L’affaire Burqa – in the West

I have always been uncomfortable around Muslim women wearing the full veil or Burqa.  Growing up in Karachi,  I only knew one woman who wore a full veil – "Apaa" my Urdu and Quran teacher.  I just never encountered in my 12 years there many women who wore a veil. 

Thus, now, it is so surprising for me to see Muslim women veiled in Western countries. On the one hand – the feminist in me wants to shake them up and say: "Why? Oh Why? are you doing this?" – but then the other feminist says: "Its a free world – they can wear whatever they want to wear."

What I don’t like is that for those who are wearing a Veil, or those advocating a veil the view that the ONLY RIGHT THING for Muslim women is to wear the veil. That somehow Islam compels the wearing of veil and not wearing one is un-Islamic.  That is simply not true!!

Here in the West I think the veil for many young women is becoming a symbol of rebellion.  I suspect that this act of rebellion takes the most of guts as it really makes you stick out.  Kind of similar to wearing a two piece bikini in Makkah.

Anyway as a Muslim – I am always really awkard around women with veils.  I don’t know if I should smile at them.  If I can shake their hand.  Or if I should just ignore them?  Can someone please write a guide on this?!

Some articles and multi-media on the veil:

NPR – Veil in the West
NPR – Veil in Courts
LA Times – Wearing the Veil in London
NYT Multimedia – The inside perspective
NYT Multimedia – Nur in Little Pakistan

2 thoughts on “L’affaire Burqa – in the West

  1. I might write a guide on this topic but here are some general rules of thumb:
    Smiling is ok, it’s from the sunnah, but if her husband or brother is around he might get offended.
    Don’t offer to shake hands, it leads to way too many awkward situations. If she offers hers than you’ll know what to do otherwise in general the less touching the better.
    Don’t ignore your sisters. Give them your salaam even if they don’t return it or return their salaam.
    If you feel awkward, just say to yourself they are human beings too just like the non-Muslims or non-hijabis that we are comfortable talking to.

  2. Here in the UK it has been a bone of contention. It is not part of our culture here to cover ones face.
    In body language terms in our culture it usually points to the need to hide something.
    It really doesn’t bother me if women want to wear the veil but they will get treated differently as anyone with big spikey pink hair or lots of studs in their face might because it is different.
    One problem is of course security. What is the point of ID cards when a women wont show her face?
    and did God really produce women is all there beauty to cover themselves from head top toe…I don’t think so.

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