Face-veil proposal outrages some students

American Muslims are feeling the ripple from a new French law that prohibits women from wearing veils as part of their religious practice, leaving some to wonder what will come next. | Wikimedia Commons

A full black dress covered her entire body. From head to toe, nothing could be seen.

All that was visible of Reehab Ramadan were two eyes peering out from beneath her veil, telling her story.

“I have a neighbor who described me to her friend,” said Ramadan, a computer science senior. “She was saying how she could see my character and personality by just looking at my eyes. She could see it (despite) the cloth on my face.”

Ramadan, a Muslim student who wears the full face-veil or ‘niqab’ in Arabic, said the cloth defines her as a person.

“The niqab is a part of me,” Ramadan said, “If I had to take it off due to some legislation, they would be stripping me of my identity.”

Ramadan’s words came in response to the French government’s January proposal for a ban on the face-veil. Once drafted into law, the restriction applied to schools, hospitals, public transportation and government offices. The legislation said the face-veil was a challenge to French values of equality.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy showed support for the ban, claiming the face-veil was “not welcome in France.” His political party leader, Xavier Bertrand, said it is “simply a prison for women who wear it.”

The Student Feminist Organization at UH takes the opposite position. Amanda Williams, president of the organization, said the government should not enforce this ban.

“If it is oppression, why handle it with more oppression?” Williams said. “If (the women) need liberation, allow them to liberate themselves. It shouldn’t be imposed.”

Williams said the ban removes essential freedoms from women.

“A very powerful value of feminism is celebrating and exercising freedom of choice,” Williams said. “And by assuming that they don’t have those options available to them is insinuating that they aren’t responsible or intelligent enough to make their own opinions.”

Ramadan said the majority of people who wear the face-veil in Western societies do so by choice, not pressure.

“I was not forced to do it. I actually had to fight my father for two to three years to let me wear the face-veil,” Ramadan said. “I know countless sisters who want to wear the niqab, but their parents won’t allow them.”

Vice President of the UH feminist organization, Andrea Platt, said the ban is simply another way to undermine Islam.

“This ban is a thinly veiled xenophobic response to the growing population of Muslims in France,” Platt said. “It’s part of the agenda.

“Think about Catholic nuns. Are they not allowed to wear their religious garments? Nothing is said about that.”

Another face-veil wearing student, education junior Aideh Elasmar, agrees with Platt.

“When I heard about it, I thought it was so hypocritical,” Elasmar said. “I felt like they were using the dignity of women as a front to target the Islamic faith.”

Elasmar, who started wearing the face-veil only six months ago, fears that the U.S. will also consider a ban.

“Right now, the majority of American people believe in civil rights and freedom to choose, especially in mundane things as what to wear,” Elasmar said. “But there’s still that threat. Martin Luther King Jr. said, ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’ So I definitely think that if it’s not corrected, it could possibly spread.”

The key to preventing this law from spreading, Elasmar said, is education.

“It’s simply a matter of educating, just speaking out,” she said. “(A) lady at the airport asked me about the face-veil, and I told her. (A) little kid who thought I looked like a ninja asked me, and I told him. Most people are just curious, and I welcome their curiosity.”

To facilitate the education, Elasmar and Ramadan, along with other face-veil wearing students, started a blog this semester at The blog features personal stories and anecdotes about their experiences with the face-veil.

“I can’t speak for every woman. But I can speak for myself, and I can speak for my friends, and we can speak for a large amount of people who have started it,” Elasmar said. “I can safely say, wearing the niqab has been an amazing journey.”

[email protected]


  • The catholic nun argument was stupid and moot, if you’re going to raise a proper argument at least do some bloody research first. The nuns wear their garments as uniforms, in their convents its not uncommon for them to dress down to relax.

    • ^Was that the only line you have to comment about?

      It wasn’t used too much as an argument, rather it was quoted by Andrea Platt, the VP of UH Feminist organization. And if you think nuns do it just “as uniforms”, maybe you should be doing the research.

    • Actually, Zed, Muslim women only wear their hijabs/niqabs when outside of their home or in the presence of non-related males. Otherwise, like nuns, they “dress down” at home to relax as well.

      • I’m curious about the requirement to wear this garment in the presence of “non-related males”.
        Is that a “choice” shared by all women who wear it, or something which is dictated by some other power.
        It seems to me that to be forced to wear it in the presence of “non-related” males is a form of oppression.
        I hope rather it is a unanimous choice of all the women who do wear it.

    • out of this entire article, i like how the comparison to nuns was the only thing that made you upset. bloody comparisons! ruined the whole article! i cant even remember the rest of the article because the comparison was so unjust!

  • I think that the nun comment is appropriate because nuns do not necessarily see their habits as uniforms. In fact, it is a very important part of their identities, as well, and if they were denied the ability to wear their habits in public, that would be an infringement upon their rights as individuals. Also, it’s appropriate because the habit, too, is very much tied to nuns’ religious identities, despite the differences. The important thing to remember is choice, and that’s something you mentioned already in your comment: yes, many nuns do dress down, in private and even in public (I can testify that I’ve seen them without their habits going to the fabric store, interestingly enough). But the fact is that they have that choice, and that is part of a nun’s decision when she first enters the convent: there is no secret about what kind of wardrobe is entailed, and she has the freedom to make the choice for herself.

