Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Why I miss my veil ('niqab' in Muslim-speak) in Muscat, and when and why I don't

Sometimes I miss wearing my face veil (we Muslims call it a "niqab"---not a burka/burqa, thanks) in Muscat.

Living in an Arab Muslim country, purely religious things take on cultural meanings and lose their religious, and prejudice against niqab is the same here in Oman as it is in Western country almost. I can't wear it for work in most places, I was asked to take a photo of a woman wearing niqab off of my profile picture on my email (because it scares people and makes them think of ISIS/DAEESH) for work, some people assume it is related to tribal/regional associations of a woman's honour (i.e. her father or husband makes her wear it or it identifies her to be from a certain tribe or area and thus have a limited educational or aspirational background etc), some dudes think any woman who walks alone without a male chaperone while wearing niqab is hiding her identity to be able to like, date them or something (sooooooooooooooo annoying!!!!!).

Religious people, also, just as annoying. Gotta wear niqab a certain way to be doing so for religious purposes (i.e. can't wear flower crowns or pins or maybe even colours for your niqab).

However, it is safer to wear it here. Besides creepy loser guys. I mean no one calls you terrorist, throws stuff at you, harasses you for blocks shouting profanities at you or threatening to hurt you if you don't take it off.

I know. I've worn (and not worn) niqab in both a Western country, and here in Oman.
Canadian niqab-wearing chick? That picture above is sooooo me;). Niqab in Canada had extra benefits it doesn't have here (opposed to the detriments of affecting personal safety at at times.

a. in super cold weather, trust me niqab was AWESOME. EVEN cheap, crap quality niqabs that would kill you over a Muscat summer.
 b. If you were a native American, when people told you to move back to Saudi Arabia (because they see your niqab) you have the best retort ever.
 c. prejudiced people make themselves known to you right away. Without a niqab, trust me, you can't see how bigoted and two-faced a lot of supposedly liberal people are.
 d. you could make extremist weirdo Muslims super mad just by wearing a brooch pinned to your veil, or by wearing something pink. That was always awesome. I like to make ignorant crappy "religious" people "who can't read good" annoyed, my denomination, yours, it's all good;).

e. Some of the most awesome women's self defense class instructors in Canada wore niqab, and it was always such a killer to see the faces of women when their coach put on her niqab on as we all left the gym.
f. the most kind, selfless, generous, educated, informed, cool, and OUTSPOKEN Muslim women I knew were often niqabis from U.K., France, or Canada. They did kick-boxing, spoke back to sexist religious clerics, wrote newspapers, fought for human rights, surfed, ice-skated, show-jumped, skate-boarded, and were artists. People always expected so little from them, but look what they were despite. They were women I wanted to be like. Strong. Confident. Educated. Brave. Smart. Funny. Silly.

g. the creepy loser stalkers don't actually know who you are when you are wearing niqab, so when you like, dent their car when you happen to kick it, it is really hard for the police to find you after;) just saying....

h. Wearing niqab means I can wear the darkest red lipstick in the world without anyone thinking I am trying get attention from some dude or make another woman feel insecure or whatever loser thing they think that I wear lipstick for. I just happen to like me some lipstick a lot, and with niqab can enjoy it in peace without any controversy. I can also wear blue lipstick and you'd never know.

j. Religious reasons of course.  It means my actions have to speak louder than my appearance, and that my words have to be clearer, wiser, more grounded, educated, and patient. In other words, niqab holds the power to make me, a generally angry, inpatient, prone to cursing, person, a better person. Who considers all aspects of themselves reflected before the world, but first, to the inspection of one's own ideals. ...Some people might see it is as barrier to the world, but the only barrier it ever was for me, was a barrier for shooting out imperfectly formed words strung together haphazardly, a soft reminder that my movements require a cooling rationality to guide the passions underlying them.

...I don't wear it anymore for a variety of reasons... I am perhaps not as religiously focused as I was say four to five years ago. I feel stupid taking it on and off for work. In Oman I get loser dudes following me when I wear it but walk alone etc... People think my husband makes me wear it, or that I am from a tribe, nation, family, religious sect, that I am not.  I also don't like seeing women pressured to wear it. Women who don't like it, believe in it, or understand it. As much as I don't like people thinking I am a woman that anyone could force anything upon, I don't like seeing women forced.
It is like icecream.... I love icecream...but not everybody does. Would you force spoon icecream down somebody's throat? No. Nor would you think someone who happens to like icecream is crazy or oppressed either.  Why can't the world let religious dress be like a  dessert preference? Let religious dress be the extra wonderful thing to dress the meal and each to his or her own--- it isn't the whole of the meal, and it isn't like a meal isn't still a meal if someone skips out on dessert, right.?;).

The meal only fails to be a meal when you skip the meal altogether, and just choose your own dessert.

...A thing to remember;).


hekates said...

I really enjoy the blog in general, and this article in particular. I am not Muslim nor live in an area with many Muslims so I attempt to educate myself through reading blogs. This really helped me understand why someone would wear a niqab if not being forced by culture or family relationships.

Anonymous said...

Asslaaamu alaikum sis,

Is it true that it is prohibited to drive while wearing the niqab in Muscat? I understand the prohibition on public sector employees wearing niqaab, but I wanted to confirm with regards to the driving restriction.

JazakAllahu khayr for the information. It's definitely helpful for those who have not experienced wearing a niqab beyond the Western experience.

Lynniie said...

Hi there, I came across your blog by searching about how to dress when travel to Oman . Your blog is really help i read the previous one you posted . I will go to Fanja(Is it in Muscat?) in about next week for some exhibition there. I have 1 question , is it okay to wear sandals???? At a trade show or even in desert ..

Omani Princess (not Omani...yet) said...

Hekates: Thank you.

Anon: wa alaykom e salaam, as far as I know driving with niqab is fine in Oman. But you driver's license + international license and national residency ID must show your face for identification purposes and you have to be willing to flip it up for the police if they want to ID you. Or at court for ID.

Lynniie: I wear sandals allllllll the time for everything (formal, informal occasions). But in the desert make sure they are thicker... in the summer the sand will burn through your shoes and melt plastic;)

Lynniie said...

Thank you so much!!

Anonymous said...

I'd like to take off niqab, but I'm not allowed. I see it as a barrier, I just want to be normal and have a face. If I were to take it off, I'd miss some aspects of wearing it too.

Sal Bos said...

Niqab is big in Saudi also, I wear it there but not in America. I had to laugh at your other comment,, about the sand being so hot it can melt plastic,, so true.... great memories of melted shoes left in the hoosh during the summer days in Saudi.... we still giggle about our melted shoes... Sal Bo