Protective masks have become a statement for many people meaning different things. To most people, the clothing pieces are a statement of how socially responsible they are, ensuring everyone in their path survives.
Others are taking a step further, even splurging hundreds of dollars on designer masks. Muslim women have not been left behind, and many have embraced different hijab styles as fashion statements. To a minority, it’s a sign of oppression, and they would instead move on with life as usual.
Minority groups, mainly black men, have come under additional scrutiny. With several arrests being reported by black American men, the police often state that they looked “suspicious” in the pandemic masks. The backlash, although swift, did not address the issue as many black men are unfairly being targeted. More men have been advised to wear more “flowery” designs to dial down the arrests to counter this. Muslim black women have not been so fortunate.
Muslim women have suffered the longest, especially those who wear the Niqab. The Niqab is a piece of cloth that is usually worn over the hijab. It comes in a variety of colors and styles depending on the different hijab styles. Worn for centuries by Muslim women as a form of worship, the world primarily recognized it at an ugly time when the united states led Afghanistan’s invasion. With America voicing their concerns, the western media quickly added, stating the war would help Afghan women from being oppressed, giving them their rights.
Although Niqab wearers are a rare sub-group in the muslim community, studies have been undertaken in the US and UK reveal their thoughts on the issue. Frowned upon from the late 1980s, many women have adopted different hijab styles, and the world is slowly starting to accept them as a religion. Niqab wearers have recently only had their first positive encounter with the rise in the pandemic. The women who agreed to be interviewed stated.
“The pandemic is a blessing in disguise. It is less daunting to wear the Niqab in public as everyone is wearing a mask”.
Another one stated;
“People are more concerned about themselves and less about what others are wearing. Some consider it additional different hijab styles coming into play during the pandemic and don’t bother us. It’s no longer a religion issue.”
It is a significant shift from the past as more than 80% of Muslim women have suffered discrimination due to Niqabs. The prejudice many faces ranges from being denied employment, hostile stares, comments, and others the Niqab physically being ripped off from their face.
With countless attacks happening in some parts of the world, countries such as Quebec and France banned face coverings in public. The same vote is expected to be added in a referendum where citizens of Swiss will vote whether they will ban the wearing of Niqab in public. Advocates pushing for the ban argue that it is used as a form of oppression, extremism, and Muslim women’s oppression.
Voices of those seeking to ban Niqabs have stopped during the pandemic, attracting Muslim women activists’ criticism. The criticism arises as many governments have passed legislation requiring that all citizens cover their faces.
As the law passed, France, which is on the front line, again stated that any citizen found in public not wearing a mask could pay a fine of $165. However, wearing a Niqab also attracted a fine of $180. Activists are pointing out the making of laws that only suit their immediate needs.
There is a gradual shift in the different hijab styles as more companies are making designer hijabs for Muslim women. Niqab wearers are experiencing the same positive energy. Invisible in the eyes of many, the likelihood of facing hostile comments and stares has dialed down as everyone is expected to wear a facial covering.
Social media is awash with images of women embracing wearing the Niqab instead of a hijab with a mask. Most women daring to wear Niqabs for the first time with a simple message “Let us have freedom of worship.” Many Niqab wearers only hope that the need to label them as dangerous will die with the pandemic.
One of the most shared comments was by a woman in the United States.
“We are very few, everyone knows us, but still we are seen as a threat to society every time we cover our faces. The argument has disappeared at the moment, and everyone minds their own business. We can only hope that this sentiment does not pass with the pandemic. Our religion is not oppressing us. It is our way of worship. We can only hope you respect it as you respect other religious ways of worship.”
With the pandemic raging on even with the release of vaccines, Muslim women can only wait to see if they will get the respect they have been craving for decades.