People Note

People Note:
Two Sided, Niqab Style
by Gabrielle Smullen


​Re-PLACE-ing Philadelphia is building an expanded archive of cultural memory that includes multiple histories, re-place-ing the established with new narratives and understandings. Notes consider place via the street, sound, food, trees, and other portals.

In partnership with educator Joshua Block, students from Philadelphia's Science Leadership Academy are creating and publishing their Philadelphia Field Notes. Gabrielle's field note is about seeing niqab through the perspective of being on the inside and seeing what happens on the outside.


I haven’t made a commitment to wearing niqab but I do wear it sometimes and the thing that intrigues me the most about it is seeing everything when no one can see you. I see the beauty, power and amusement in that. I think it’s the biggest statement to be able to say “I don’t want you to see my face today or I don’t want to be seen at all” and really having that choice. Living in Philadelphia where niqab is seen as something "foreign" or indifferent, the different faces people make and the things people say because they can’t see you or you’ve chosen not to be seen is interesting. People take offense to it because it’s something that they cannot control. It makes them uncomfortable because they don’t understand and they’re not open to finding out. On the inside looking out, I think people should see more of the elegance that comes with niqab. You walk to the beat of your own drum. Your eyes are down, your gaze is low but your head is held high, not because you are above anyone else but because you are a queen under the protection of God and that feeling is indescribable and irreplaceable. It is not a state of oppression. To be able to wear niqab takes confidence within yourself and a strong sense of faith. You can’t feel like a stranger to yourself or that you’re invisible because you’re not. It doesn’t always define you but it can. If it defines a special part in you than that’s okay too. Some of the essential parts of covering can be the breaking point of a bad habit that the specific person has developed before embracing Islam and as long as you are within your rights and doing it for the best reasons possible, you will always feel at ease from this temporary world, to the beauties of the life after this. In shaa Allah.

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