Originally, I was going to relegate France’s niqab ban to the weekly roundup and have a dedicated rundown of the brilliant pieces being written about it, such as here, here, here, here and here. I’m sure many more will be written. Twitter is also all a flutter, mass campaigning to ban everything from cancer to slut-shaming with a #niqabban hash tag.

But I’ve received a few e-mails asking my opinion on France’s niqab ban. So this week’s roundup has been preempted by my recent experience with niqab.


Assalamu ‘alaikum sister. How are you tonight?  Her eyes twinkled and suggested a smile. I returned the Arabic greeting of peace and smiled back. She flipped up her long black niqab, grinning – would you like to come to my party?

Last week, we were out running errands and were still on the road when it became time for the sunset prayer. Driving all the way home would mean that we’d miss the small window of opportunity to pray on time, so we drove to the closest mosque in the hopes of catching the congregational prayer.

The Hubby went through the mosque’s front door and entered the large, main prayer hall, while I made my way around the building to the women’s entrance at the back and up two flights of stairs to the women’s balcony with Eryn on my hip. That’s when I was halted by six women in niqab. They cooed over Eryn and after some chit-chat, invited me to a halaqa – a religious learning session.

I agreed to attend without knowing the name of the scholar, the audience, or even the lesson topic. I didn’t know what to expect. And while I certainly had preconceptions based on experience – being told at previous halaqas that I was praying wrong, wore my hijab wrong, and that I should reject western-feminist, liberal, progressive, reformist worldviews in favour of more conservative, political, Islamist doctrines – these ladies were just so excited and friendly that I couldn’t say no to the invitation.

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