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I wear niqab and I’m as English as they come

After seeing the recent insults made by Boris Johnson and the follow up comments of the far right, I would like to explain the niqāb from the viewpoint of an English Muslim woman.

Growing up I was never raised around any Muslims or anyone of another faith for that matter. I am from a small village where everyone was Christian – at least by name. I lived a life of ignorance and always felt the need to question why people would do things differently to what I was used to, we’re in England after all, right?

It wasn’t until I got to secondary school and more so into college that I got to know a lot of people from other cultures and religions. I found it so valuable to be able to learn more about the world rather than sticking to the little I previously knew.

When I first heard about Islām it was something which sounded so alien: women covering up, men being allowed multiple wives, it didn’t make much sense when viewed from the eyes of the western woman. This is because we place our values in line with what society deems acceptable and, in many ways, Islām seems not fit in, however that does not necessarily make it wrong.

After studying Islām properly (rather than just listening to the media) I found it made logical and practical sense. The Qur’ān was written as a guidance for mankind, although I did not accept it at first, I saw how it could benefit me in multiple ways. I started taking parts of the religion (for example not eating pork or drinking alcohol) as health benefits more than anything else.

After a few years of mixing with my group of friends from multiple different backgrounds (Atheists, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists) and looking into all these religions in depth I decided to accept Islām. Before you ask, no it was nothing to do with a man I was dating or liked.

When changing my religion, covering up was never even something I saw myself doing because I thought it would not fit into Western society. After a while I felt like it was something I wanted to try and as soon as I did I knew I would never go back. It became a part of me, such that if I now went outside without my hijāb I genuinely feel completed naked. This is such a strange feeling coming from someone who used to be so comfortable going out in far less.

Wearing a hijāb made me feel so empowered. The men who used to stare at me as a sexual object would now look down as a symbol of respect. My body was no longer something they could just grab; it was something I had complete control over.

After developing my understanding of both the religion and myself I started to wear the niqāb. This was a frightening thing at first since the perception of so many in western society is extremely negative. By wearing a simple piece of fabric over your face you suddenly become “a bank robber” (according to Boris), a terrorist or some of the other more creative insults (ninja, batman, letter box, the list could go on). You feel fear because you know that most people do not understand why you are wearing it. They assume it is because your husband made you or you were somehow forced. But this could not be further from the truth. All the girls I know who wear the niqāb, including myself, have done so for their own personal love of it and the complete control over their body it gives them.

Unfortunately, instead of speaking to us, we are constantly told that we are “extremists” “terrorists” and “oppressed” when in reality the only people we feel are oppressing us are the ones who are telling us to take it off. It is like every time you leave the house you expect to see someone who is “offended” by you, even though you have done absolutely nothing to harm them. Or someone who doesn’t think it “fits into English culture” however in England there is no cultural dress sense, people wear whatever they want to wear and they always have done.

If I were to turn around and say, “I am offended by you wearing shorts” that does not mean you should have to change what you wear. Although, everyone is entitled to an opinion it does not mean that your opinion is more important than someone else’s right. The sad thing is that many individuals believe others should do whatever makes them more comfortable, not thinking that they make people like me extremely uncomfortable by trying to make me take it off.

There’s a common misunderstanding that in Britain the niqāb is only worn by immigrants who come over here and want to change England. This is not the case at all. Many of us who choose to wear the niqāb are British Muslims that partake within the everyday norms of British society, with just a few less people seeing our face.

If my own family who are all born and brought up English can accept that I am still the exact same English girl then why do strangers feel the need to dictate to me how I should live my life?


About Holly Smith

An English revert and mother to two children who spends her time nuturing her children and increasing her Islamic knowledge through various online platforms. Holly has a particular interest in business, investments and fitness.


  1. Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh brothers and sisters

    The main point of the article is we should be allowed to cover as much as we want, after all, others are allowed to expose more than they cover. It should be logical.

    If I do not cover my head or my face, that does not mean I should take away another woman’s right to do so. It is her body after all. Next we will be told not to wear boots because they cover too much of our feet, and everyone should wear sandals!

