Women in Niqab Speak: A study of the niqab in Canada launches Friday

Professor Lynda Clarke of Concordia University will speak on the findings of her study, which looks at the experiences of women in Canada who wear the niqab.

Some 81 women who wear the niqab participated in the Canadian Council of Muslim Women (CCMW) study, funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation. Women responded to an online survey and participated in group sessions, as well as some personal interviews.

Study on women her wear NiqabThe event will take place Friday, Feb. 28, from 2 to 4pm, in the Executive Dining Room, Seymour Schulich Building, Keele campus. Everyone is welcome. Refreshments will be served. The event is hosted by the York Centre for Asian Research and the Centre for Feminist Research.

“This study is important because the practice of the niqab – a face covering – has received much attention in the press. For some people this article of clothing has been seen as male oppression of Islamic extremism. This study is a response to this growing debate and a reflection of CCMW’s commitment to the equality, empowerment and diversity of Muslim women and their voices,” says CCMW project coordinator Sahar Zaidi.

The research is not intended to focus on the religious or theological basis of the practice, but on the “lived experiences of the women and their diverse narratives”.

The findings of this report show a dynamic, engaging picture of 81 Canadian women who wear the niqab. They spoke of their challenges regarding the assumptions and stereotyping that are present in the media, policy circles and the wider public.

Alia Hogben, executive director of CCMW, will provide the background of the research and Clarke will discuss the findings with Hulya Arik, a PhD candidate in York’s Department of Geography, and Roshan A. Jahangeer, a PhD candidate in York’s Department of Political Science. A Q&A session with the audience will follow the discussion.

The study participants’ most common reasons for wearing the niqab were highly personal and individual, however, “religious obligation” including attaining a deeper stage in one’s spiritual development and “expression of Muslim identity” featured most often in the results.

The CCMW has stated that face coverings, though not a religious requirement in Islam, are worn by some women. The CCMW is concerned that these women who want to wear the face covering will become further isolated and marginalized, says Zaidi.

For more information, contact York Centre for Asian Research at ycar@yorku.ca or Sahar Zaidi at projects@ccmw.com.