whenever he was given a choice between two things, he used to choose the easier one as long as it does not contradict the teachings of Islam.

It is a relief to learn that many prominent Muslim scholars have made it clear that the practice of wearing the niqab or burka is not obligatory.

About The Author

  • Junaid M.

    Salaam,

    In a follow-up email to the above article, you said:

    “It seems that some people do not tolerate a different point of view.”

    I find the above quote rather ironic. Didn’t you do exactly that in the above article? Instead of taking a difference of opinion on niqaab as a difference of opinion, you chose to call it excessive. It was you who argued that it shouldn’t be allowed because he believes it makes the religion look ugly. It is you who chose to label a valid fiqhi opinion as extreme.

    It is exactly this ignorance of fiqh of disagreement in Islam that breeds disunity.

  • Muhammad Yusuf

    Dear Mr. Tarek Fatah & Muslim Canadian Congress Secretariat

    It has come to my attention that you are asking the Canadian government to ban the Niqab and the Burqa.

    It seems you are behaving exactly like the TALIBAN! The Taliban is forcing people to wear the Niqab. And you want to force people not to wear the Niqab. Why cant you leave the people to make their own personal decisions? Please do not bring this kind of Taliban-authoritarian rule in this country. You should have left it at the boarder. This country respects individual freedoms.

    I hope when you made your case to the government, you did not say that you are talking on behalf of Muslims. In this country, every SINGLE Muslim and non-Muslim alike has a right to wear whatever they want to wear. Neither you nor anybody else or group should interfere with the personal freedoms enshrined in the Constitution of Canada

    Next, are you planning to ask the government to ban the Sikh turban, the Jewish yarmulke, and the head covering that Christian Nuns wear? Or are you just targeting Muslims? And so from Niqab and Burka, you will move to Hijab, then the Jilbab, then the Cap and turban that Muslim men wear, then ban the Qur’an, then ban the private schools run by Muslims …. etc. Is that your agenda?

    Please try to use your time and energy more constructively, and do not imitate the Taliban. They have destroyed two countries already! And it all started with legislating personal choices – forcing women to wear the niqab and burqa, denying women to be educated, banning children from flying kites, forcing men to wear a beard, etc. Please do not following the same Taliban-type tyranny and destroy Canada by legislating personal choices!

    Peace and harmony has prevailed here with people of different cultures and traditions for hundreds of years, PLEASE let it remain that way. PLEASE Mr. Fatah and the MCC team.

    Muhammad Yusuf

  • Mohamed

    Hmm, You claim to be an open minded writer. Yet, your expression of your own opinion calls the nikaab backwards and excessive. You misquote the hadeeth about not being excessive in religion. Perhaps you need to go back and look at what the other scholars are saying to support niqaab..before you raise blasphemous points. YOu make it seem like they are just fools who don’t know they’re deen and live in caves.

    I have personally listened to both opinions, and have learned myself not
    to bash at the other opinions, even if i don’t agree.

    The way you say it, shows that you are very close minded.
    If you don’t like Nikaab. Fine. But if someone else chooses it, its not for you to call them excessive.

  • Aziza Khan

    I find it very interesting that men (e.g. the Taliban, the author of this article, the first three commenters, Tarek Fatah)feel they are qualified to comment on what women wear or don’t wear. Wouldn’t it be great to learn about how the women who actually wear the garments discussed above (e.g. niqab, hijab, burkha, bikini) think and feel?

    Can a man please tell me why men think they own this hijab/niquab/burkha issue when it is women’s bodies that are in question?

    Thank you.

  • abdurahman haji

    excess in religion refers to bidah or innovation. modesty is an important quality for Muslim women. if they choose to not flaunt their bodies and protect themselves from sexual abuse such as men hitting on them, who are you to say other wise. its ironic how people define “freedom” into the mold that as long as one embraces secularism he is free to do so but when one practices religion he is labeled extremist and fundamentalist. they make it so that it fits their own ideologies and self-interests and bombards one with this anti-religious propaganda. people should have the freedom to follow their own way of life without having to face so many attacks and prejudices.