    Fast forward to 2020 and many men and women are niqabis. Some institutions won’t even allow you through the door unless your face is covered. In some parts of Australia, you get a fine from the police for walking down the street with your face EXPOSED.

    Please, let’s wake up and stop bothering women for wearing too many clothes! They don’t trouble men over that anyway, so Anti-niqabism smells rather suspiciously of misogyny.

    And if you’re a woman and anti-niqab, kindly note that being female does not give you the right to dictate my fashion, thank you.

    Some people put themselves through “unnecessary difficulties” throughout their lives: voluntary fasts in summer, horrible jobs when they don’t need the money, the list goes on, but surely this is their prerogative as humans?? Simply because I don’t understand why these people put themselves in “unnecessary difficulties” does not remove their rights to do the same. It’s their lives and the rest of us can learn to live and let live.

  2. As salaam alaikum.
    The nikab (veil).
    Firstly, It would be extremely important in the context of this discussion to understand whether it is an injunction (requirement) for ALL women, as ordained by ALLAH, thus fard ; or is it a historic cultural regional addition to the deen and a Sunnah.
    Secondly, We need to get insight from those wearing the nikab and collate the reasons why women choose to wear the veil.
    Only after understanding these view points can we conclude whether in todays world of Islamophobia and constant negativity surrounding its wearing it should or should not be practised

  3. Brothers and sisters, lets clear up a major misconception :”I am a born Muslim”. Is it not a fact that EVERY ONE of human kind is born a Muslim? Does NOT our upbringing and association through our parents and environment take each human into a specific belief system and away from the ONENESS of ALLAH. Am I wrong in understanding that Muhammad SAW said that the fitra of mankind is to be born a believer…i.e a Muslim.
    Yes, I am `born` into a Muslim family, grew up in a Muslim family, and through the grace of ALLAH am a practicing Muslim. Being `born` a Muslim does NOT confer on me a greater status than any other Muslim. Neither does it give me the right to believe that simply because I was destined to be `born` and to grow up in a Muslim family and grew up in that environment I am better than anyone who was NOT `born` in a Muslim family.
    Kindly correct me if I am wrong. Wslm

  4. Aisha Sharif-Rashid

    I just posted a comment. Will I and others be able to see it?

  5. Aisha Sharif-Rashid

    Ya Allah…My Beloved Ukhti Sharifa, …: The Goal of this life is to Worship and Please Allah Azza Wa Jal As best as we can AND Not to Integrate into a society!
    We are ALL born Muslim, it is that our parents or whomever misguided us and then Our Rabb through His Mercy guided us back onto Al-Mustaqim. Niqab does NOT limit us. It is the misguidance and actions of some people that feel uncomfortable with seeing a sister completely covered, but the same people applaud women who wear shorts, breast out and as here in Miami Florida .., we must endure seeing women walk around with Thongs/Strings up their behinds. This life is filled with Test on our trip back home to Jannah. Niqab is a Protection from the evils of this Dunya. You will never understand why a sister wears a Niqab unless it is something that you have discussed with Our Rabb and experience the feeling of Peace that comes over you while wearing one. A sister who wears Niqab to please Allahu Subhanahu wa Ta ala is Not trying to be of this world. She is trying to please Our Rabb and go back home to Jannah.., no matter what the obstacles are.

  6. I don’t think Islam21c should have argued this from the point of view of an English woman. She is a minority in the population of women that wear niqab. Would be nothing wrong if it actually was ‘only worn by immigrants’, still should be their choice, at the end of the day these women aren’t harming anyone else. I don’t even know why or how Englishness is important here. Focus should be about the treatment and targeting of muslim women; most of us are not English and don’t want or try to be – nothing wrong with that.

  7. Sharifa Makkan

    I am a born Muslim who is proud to wear a hijab (scarf), however, I am totally against wearing of nikab. Covering the face for ordinary women is NOT mentioned in the Quran so why put yourself through unnecessary difficulty. It limits what they can do with themselves and is a barrier to integration.

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