Muslim women like to wear the burqua

Veiling Debate - Why Some Muslim Women Willingly Wear a Nikab

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For many Muslim women, the veil is not a compulsion, but offers protection, says Islamic scholar Andreas Tunger-Zanetti. In his new book he writes against common prejudices.

Women who wear a face veil are forced to do so by their fathers, husbands or families. This is a common prejudice about Muslim women with Nikab.

Conversations with Nikab wearers in Western European countries showed exactly the opposite, says Andreas Tunger-Zanetti, Islamic scholar at the University of Lucerne: "Muslim women choose the face veil of their own free will - often against the will of their families or their husbands."

There is research in the UK, France, Denmark, Belgium and the Netherlands into the motives of Muslim women to wear a Nikab. "The findings from these countries can be transferred to Switzerland", Andreas Tunger-Zanetti is convinced.

On the one hand, because the circumstances are similar. On the other hand, the researcher also spoke to a woman with Nikab in Switzerland. "Your statements match surprisingly well with the findings from other European countries," says Andreas Tunger-Zanetti.

The burqa debate in Switzerland

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In March Switzerland votes on the so-called burqa initiative. The Federal Council and Parliament recommend rejecting the initiative at the ballot box. An indirect counter-proposal will automatically be put into effect if you say no to the burqa ban.

The popular initiative “Yes to the ban on veiling” demands that nobody in all of Switzerland is allowed to veil their face in public spaces.

Only 37 Nikab wearers in Switzerland

It is hardly surprising that the Lucerne scholar of Islamic studies has to draw on research from abroad: According to his estimates, there are at most 37 women in Switzerland who wear a face veil. And they live very withdrawn. Even for Andreas Tunger-Zanetti, who knows many Swiss Muslims well, it is difficult to find them.

Andreas Tunger-Zanetti supports himself in his latest book «Wrapping. The burqa debate in Switzerland »is based on European research and our own studies in Switzerland. And he comes to the end: Nikab wearers mostly come from a religious background and decide to wear the face veil in their youth or when they are in their early 20s. "Out of a desire to be particularly godly, particularly pious," explains Andreas Tunger-Zanetti.

The face veil in the Koran

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In Islam there is no obligation to veil one's face. Neither in the Koran nor in the Sunna - that is, the narratives of the life of Muhammad - an obligation can be derived that a woman has to cover her face. As an individual, voluntary act of piety, however, full veiling is permissible.

Strictly religious yes, fundamentalist no

This in turn leads to the next prejudice: that women with face veils practice a particularly strict Islam and are fundamentalist. "In fact, Salafist concepts keep cropping up in their arguments," says Andreas Tunger-Zanetti. “However, women are not the spearheads of a Salafist movement. Some don't even obey all the rules, say they don't pray five times a day. "

Book reference

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Andreas Tunger-Zanetti: «Wrapping. The Burka Debate in Switzerland ». Here and now, 2021.

Rather, they are “religious sole proprietorships”. And some people take off their headscarf later. The most famous Swiss Nikab wearer, Nora Illi, who died last year, left a wrong picture here.

Nikab as protection, not limitation

It is noticeable that the face veil for many women also contains a note of protest - against their own non-religious family or against a society that Nikab wearers consider too revealing. For them, the Nikab is a protection, a liberation and not a restriction.

The bottom line is that it can be assumed for Swiss Nikab wearers that the face veil was not forced on them, that they are not oppressed by relatives and that they are not fundamentalists, says Islamic scholar Andreas Tunger-Zanetti.

However, it would be desirable to find out more about the few women with face veils in Switzerland. So that there is more discussion with women than about them.

Infographic: Muslim head and body coverings

Broadcast: Radio SRF 1, intermediate stop, January 16, 2020, 6:30 p.m.

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  • Comment from Alex Volkart (Lex18)
    My Muslim colleagues are very concerned about this topic and everyone is in favor of a burqa ban. One got right to the point by saying that veiling is part of the centuries of oppression of women in Islam. A formative experience for me was a few years ago in Lucerne when an Arab in a Hawaiian shirt and shorts ran across the Kappelbrücke, behind him a woman came running who was completely covered.
    Agree Agree to the comment Select answers to reply to the comment
    1. answer from Alex Volkart (Lex18)
      I experienced a similar case on the Bürgenstock. But there I tried to talk to the man. Whether he thinks it is fair that he walks around with obvious holiday clothing and only notices his very beautiful wife where she is through a slit around her eyes. He cursed in Arabic and a colleague translate a part that shocked me. Because the man said that Mohamed allowed him to rule over his wife and that his wife was only veiled for others.
      Agree agree to the comment
    2. Show answers
  • Comment from Albert Planta (Plal)
    The burqa will likely be banned, but what restrictions will follow? A few examples are shown above, which could still follow.
    Agree Agree to the comment Select answers to reply to the comment
  • Comment from Hinne Bloemhof (hbloemhof)
    I am not talking about the Roman Catholic churchgoers, but of the Roman Catholic Church, see, among others, CIC = Codex Iuris Canonici (the applicable church law): www.codec-juris-canonici.de/indexdt.htm, exemplarily keyword " Mrs"
    Agree Agree to the comment Select answers to reply to the comment

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