  • This is typical of US women Lib, defend oppression where there is non. Give freedom to women who want to wear the face-veil, but what about the poor women in Afghanistan, who have to wear a veil with a net? Before the war they could not even work, beg on the street for food if they had no husband. Forced marriage is still part of Turkey. But the veil gives them freedom?

    This is in no way comparable to a convent for catholic nuns. They are not house wifes like the Muslim women, they living for god and not a husband.


    • It seems you must really wish to disrepect the Niqab; nonetheless you have taken the wrong approach. You have only taken the politics and culture of Aghanistan and tried to mix it into the Relgion of Islam and trying to put it to shame.

      You are trying to attribute the injustices of people to the Niqab and to attribute it to its religion.
      didnt work this time sry.

    • Veiling is for Allaah not for your husband, he can only suggest it to you,in the end it's the woman's decision. We are supposed to wear hijab at the age of puberty,regardless of if we are married or not. Of course it's our choice if we do this or not,just as men are supposed to cover esp. from their navel to their knees and grow their beards. And this is why you see a lot of Muslims don't even wear hijab or beards,etc.

      As in any religion or way of life,there are people who try to be too lackadaisical or too extreme, so there are things in any country that have been imposed upon it's people that may or may not be proper according to their beliefs. In Islam women can work, however if their husbands object to it they should obey him. Arranged marriages, where the women has no say as to if she wants to marry the man or not, is not allowed. However, dating is not allowed for man or woman. That protects both parties from fornicating etc., which goes against the point of marriage anyways i.e. keeping away from adultery. When two people get married in Islam, they should both get to know each other on modest terms, and not have to be seduced into marriage, to only find out they were later on.
      Wearing a burqa with a veil is not that bad. Maybe you see it that way because you only the outside and make your own assumptions of how it feels inside. Covering allows a woman to understand that she is beautiful and doesn't need a pervert to make her feel that way. When someone whistles at a poorly dressed woman, that shows this man has no respect for her and probably thinks she'll respond his creepy call.
      Allaah tells us to listen to our husbands, this is after Allaah and His Messenger. We don't listen to our husbands if it's not according to Allaah's laws. Nuns are not even in the Bible and are denied the basic human right of getting married, that's oppression. Even non Muslim women are house wives and it's something very fulfilling and natural.
      Allowing strange men to see the beauty of random women is just to fulfill the lusts of men, that's oppression & degradment. Men like that seem to only objectify women. Why should a women allow some stranger to see her body and deny her own husband the right to have his wife to himself?

  • I would say the issue in France and Afghanistan both should be weighted the same. To prohibit someone and to force someone are both denying a freedom of choice.

    Remember the issue here is the Prohibition of a Face Veil, and not about whether women should wear a face veil or not.

    But I can’t help but agree with “Aideh”…EDUCATION. Many commentaters are speaking from the lack of education, and believe things such as “They are not house wifes like the Muslim women, they living for god and not a husband”

    Obviously, the woman that is quoted in this article, Reehab Ramadan, is a student, nevertheless a COMPUTER SCIENCE major, getting an education to work or be a housewife….<- notice, a CHOICE!

    Muslim women do not wear the veil for their husbands, believe it or not, but they DO NOT wear the veil/face veil with their husbands. They live for god and not their husbands. They pray to God and not to their husbands, ect.

    but again, this article is trying to preach "Freedom"!

  • Being a Muslim girl is the most wonderful blessing of all. It allows me to be a strong person and not give into society pressures, such as giving off sex appeal so that someone finds me attractive. Islam teaches me, that i want a person to like me because of my personality and character. I don’t need to flaunt my hair around , show my cleavage or my legs to have someone find me attractive. They need to like what they hear from me and what i can do as a person. I can only speak for the woman of the west, because yes, the woman in places like Afghanistan are oppressed and they don’t have a choose when it comes to the face veil and etc. It has sadily become a symbol of woman oppression, but the corrupt societies of those countries are responsible for that, not Islam. The majority of the woman in the west, wear the scarf or the face veil, out of PERSONAL choice. It has nothing to do with their husband. It is a personal choice that takes a lot of courage and strength. We know that we will look different than the rest of the girls in the west, we know that we will be stared at, and YES we know that some people will discriminate against us, so why do we do it? Because our faith in GOD is so strong, those things don’t matter at the end of the day. We are still woman, that part never changes. We also shop at Victoria’s secret when it comes to our privacy at home. Shocked?

    • Thanks for answering something I always wanted to know. Not shocked at the last bit – women around the world differ rather little.

  • “Proud Muslim” , i couldn’t agree more. I am a muslim girl, but I don’t wear the scarf or the face veil . But also as an American Muslim, i dress modestly for the same reasons 🙂

Leave a Comment