Few subjects have been as polarising within mainstream and feminist discourse as the niqab. If a defining aspect of feminism is a woman’s agency, should we support those who wish to cover? Or is the garment a form of oppression and a symbol of the patriarchy? To examine the various viewpoints to this debate, we’ve gathered a panel of journalists, feminists, and advocates: Sahar Al-Faifi, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, and Saima Mir.

This discussion will reflect on the niqab’s role in today’s society, and whether Western feminism does—or should—acknowledge, support, and represent niqabi women.

About The Speakers

Sahar Al-Faifi

Sahar Al-Faifi is the regional manager of Muslim Engagement and Development (MEND) in Wales and West England. She is a molecular geneticist by training and community activist by passion. Sahar has led many campaigns including women’s empowerment and tackling Islamophobia. She is also a writer, hiker and skydiver.

Saima Mir

Saima Mir is a former BBC journalist, recipient of the CBA World View Award and writer. She is also a contributor to It’s Not About The Burqa.

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown is a journalist, broadcaster and author. This year she was named columnist of the year at the National Press Awards. She has written over a dozen books, including The Settler’s Cookbook and Exotic England. She is Professor of Journalism at Middlesex University.

About The Host

Shenaz Bunglawala

Shenaz Bunglawala is Deputy Director of the Research and Strategy Unit at Penny Appeal. She has written extensively on Islamophobia and its effect on the Muslim civil society, and on religion in the public sphere. She is a Director of the Byline Festival Foundation for inclusive journalism, and a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.