Is Body Covering Really the Issue?

CW: This article discusses topics of Islamophobia, hate speech and political viewpoints, which could be distressing to some readers.


Faith Liberation Islamophobia Social Justice Hijab Headscarf Niqab Religion Women Empowerment Muslims Feminism.


The veil controversy and its importance for religious freedom


This article will address the following questions: Why do Muslim women have to wear an Islamic covering? Is the veil mandatory for all Muslim women? Also, what worries do some Western countries have about the cover? Stick around till the end; for ways to start making changes in your life to fight for social justice.


The variety of Muslim veils

A veil can come in several shapes and sizes. The most common examples are:

"The Hijab [...] a square scarf that covers the head and neck but leaves the face clear. The hijab is worn in many countries [...] The hijab can be seen in many colours and styles."
"The Chador [...] is a full-body cloak. It is often accompanied by a smaller headscarf underneath."
"The Niqab is a veil for the face that leaves the area around the eyes clear. [...] It is worn with an accompanying headscarf, such as a khimar."
"The Burqa [...] covers the entire face and body, leaving just a mesh screen to see through. There have been attempts to ban both the niqab and burka in some European countries."

Why are veils worn

In these two chapters from the Holy Qur'an, Allah, the Almighty, makes the following declaration.

"O Prophet! Ask your wives, daughters, and believing women to draw their cloaks over their bodies. In this way it is more likely that they will be recognised ˹as virtuous˺ and not be harassed. And Allah is All-Forgiving, Most Merciful." (Al-Ahzab, 33:59)
"And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and guard their chastity and not to reveal their adornments except what normally appears. Let them draw their veils over their chests, and not reveal their ˹hidden˺ adornments [...]" (An-Nur, 24:31)

From what you can read here, to promote modesty and decency in interactions between people of different sexes, Islam adopted the hijab.

A hijab is worn to shield oneself from males; In the past, it represented that one man has sanctified a woman, and she is off-limits to all others.

This can lead to a misunderstanding that the veil is a symbol of oppression. However, these days, wearing the hijab could be an individual preference and a personal display of faith.


My body, my choice


According to an article in The Conversation, Wearing a headscarf can be liberating. Here's what Muslim women in the UK who wear the niqab discussed in a focus group for this item have to say:

"Sisters are forced to wear it in some places in the world. I will not deny this. This is not right. But I choose when to wear it and when to take it off. I choose what colours to wear, not just black and white."
"It's awesome! It's a beautiful, religious fashion statement. I have drawers full of a variety of vibrant colours, materials and prints. I match them with my outfits and wear a different style every day."

Toqa Badran, a student at Columbia College, said on her blog:

"I wear this scarf because when I was a child I was socialised to be embarrassed, even ashamed, of my religion and my culture. I was told that to be a Muslim was to be a terrorist and that to be outwardly Muslim was to endorse violence and oppression … I understood that I would be unwelcome as long as I wore symbols of my heritage and chose to, in however modern a way, embrace my ancestors."

Double standards of Islamophobia

Unfortunately, Islamophobia has resulted from the association of radicalism with various kinds of body covering. So much so that the anti-terrorism nature resulted in legislation and restrictions undermining Islamic culture. Is this decision truly justifiable? Why should only Muslim women be stripped of their dignity and respect while a nun can go about her business with her head covered? Isn't this cultural imperialism? And it's so awful that it's been outlawed in numerous nations, such as France.


A homage to all the Muslim women out there.

I applaud any Muslim women who have already gained the confidence to wear the hijab in this non-Muslim society. I want to leave you all with this inspirational poetry, to inspire you to keep fighting for what you believe in.

What's the greatest lesson a woman should learn? That since day one. She's already had everything she needs within herself. It's the world that convinced her she did not. - Rupi Kaur

How can you effectively advocate for social justice?

It is simple to tweet hashtags while relaxing at home or liking social media postings. But attaining social justice might not be so easy. Anyone who wants to contribute to multiple social justice agendas meaningfully could:

  1. Study a subject in-depth and educate yourself on a specific campaign or movement.

  2. Work on your views and actions to create a change within yourself.

  3. Get involved with trustworthy groups that fight for worthy causes.

  4. Participating in informative talks and outreach activities will enable you to take a stand to make a difference in your neighbourhood.

  5. Take part in nonviolent marches and protests.

  6. We live in a technologically advanced society. We should maximise the impact we have on our online presence.

  7. Give back to the world by offering your time and energy.

  8. Donate to respectable charities and worthwhile causes.