A few weeks ago, we discussed the subject of the burqa in Western society. Here’s James Stewart’s take on the subject.

Some politicians are calling for the niqab to be banned. They say it’s a matter of security, but the repercussions could be much greater.

The niqab is a head scarf-like garment worn by some women of the Islamic faith. It is not as widely used as the hijab or the chador, and it’s completely different to the burqa, which is mostly enforced by the Taliban.

Over the past couple of months, politicians and the general public have been arguing that the niqab should be banned as a matter of security. “We don’t know who’s behind the veil,” was a phrase many of them were heard chanting as a reason why this should happen.

What many don’t understand is that banning the niqab is not simply a matter of banning a piece of cloth, but of segregating those who wear it. Think about it. Saying that all religions are accepted and cannot be discriminated against while banning the niqab is the same as a cosmetics company running an ad with models of different ethnicity but then only producing foundation for people with fair skin.

This fear of the niqab and who there could be hiding underneath it is nothing short of xenophobia – a fear of the other and the unknown. Yes, it’s culturally different to the garb we’re used to seeing, but let’s just calm down now.

Malta has but a handful of women who wear the niqab – even the hijab is a relatively rare occurrence here – and citing that these women not showing their faces is a threat to national security is just about ridiculous. How many times have you heard of a terrorist wearing a niqab to attack civilians?

It’s about time we really sorted out our priorities. Malta’s lack of health and safety regulations have been placed in the limelight, yet people are more willing to attack a piece of clothing and those wearing it than to comment about that which is really pressing, important and perilous.

Also, let us not forget how hard women have fought for their rights and how scandalised people were when women first started donning trousers and miniskirts, and when they shed the corset. You think banning the niqab is liberating women? Really?

Banning the niqab regresses society to the days when women were told what they could and could not wear – and, ultimately, if we want to live in a society where a woman is free to show her midriff or her ankles, and even to sunbathe in a bikini, then why are we so intent on forcing other women to not wear what we don’t want them to wear?

And before people start commenting about how men repress these women and about how they are forced to cover their faces, I’ll tell you this. Yes, some women in Muslim countries are forced to cover their faces, and in some other countries, women are not allowed to drive. But stop assuming that everyone wants to follow the Western lifestyle. For most women who are of Muslim faith, their choice of clothing represents their affinity to their religion and to Allah.

We may not understand it, and we may not like it, but stop pretending you have the nation’s and these women’s best interest at heart.


Do you agree with James? Should women be allowed to wear the niqab in Malta?

Let us know in the comments section below.