Anna PielaJun 16, 2023
Wearing the Niqab
Muslim Women in the UK and the US
In recent years the niqab has emerged as one of the most ubiquitous symbols of everything that is perceived to be wrong with Islam: barbarity, backwardness, exploitation of women, and political radicalization. Yet all these notions are assigned to women who wear the niqab without their consultation; “niqab debates” are held without their voices being heard, and, when they do speak, their views are dismissed. Wearing the Niqab: Muslim Women in the UK and the US (Bloomsbury, 2021) brings niqab wearers' voices to the fore, discussing their narratives on religious agency, identity, social interaction, community, and urban spaces.
Anna Piela, Visiting Scholar at Northwestern University, situates women's accounts firmly within UK and US socio-political contexts as well as within media discourses on Islam. The picture painted by the stories told here demonstrates that, for these women, religious symbols such as the niqab are deeply personal, freely chosen, multilayered, and socially situated. In our conversation we discussed religious explanations for wearing niqab, public notions of what constitutes religious practice, mainstream media’s image of niqab wearers, niqabi inclusive journalism, contradictions between religious perspectives and secular frameworks, Muslim use of social media, religious identity and pious dress, and intersections of racism and sexism with wearing the niqab.
Kristian Petersen is an Associate Professor of Philosophy & Religious Studies at Old Dominion University. You can find out more about his work on his website, follow him on Twitter @BabaKristian, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.