This week, France applied its new law banning the wearing of the Niqab (face veil) in public. A Muslim French woman was fined a 150 Euros for wearing a niqab. What is your view on the niqab and on the debate about it. Belgium is doing the same thing, but the US sees the issue as a personal liberty issue.
It is not only a personal liberty issue, it is also a religious issue. Many Muslim women who wear the niqaab, do so out of conviction that it is required on them and that they would be living in sin if they didn’t wear it. Banning them from wearing it, therefore, is religious persecution.
Can society force a dress code on its citizens? Yes, but what are the limits? French society sees nothing objectionable when women wear very little clothing, but sees a great deal of problem, when they cover up on religious grounds. Sounds like an agenda, doesn’t it? If you listened to the French Parliament debate on the issue, prior to approving the ban, you’d be surprised that an advanced, enlightened society like France would put forward such ridiculous arguments for a silly law and broadcast the session! One of the silliest arguments was that people have the right to know whom they are talking to and the niqab prevents that. Solution: identification card! When it is very cold in France, people wear head cover to protect them from freezing. Those head covers expose only the eyes, just like a niqab does. How come those head covers are not banned?
That said, the niqaab is not required in Islam. It is not mentioned in the Quran or in the authentic Hadeeth. The hadeeth that some scholars build the niqaab case on, reported by Abu-Daawood and narrated by `Aa’isha, may God have been pleased with her, about her sister Asmaa’, is vague about what the Prophet (PBUH) was pointing to when he said, “No woman who reached puberty should show of her body but this and this.” He pointed to his hands and head. The pro-niqaab scholars interpreted that to mean he pointed to the eyes. The pro-hijaab (veil that only covers the hair, like a scarf) interpreted it to mean he pointed to the face. Those are the majority of scholars. Others interpreted it to mean he pointed to the entire head, hence not even hijaab is required. The debate is not settled and probably won’t be any time soon, because the text is not definitive on it, therefore the conclusion cannot be certain. Adding to the uncertainty is the fact that this hadeeth is rated Mursal (open ended). That is, it not certain that `Aa’isha said it because the narrator who said he heard from her, never met her! Other Hadeeth scholars rated it weak. That makes it an invalid evidence for a mandate, in the rules of Deduction Discipline (Usool-ul-Fiqh).
The funny thing about the debate is that all sorts of folks got into it on both sides. I’ve read arguments by feminists some of whom are for it and others are against it! To me, the matter is simpler than all this: It is every woman’s own business whether to wear the niqaab. It is not anybody else’s business. I am against the niqaab, because it is an unnecessary burden, but I’m also against a ban on the niqaab.