Imam says burqa and niqab ban 'offends' Muslim women

Muslim community says burqa and niqab ban is tantamount to harassment on Muslim women   

The Muslim community in Malta has called on legislators to vote against the proposed ban on the burqa and niqab as this would impinge on the freedom of Muslim women.

In a press release sent by Imam Mohammed Elsadi, the Muslim community pointed out that millions of Muslim women wear the face-veil “and they will all feel offended, treated unjustly, besieged and harassed by such an imposing law.”

Pointing out that only three women Maltese Muslim women wear the burqa or niqab, the Imam said this would threaten integration and harmony.

Earlier this month, civil liberties minister Helena Dalli told MaltaToday that the burqa and the niqab “are not garments that one would associate with this community, so a clearer ban on face coverings should carry no impact on the vast majority of Muslims in any way.”

However, speaking on behalf of the Muslim community in Malta, the Imam disagreed and said “the prohibition of the face-veil would be a violation of individual freedom and human rights with no true benefit to society. Just as the woman in a secular society is left to decide for herself what to wear and what to uncover, so the Muslim woman has the right to cover and uncover what she decides is appropriate for herself.”

He added that while the community does not feel targeted by the proposed ban, the proposal concerns Islam and the Muslims, as only the Muslim female wears the face-veil.

In Malta, the Criminal Code already forbids people from “wearing masks or disguising themselves” in public spaces “except at the time and in the manner allowed by the law”.

But a police circular issued by the Attorney General on February 2013 insisted that “there is no provision within Maltese law that prohibits the wearing of the burqa”.   

“In a global world where people of different cultures live together and interact in so many ways and in so many spheres of life, it is more beneficial for any country to grant as much individual freedoms as possible,” Elsadi said.

The Imam said that Malta will benefit on many levels if it builds on its already excellent reputation of a respectful and friendly environment, “allowing all the freedom to exercise their own cultural norms and way of life.”

“For several years, Muslim women in Malta have worn the face-veil and led a normal life . They have enjoyed and contributed to cultural diversity and truly enjoyed the freedom guaranteed by the Maltese Constitution,” the Imam added.

Insisting that this dress did not cause any threat to the public security, Elsadi said that the women readily complied whenever they were required to identify themselves by security personnel.

“The face-veil, covering part or all of the woman’s face is accepted in most European countries and all over the world, and it is not considered a threat to public safety. Even certain countries which suffered the curse of terrorist attacks did not ban the face-veil, clearly because the face-veil has nothing to do with these criminal acts,” the Imam said.

He added that depicting the Islamic face-veil as a symbol of women’s oppression is a huge insult to Islam, which permits it, and a grave offence to Muslims and particularly to Muslim women.

“Most women wear the Islamic face-veil freely and with pride. They do not adhere to it because it is imposed on them by a male, as implied, but rather they willingly wear it because it is a matter of faith and an opportunity to please Allah.”

Stressing that the burqa and niqab are not masks, he said it is a gesture of piety and modesty.

“The woman’s dignity is maintained and enhanced by granting her enough freedom of choice and not by restricting their freedom,” he said.