Many people don’t know that I used to wear Niqab (face cover). Actually, I wore it since I was 18 and for a total of 16 years, in other words, I wore it my entire adult life. It wasn’t until late 2018 that I decided not to wear it anymore.
I can write a book about why I decided not to wear it and how hard this decision was. Many people assume that wearing a Niqab in Egypt or Dubai is easy because these are Muslim countries.
In Egypt, many people don’t like the Niqab and oppose it. It’s almost impossible to find a job if you wear Niqab. The situation in Dubai was a bit better, you have a minor chance of finding a job (better than none) while wearing it and socially, people mind their own business, after all, Dubai is home for people from more than 200 countries and each to their own.
I decided to stop wearing it for two main reasons. First was my limited career options. While everyone around me could find jobs and switch from one company to another, this was not the same for me. I was stuck at my job and could not move forward in my career. At times I would pass all the phone and online technical interviews but the final face-to-face meeting would be the end of my job application. One time, an HR manager told me “Sarah you are a good candidate, but I cannot hire you like this, how do we know who is coming into our office, if it was you or someone else?”
The second reason was moving to Canada. We got our permanent residence visas and decided to move to Canada in the summer of 2019. As a family, knowing it was hard to wear Niqab in the Middle East, we expected even more hardships in a western country like Canada.
So I made that decision and it was not easy. It’s something I had been wearing and doing for 16 years. And even though I made this decision, I felt forced to take it off, because after all, I stopped wearing not because I want to but only because how others – in one way or another – think of it.
I know that many people argue against wearing Niqab. I am not writing this post to promote wearing it, nor make you love it. All I am saying that its nothing to be afraid of, for many reasons.
People say wearing Niqab is a security issue. But Niqab is not the only way a criminal can hide his or her identity. Actually wearing a Niqab in Canada and any western country will make you stand out in a crowd, and I don’t believe anyone with the intention of committing a crime would go for that. How about a medical mask? Wouldn’t that be easier and less noticeable?
Women who cover their faces have their photos on all government documents where required, like passports and driving licenses. A Niqabi (woman wearing Niqab) is not seeking to hide her identity but rather simply to cover her face.
In the Middle East, most Niqabi women wear black clothes only because black is believed to be the most modest color. But many of my Niqabi friends started wearing pastel colors after moving to Canada, in an attempt to look less shocking to Canadians because Niqab is not common and not understood in Canada. So Niqabis are actually trying to integrate.
So, Niqab is nothing to be afraid of!
To this day, even though I don’t cover my face right now – but who knows maybe I would wear it again in the future – I consider myself a Niqabi. The Niqab is not just a piece of fabric to cover your face, it’s a lifestyle and an attitude.
Sarah Taha is a Muslim Egyptian who moved to Fredericton in 2019. This story is from Sarah’s blog, I Just Got New Brunswicked!