'It's a part of me, I feel naked without it': choice, agency and identity for Muslim women who wear the niqab

Irene Zempi
2016 Ethnic and Racial Studies  
In the context of heightened suspicion and anti-Muslim stereotypes in a post-9/11 and 7/7 era, Muslim women who wear the niqab (face veil) are stigmatised, criminalised and marked as 'dangerous' to British/Western values. Several countries have imposed bans on the wearing of face veils in public places based on the premise that the niqab is a 'threat' to notions of gender equality, integration and national security. While the wearing of the niqab has elicited a good deal of media, political and
more » ... edia, political and public debates, little attention has been paid to the opinions of Muslim women who wear it. Drawing on individual and focus group interviews with Muslim women who wear the niqab in the United Kingdom (UK), this article places at the centre of the debate the voices of those women who do wear it, and explores their reasons for adopting it. The findings show that the wearing of the niqab emerges as a personal choice, an expression of religious piety, public modesty and belonging to the 'ummah'. It is also perceived as a form of agency, resistance and non-conformity to Western consumerist culture and lifestyle. It will be concluded that wearing the niqab empowers women in their public presence and offers them a sense of 'liberation', which is associated with the notion of anonymity that it provides them.
doi:10.1080/01419870.2016.1159710 fatcat:vuxldz7ulvc5zlbcfdcqkjsrqe