**Edit: I wrote this a long time ago and the views I have expressed here may or may not still be my views. I will write an update on my views on the niqab soon, ka khaire.** - Qrratugai, May 2011.
An interesting question was posted ... about the niqab (face-covering, or the equivalent of "paruney" in Pukhto) on Chai Khana. I thought I'd paste my response here as well, just for future reference. I'd been meaning to write these thoughts anyway, so here they are finally :D
Niqab, paruney, face-covering ... Not for me at all. I would never wear it unless I'm in an area where wearing it is gonna save my coward behind. Like Swat. I mean, to not wear a paruney (face-covering) there basically puts you in the category of a slut, you know.
The niqab is bound to prevent me (and most women who wear it) from being actively and directly involved in their community, particularly when your activity involves being around both male and female members of the society. For instance, I can't imagine myself being a professor and wearing the niqab. I can't imagine myself giving some lectures or presenting at a conference with a niqab on. I think women need to help build communities, shape our future, and play a role in the society OTHER than by just giving birth and raising kids (don't get me wrong, though -- I think that's a crucial job that society has given the woman, and I have no doubt that most women cherish it, but that shouldn't be our only job ... and it doesn't have to be. I onno ... maybe it's just me 'cause I can't imagine thinking I'm being used only for giving birth and nothing else). Besides, how many niqabis out there prove otherwise -- as in, they actually are directly involved in their community? What percentage of women wear the niqab, and what percentage of those women do anything other than just having babies and all?
So, yeah, the niqab would certainly be a major obstacle in my achieving goals that are this important to me, and I don't think wearing a niqab is worth giving up these goals for. But that's just me -- and the lots of other Muslim girls I know.
Sure, some women wear it because they claim it's their choice, or they "choose" to wear it. Those who supposedly “choose” to wear the veil wear it because they believe it brings them closer to God, it makes them feel modest, and it is a moment of piety for them; many will also say, "I feel free in this. This is my OWN free will." But Qrratugai MUST ask her: "Is this really freedom, sister, considering it is something else’s will – the will of YOUR understanding of modesty – that you wear this veil?
Other questions I wanna ask, and would appreciate answers to, are:
1. Is it really a "choice" if your NOT wearing the veil means, in your opinion, your being molested or raped or disrespected in other ways? Where's the choice? Is this “choice” to wear the veil then really based on the women’s own will, or is it a consequence of external factors? I'll say: That's not choice; that's compulsion. Force doesn't have to come from another human being, you know; it can be a result of your own beliefs. So your belief is such that you are *required* to wear the niqab in order to feel closer to God, to feel modest, to feel secure, and so on... doesn't look like a choice to me.
2. If it's a "choice" like they tell us it is, then will you "choose" to wear the Niqab in some parts of the world, and in certain situations, but not in all? Why not? Especially when they're doing it only because they feel modest that way. If it's for purpose of modesty, then why wear it only at certain times and not all? Or is it based on when you think you look pretty and may attract attention?... If that's so, then how do you define beauty or prettiness? (Funny it may sound, but the billions of women who DO show their faces, why don't they seem to attract any men?...)
3. Most importantly, what makes Niqabi women think that in order to be modest, they must wear the veil? In other words, why is the level of modesty defined simply in terms of how much skin is covered?
4. If they're wearing the niqab because they don't wanna be molested or raped, I want to know ... what makes them believe that their veiling themselves solves the society’s problem of having its men molest women whose face are not covered? If a man is gonna be hungry enough to rape or molest a woman whose face (or even hair) isn't covered, something's not wrong with the woman's belief: something's wrong with the society for allowing this man to think that he CAN do this and for telling women that they MUST cover if they don't wanna be raped.
5. What are men’s ways of being modest? How many Muslims do we know who focus on the idea of teaching their male children and other male family members how to respect women, not to give unwanted attention to women, when these same families focus SO much on how modest their FEMALES should be? Everyone talks about whether a woman is required to cover her hair or face, but how many people talk about how to teach a man some values of respect for women? Can we for once try to remind Muslims that, yo, yo, the Quran tells both men AND women to be modest; it tells both men AND women to lower their gazes; it doesn't focus on women's modesty all that any more than it does on men's. So what's the fuss over?
And ... I'm sure each Muslim has her/his own ways of submitting to God. For some women, for instance, it may be by wearing the niqab (though I continue believing that they're not exactly submitting to God by covering their faces; they're submitting to society just as much). It's certainly not for me; I have my ways of submitting to God and expressing that submission. And so, I can't imagine believing in a God who thinks that I should cover my face to please Him or get extra blessings of His. But, of course, what works for one individual doesn't necessarily work for another, so if the only way some women think they can attain piety is by covering their faces, great. But I also think that they're sort of conditioned to believing that. I mean, I've friends who say, "I respect women who wear the niqab; it's the best form of modesty there is, and it takes a lotta guts." And I more than strongly disagree with these opinions.
So That's what I think. Oh, and as for women who wear the veil in the west ... they seem to get far more attention than they do when they don't wear the niqab. Now, let's ask ourselves. Why do we think the niqab is necessary again? Because it won't attract men our way? So that we don't get attract attention and are left alone? Well, if that's one of our reasons, let's re-evaluate that reasoning 'cause I don't think that works in this case.
Besides, even the head-covering (what has now come to be called "hijab") isn't obligatory according to the Quran -- or so one argument goes -- let alone face-covering.