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← Moral compass: a guide to religious freedom

mmurray's Avatar Jump to comment 225 by mmurray

I'm deeply conflicted over banning the burqa. So let me throw in this to be contradictory

It's a point made repeatedly by the scores of Muslim women in London I interviewed. At Friday prayers in the East London Mosque, dozens of women and girls from Somalian, Bangladeshi, and Pakistani heritage arrive in a diverse array of Islamic dress.

A group of teenage Bengali-speaking girls, all wearing hijabs (headscarves), skinny jeans and high-street dresses, giggle in a collective huddle when I ask why they choose to wear the headscarf. "'Cos we're Muslims," says 16-year-old Zainab Zaman, suppressing a "durr!". "And you can tell that instantly. That's our identity, it's who we are."

Mishal Akhtar, 23, a part-time hijab wearer who works for a fashion magazine, believes wearing a headscarf can "actually be a bit punk. In your teens, in London, it's fashionable and cool — it's another accessory. It also marks you out and makes you belong at the same time. So yes, the appeal is really obvious."

Fatima Barktulla, 31, a cheery pregnant mother of three boys who was born and grew up in Hackney, elaborates: "I started with the hijab, but when I got married I wanted to wear the niqab It isn't a rejection of society, or an attempt to be different. It's not a political statement either."

Does she feel it might be perceived as such? "No woman I know who wears a niqab is doing it to make a huge point. It's a personal, spiritual conviction. And I know that the niqab is a virtuous option and it is not obligatory."

Barktulla, an Arabic studies lecturer, says that taking up the veil simply allows her to feel closer to God. "It doesn't contradict my being British either," she insists. "I love this country — it's my home. Mine and my husband's parents come from India but it's alien to us.


Sat, 30 Jun 2012 02:33:34 UTC | #948341