Sahar Al Faifi has a radical suggestion in response to the niqab debate.

Sahar Al Faifi suggests:

I wear the niqab, let me speak on my own behalf.

And here is what Sahar Al Faifi wants the public to hear about her chosen religious practice:

I wear the niqab as a personal act of worship, and I deeply believe that it brings me closer to God, the Creator. I find the niqab liberating and dignifying; it gives me a sense of strength.

Or, perhaps we might want to listen to Semaa Abdulwali, who writes:

Respect and honour don’t come from being like others, or following what others follow – that’s why I put the niqab on. It’s my way of expressing obedience to my lord; it’s a command that I adhere to, through which I find my honour. It is not a garment of oppression, it is a garment that represents a timeless modesty that does not conform to society.

I was not forced to wear the niqab. In fact, my parents aren’t the biggest fans of my decision. In the months before making my decision I spent a lot of time with women who inspired me; they never asked me or pushed me towards putting it on, they were simply the most enjoyable company to have.

Nor is it oppressive. I feel liberated by the fact that I choose what you see. We pass judgement on how a person looks before we know them. When you deal with me, you deal with my mind, my personality, my emotions and what I have to offer as a person – and that’s it.

And perhaps it would be worth listening to Zunera Ishaq, the Canadian woman who has found herself at the centre of the controversy over whether or not she should be allowed to participate in a purely symbolic part of the Canadian citizenship proceedings with her niqab in place. She sounds neither dangerous nor oppressed.

In an interview with Anna Maria Tremonti, Zunera Ishaq says in part,

It is my personal choice. No one ever forced me. Even some of my family members tried to convince me not to wear it at a young age as I started when I was fifteen. It was my personal choice; that’s all. I was from a background where I have never been forced to do anything…When I took my very personal decision, my father was not in favour of it… There is nothing wrong with this piece of cloth…. I always feel I should continue with my religious practice as I believe in…. I am very comfortable with this; I am not oppressed at all. … This choice gives me piece of mind.

This whole interview should be heard by anyone who believes they know better than Zunera herself what is the best choice in her life. The whole interview can be heard here:

Surely if we superior white western males have learned anything in the past fifty years, it is to be hoped that perhaps we have learned the danger of presuming we are qualified to tell women, or anyone else for that matter, what is best for them. Many intelligent women tell us that the niqab is a personal choice they have freely made without coercion. They testify that for them it is an expression of their deepest religious convictions and that they only want to be free to follow their conscience in this matter.

We may disagree with these women. We may find their reasons inadequate and their choice offensive and disturbing. But, without an obvious need to protect these women from evident harm, it is difficult to see why we in a democratic country would do anything other than fight to protect their right to make a decision they believe is best for them.