Niqab-Wearing Women's Resistance in the Face of Oppressive Governmental Tactics and Popular Beliefs

AuthorNatasha Bakht
[  ]
chapter six
    the world who wear the niqab or
face veil have borne the brunt of many exclusionary policies, restrictive
laws, and negative beliefs. ey have been subject to prohibitions on
their chosen form of dress in courtrooms, schools, citizenship ceremon-
ies, workplaces, and public spaces. e discriminatory eects of niqab
bans include increased social isolation, political exclusion, economic
dependence, and vulnerability to violence, as well as victimization both
inside and outside the home. And yet, these women are incredibly resili-
ent and optimistic in their conviction to live the good life. ey dem-
onstrate that despite the overwhelming negativity directed at them at
times by members of the public, including state actors, and tremendous
legal barriers erected in attempts to subordinate and exclude them from
public life, resistance is always possible.
In this chapter, I discuss how niqab-wearing women and their allies
deploy multiple strategies to subvert dominant perceptions of who niqab-
women are and what they stand for. Relying on examples from primarily
the voices and lives of niqab-wearing women, but also literary references,
comic book characters, and artistic expressions, a growing and vibrant
counterculture that exhibits a more complex and nuanced understanding
of these women is revealed. Building on the work of Fatima Mernissi,
[  ]
In Your Face
Homa Hoodfar, Saba Mahmood, and others who challenge the discursive
construction of Muslim women who cover themselves, I examine three
themes in order to illustrate the remarkable resilience of niqab- wearing
women in contesting the more commonplace productions of power.
In part one of the chapter, I examine the voices of niqab-wearing
women themselves in regard to their own unique, multi-layered self-rep-
resentations. Some of these perspectives, which resist reductive cul-
tural constructions, have been garnered from op-eds and interviews of
niqab-wearing women in the media; others are from my own interviews
of niqab-wearing women in Ontario and Québec. By listening to their
voices and stories, we are able to learn about their lived realities. In
part two, I highlight the signif‌icant function of allies of niqab-wearing
women, both in sustaining these women during trying political times
and also in reinforcing armative narratives about a group that has
been unfairly disparaged; here, kindness is examined as a transformative
political act. Finally, I explore images of niqab-wearing women in art,
popular culture, and online platforms that I consider to be empowering
and unusual portrayals compared with those typically deployed about
these women. Each of these windows into the lives of niqab-wearing
women collectively and individually resists dominant depictions of
their lives and motivations. Entrenched social and political ideas about
these women can be countered through the creation of more complex
and meaningful representations. It behooves us to listen to them and
acknowledge that niqab-wearing women are not merely a homogenous
and marginalized group, but legal, political, and religious agents who
actively articulate and redef‌ine their identities.
    method of centring
the voices of women “silenced” by law’s patriarchal and racial meta-
narratives. ey also provide a way to name oppression directly from
women’s experiences. Listening to marginal voices and telling stories,
legal and otherwise, can highlight the dierence between the lived real-
ity of marginalized groups and how it is symbolized in formal legal

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT