Women Never Forced to
Wear ‘Niqab’: Grand Mufti

Filed on October 13, 2009

DUBAI — The Grand Mufti of Dubai has refuted allegations made by some quarters that ‘niqab’ is linked 
to extremism.

“Niqab is never related to fanaticism or terrorism as some have wickedly alleged,” Dr Ahmed Al Haddad told Khaleej Times in an exclusive meeting on Sunday.

He said that banning or seeking a ban on ‘niqab’ restricts women’s freedom.

“Muslim women have never been forced to wear ‘niqab’,” he pointed out.

He added that some of the Muslim women wear ‘niqab’ out of faith, but forcing them to abandon the ‘niqab’ would be “utter disrespect to her and to her creed, culture and traditions.”

Dr Al Haddad said the ‘niqab’ is also a symbol of modesty for the Muslim woman. A Canadian Muslim organisation had urged the Canadian government on Thursday to ban the ‘niqab’, claiming it was a “medieval and misogynist symbol of extremism.”

The same day, Dr Shaikh Mohammed Saeed Tantawi, head of Egypt’s Al Azhar University, a centre of religious learning, said the institution will bar students and teachers from wearing ‘niqab’ in female-only classrooms.

A university statement, quoted in reports, said the institution did not oppose the veil, but was against “imprinting it on the minds of girls.”

The statement said only a few Islamic scholars consider it an obligation.

Al Haddad said various Islamic scholars referred to different parts of the Holy Quran to interpret as to what extent Muslim women should cover their faces and whether the ‘niqab’ should be worn. While Shafiei and Hanbali schools of thought believe the veil is compulsory, Maliki and Hanafi do not think so. “Both parties, having authentic and meaningful evidence, make the issue optional, that the followers of each school may not ask or force the other to adopt or abandon any of the two explanations.”

Refuting allegations that the ‘niqab’ is connected to slavery or discrimination against women, Dr Al Haddad said Islam has honoured women and fully emancipated them.

“The woman, representing half of the society, stands on an equal footing with man in terms of religious, financial, social, political and family rights and duties. She is seen as a gem protected against any disgrace, and ‘niqab’ is Islam’s fundamental means to that end,” he said.

“Despite wearing ‘niqab’, she is effectively working in educational, health, military and civil fields in Islamic and Arab countries, particularly in the Gulf.”

Iraqi news anchor Suhad Ibrahim believes that people are free to wear whatever they think is suitable for them.

“Though I am not veiled, I am against any ban on ‘niqab’. I believe it is up to the people to decide what to wear,” she said.

Egyptian teacher Walla Nader said she felt better after wearing ‘niqab’. “No one has ever forced me to wear ‘niqab’ as it is optional in Islam,” she pointed out.

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