Zaiba Malik, a muslim journalist at the Guardian, decided to wear a niqab-the full head covering you must have seen around-for a full day to find out for herself what it was like. The results were interesting indeed. Her own reaction was to be horrified, and that was just the start of things:
On the street it takes just seconds for me to discover that there are
different categories of stare. Elderly people stop dead in their tracks
and glare; women tend to wait until you have passed and then turn round
when they think you can’t see; men just look out of the corners of
their eyes. And young children – well, they just stare, point and laugh.
She also discovered the down side of wearing the full veil when she went out for coffee with a friend:
I can’t fathom a way to drink my cappuccino and when I become aware
that everybody in the coffee shop is wondering the same thing, I give
up and just gaze at it.
Even within a muslim area, she felt out of place. According to the article:
…I visit various parts of London with a large number of Muslims[…].
Not one woman is wearing the niqab. I see many with their hair covered,
but I can see their faces. Even in these areas I feel a minority within
a minority. Even in these areas other Muslims turn and look at me.
My own discussion about women wearing a niqab led me to a few conclusions of my own. Humans rely on the face for a lot of information about the other person. Small facial movements are an important part of non-verbal communication, and I suspect that people find that when women wear the niqab, it somehow almost dehumanizes them because we can’t tell what emotion they might be feeling. As Zaiba says in her article:
I cannot tell how old she is, how much she weighs, whether she has a
kind or a sad face, whether she has long or short hair, whether she has
any distinctive facial features at all.
What do you feel about this? Do women who wear the full veil intimidate you? Make you wary? Or doesn’t it bother you at all?