Preston teacher’s plea for veil

A woman embroiled in a bitter debate about wearing the niqab said the Muslim community has a duty to educate people about its use.

Ayshah Ismail, a teacher from Preston Muslims Girls School, took up wearing the niqab last year. She argued for the use of the veil during a public forum in the Gulf State of Qatar which branded the veil “a barrier to integration in the West”.

The 24-year-old, from Frenchwood, blamed the controversy on “ignorance and media hype”. She said: “I started wearing the veil a year ago because it was a natural progression of my faith from my understanding of Islam. I’m not imposing it on anyone. It was about taking a leap of faith for me.”

Ayshah, who was invited to go to Qatar after speaking out about the veil at Stop The War rallies, added:

“As for people who say the veil is a barrier to integration I go to the gym, I work, I drive, I pay taxes – what else can I do to integrate myself? We need to teach people more about the niqab and some of that duty lies with the Muslim community. It is about compromise. We are living together so how about helping each other understand what we’re about? We are lucky in Britain we can be diverse and celebrate our differences.”

The forum’s heated discussion, which will be broadcast by BBC World Service, revealed 57% per cent of the audience there thought the niqab hindered integration in the West.

The Doha Debate programme will be broadcast on Saturday March 10 at 12.10pm and 8.10pm and on Sunday March 11 at 1.10am, 8.10am and 5.10pm.

Lancashire Evening Post, 26 February 2007