It struck me as nothing short of ironical when I came to know of the Niqab (face veil)
ban in France. To add it up, watching other western countries leaping up in support
of France’s purported women’s freedom, left me in doubt about their so-called
liberation which they pompously pride themselves upon. To me, the ban on the
Niqab looks very hypocritical. Was it in reality, a law passed on to liberate women or
was it a law enacted to oppress Islamic women, robbing them of their liberation?
France’s Niqab ban was one thing, but the reasons brought forth by President Nicolas
Sarkozy in the name of women’s liberation were an altogether laughable matter.
He claimed that the Niqab was “a sign of subservience, a sign of debasement” and
that “we cannot accept that women be prisoners behind a screen, cut off from all
social life, deprived of all identity”, when he in fact, provoked the movement that left
women deprived of social life, and a life under house arrest. France has introduced
a fine of €150 to Muslim women who are seen publicly wearing the Niqab which is a
perfect indication of the oppressive situation veiled women in France now face. There
have been countless accounts of Niqabis (veiled Muslims) who have penned out their
stories on how difficult life has become for them after the Niqab ban. They can barely
enter a coffee shop, without having to endure jeers, bullying and in some cases,
physical assaults. As a French Niqabi, Ahmas, 32, perfectly quoted, “the politicians
claimed they were liberating us; what they've done is to exclude us from the social
sphere”. In short, veiled Muslim women in France now go through what the Jewish
women had to undergo before the Nazi roundups in France.
What I fail to understand is how an extra bit of material can immediately class
you as oppressed. Being a Niqabi myself, I am proud to say that I am far from
oppressed. The Niqab has, in no way, barred me from any walk of life other
women enjoy. In truth, Niqabis like me, enjoy more freedom of expressing their
intellectuality rather than being judged by physical appearance. Thankfully, Sri
Lanka is one of the few countries that offer complete freedom of religion, rights and
personal choice and I am extremely grateful for that.
It is outrageous to class women as oppressed for wearing the Niqab, and make her
remove it in the name of liberation, when they actually end up tyrannizing these
women who wear the Niqab as a choice of freewill. It makes me wonder if people
are so blinded by prejudice that they actually fail to realize that liberation can
never be forced upon a person. If it actually is oppression that the West is trying so
hard to eliminate, I wonder how they can tolerate other forms of apparent female
oppression- magazines are splashed with women being displayed as sexual objects
with a whole community behind dedicated solely to carefully scrutinize and condemn
the bodies of female celebrities and with prostitution and child abuse still running
rampant in these societies? Isn’t this female oppression and debasement? How is
this form of subjugation allowed and even welcomed in today’s society, but when
it come to women choosing to cover up their modesty and guard their chastity in a
form they choose, opens up the question of female oppression in Islam? So is this
what the French Government does to free the “oppressed” veiled women by stripping
them of their identity, criminalizing her and leaving her open to discrimination and
humiliation all in the name of liberation?
A Christian nun can be covered head to toe, and she is praised for her spirituality.
When a Muslim woman dons the Hijab or Niqab, the western world immediately
raises its voice and labels them as oppressed when not one single Niqabi has ever
claimed that the Niqab has oppressed her. Mr. Sarkozy has a point though, when he
says that the Niqab is subjugation. Yes, it is subjugation, subjugation to our God and
not the whim of man. Showing commitment to faith is not a crime and if anything, it
is something that should be treated with respect and honour and not made to count
Eventually, the Niqab ban, claimed by western governments as a movement to
facilitate better social cohesion, will only serves to marginalise Muslim women and
the Muslim community in general by stigmatizing aspects of their religion. Making
a decision about oppression based purely on a woman’s dress code is foolish and
preposterous. I hope western countries do understand why laws are actually created:
to bring in security and empowerment. Creating a law against the rights of wearing
the Niqab is the gravest injustice that could be done to Muslim women. A woman’s
choice of clothing is her discretion: no one has the right to dictate terms on what to
wear and what not to. What France and other Western countries have to understand
is that the Niqab is not oppression or coercion, but rather a highly valued choice.
Right now, the only oppressor is Mr. Sarkozy himself.
Being a Niqabi myself, there is absolutely no doubt in acknowledging the fact the
Niqab offers true liberation to us. To me, it equals freedom and gives me a sense
of dignity that upholds my self-respect and esteem. I do it out of choice, as do the
countless Muslim Niqabis living in the West.
To sum it all up: I don’t see anyone being hurt by the fact that I am wearing the
Niqab and I am not uncomfortable or oppressed by donning it. This in itself should
be a more than sufficient reason for all the liberals of the liberal society who claim
that the Niqab is a sign of oppression to understand that the Niqab is our choice, our
identity and a part of who I am.