The Niqab is the most conspicuous form of Islamic dressing usually worn by women with loose coat-like garments called an abaya and a hijab, or head scarfs. Other women pair it up with long skirts to conceal the body shape.
The Niqab is a garment recommended by some interpretations of the Holy Quran, although not a strict requirement in Islam.
Over the years, some countries have discriminated against women who wear Niqabs in public.
Most European countries consider women wearing the Niqab in public places as extremely dangerous.
About 80% of British-based Muslims interviewed for a report in 2014 by a human rights group stated that they mostly experience verbal and physical violence from the general public and commercial media.
The abusers,who are usually suspicious of Niqab-wearing women, very often erroneously, consider them criminals and thus subject innocent women to various forms of verbal abuse, including social separation and wrongfully branded a threat to society.
One compelling argument supporting the ban on wearing of the Niqab in the West is the high-security risk as it prevents sufficient facial recognition.
Furthermore, in societies that thrive on facial recognition and facial expression in communication, the wearing of
the Niqab appears as a social hindrance.
In April 2011, France instituted a ban, making it illegal to wear a face-covering veil or other masks in public places.
Meanwhile, one of the significant health benefits of the Niqab is to prevent germs, smoke and dust from
entering the body through the mouth and nose.
The current health pandemic has pressured many countries and territories globally to encourage, while others enforce through legislation, the donning of face masks as a preventive safety measure to reduce the spread of the deadly coronavirus.
In some Western countries such as France and Canada, it is criminal to wear the face-covering garment; however due to the COVID-19 pandemic, those legislation are hibernated owing to the mandatory wearing of face masks.
In Ghana, for instance, as part of the essential safety protocols and directives promoted to mitigate the spread of the novel-coronavirus, citizens are mandatory required to wear nose masks in public places.
This “new-normal” (as is popularly referred to) presents an unexpected inconvenience for majority who are unable to recognize others and are unsure how to interact socially, without the use of facial expressions.
However, Muslim women in Niqab do not share in this discomfort. Evidently, there seems to be a turn around on the legislation that sought to ban the covering of the mouth and nose in public places.
Opposition from society no longer threatens Muslim women in Niqabs, as it is a strict requirement to wear nose masks in public places.
Currently, the general outlook in many health institutions and most public places across the country contradicts the previously upheld arguments used against Muslim women in the Niqab.
This new practice has prompted a critical reconsideration of the previously promoted discrimination against face covering by Muslim women in public places.
The irony is that whereas in the past, women wearing the Niqabs were disallowed from entering places such as banking institutions, it is mandatory now for customers of these institutions and patrons of other critical public places to wear a nose mask.
It is obvious that the compulsory wearing of facemasks poses similar security concerns and social discomfort
similar to the Niqab.
During a recent chat on Facebook with a media outlet, the conversation on a related subject, Afrah (a Muslim woman) shared this remark: “I’m wondering if this empathy will continue or will it disappear as soon as the pandemic’s over?”
The argument therefore is, since society has accepted the use of face masks as part as a public health safety measure, will this “new normal” change the public perception and related opposition of women wearing the Niqabs in public places when the current global health pandemic is brought under control?
Does this imply that society can finally overlook the security concern relating to women who wear the Niqab and stop all forms of discrimination against them?
Source: Seyram Abdallah | Ghana Institute of Journalism