My mother is a staunch supporter of the niqab, in fact, she put it on not long after she converted to Islam. She believes that the wearing of the niqab is fard or compulsory.
Growing up I was a tomboy, climbing up trees or pretending to be Magneto from X-Men. or a Ninja Turtle. My mother hated it and was always forcing me into skirts and telling me to behave like a good girl.
When I was seven and had just started wearing the hijab, she gleefully put me in abayas and hijabs. Shortly afterwards she started asking me when I would start wearing the niqab. It wasn’t a question of if I wanted to or not. It was what was expected of me. So I responded saying that I would wear it when I had grown up, thinking that was a very very long time away. Little did I know my mother interpreted that as being when I got my first period and only 6 years away.
When I discovered that girls normally get their periods in their early tweens, I began to dread getting my period. My mother had made it public knowledge that when I got my period, I would be a woman and marriageable.
I can remember the moment I realised that I had had my first period. I sat on the toilet and cried for an hour whilst staring at my stained underwear.
Putting the niqab on was the end of my childhood.
The niqab deprived me of life’s smallest pleasures such as feeling the summer sun on my face. I felt like a monster when small children would cower and whimper at the sight of me. I felt alone when I wouldn’t be able to go and play with friends.
One time I decided to not give a fuck and started playing with my friends at a community BBQ. I was about fourteen at the time and I overheard some Muslim comment on how I would make a good wife since I was good with children and one made a joke saying how I would make a good second wife for him.
I felt horrified. I was a child and hearing a grown man, a father of one of my friends talk about me in such a way scared me. I told my mother and she responded saying that I had embarrassed her by acting like a child, that I was a woman now and must act like one.
No one could tell I was a child under the niqab. I was covered from head to toe in dark dreary colours with just my eyes showing. I would have people yell slurs at me, stalk me and tell me to go blow myself up. I hated leaving the house and would often beg my mother to let me remove the niqab. I promised to wear a bigger hijab, to get married, anything that I thought would convince her to let me remove it. She only let me remove it once when I was going to a friend’s house and when I returned home, she told me to get out of her sight as I looked like a naked sharmoota or whore.
After that, I put it back on.
Many Muslim women claim the niqab helps men treat them like individuals because they aren’t being judged on their looks but I call bullshit. I started receiving proposals at fifteen from grown men who wanted a perfectly untouched and unseen child bride that no man had set eyes on. I was nothing more than a prized cow. These men didn’t care about my intellect. They wanted a virginal broodmare. They wanted to own me.
The night I left home, I left without wearing a niqab or hijab. It was the first time in thirteen years that I had stepped foot outside my home with nothing covering my hair.
I was liberated.
I am often asked my opinion of the niqab.
I believe the niqab is pointless and I wholeheartedly believe it needs to be banned. There is absolutely no need to wear it in this day and age.
It is dehumanizing.
It is isolating.
I hate it.