Hauwa Muktari is a 24 year-old Aerospace Engineering student living in south east London. She made the decision to wear the Burka four years ago after a series of personal events lead her to re-evaluate her relationship with God.
“I was wearing just the hijab but because of various changes in my life I decided to start observing my religion more. I was hesitant about wearing it at first and my mum was worried for me."
All too often, the Muslim women at the center of this debate are forgotten. People forget that wearing a Burka is usually a choice. It is not a religious symbol, rather a cultural item that shows an individual’s dedication to their faith. Many women choose to wear the full length veil as a symbol of their faith, and for those who are married, out of respect for their husbands. The Burka is removed in the home.
Wearing a burka - refusing to integrate?
But in public life, the burka remains a matter of dispute. Some view it as an intimidating sight, where the covering of the face prohibits the usual social interaction of facial recognition in conversation. Some are scared of the unknown, and influenced by the culture of fear post-9/11, may be concerned that terrorists could abuse the item for their own gain. The values behind wearing one are often alien to non-Muslim people whose culture does not recognize covering the body and face in public as a sign of respect, but rather as a sign of oppression.
Muktari realizes that the burka can hinder social interaction, but says: "I’ve been fortunate that I haven’t had a lot of negative reaction towards it, and whenever I do I stand up for myself. I respond to any critics, which can surprise them as when you wear the Niqab people presume that you can’t speak English.”