Excellent Post written
My life behind the niqab
Saturday October 7, 2006
I began wearing the face veil when I was 20 and in my final year at university. I took the step after contemplating it for a year, and during this time I considered the impact it would have on my studies and my interactions with other people. I was most concerned about how other students would relate with me and how I would continue with presentations and group exercises on my course.
Finally, my decision was confirmed when I understood that it was a religious act and therefore should not be dictated to by my concerns about other people, but rather be based on my conviction in God. Wearing the face veil was a very spiritual journey for me as it represented something physical to remind me that I was Muslim and therefore should try to uphold religious values, have a good character and conduct myself well with other people.
After adopting the veil, I found that a lot of my worries about social issues were unfounded. Although I was studying on a course with colleagues who were mainly non-Muslim, I found that people’s responses were curious as opposed to negative and it was an opportunity to discuss this issue with them.
I graduated with a degree in ergonomics in 2002 and went on to teach at a local college. I taught students from an array of backgrounds, including young people who were hard to engage and from socially deprived areas. I managed to interact with these students perfectly successfully even with the face veil.
My journey to the veil was a personal one, not coerced by any other factor. None of my sisters or my mother wore the veil at that time. It was certainly not something my father advocated and I think my brothers were a little concerned about the hardships I may face as a result. Despite these initial concerns, it is a decision that I have never regretted.
Statements that are clearly discriminatory now seem to be common. I am concerned that this could pave the way for religious persecution in the future and Mr Straw’s comments may be the precipitator to greater discrimination against women in veils. As long as religion is not being forced on anyone, we should have freedom to practise our different faiths and most importantly, respect each other’s right to do so to improve community cohesion.
Rahmanara Chowdhury is a sports and education development worker at Loughborough University
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