On July 10, El País reported on the case of Chadia (a pseudonym to protect her identity), a 15-year-old girl, born and living in Spain. According to El País, she is the one of the very few women and the only minor in Melilla who wears the niqab.
Chadia’s story is unique. She has decided to withdraw from school because of the ban on garments that cover the face, such as niqab, from public schools. The article is accompanied by a picture of a fully covered Chadia and an image of a “traditional” Muslim father with his almost fully covered daughter. According to the article, Chadia’s mother supports her decision, although her oldest brother and her father do not. El País reports that Chadia asserts that she is “the happiest woman in the world.”
Although reports on women and hijab, niqab, and the burka are not unusual in today’s media, this article is particularly troubling for various reasons. El País reports on the case of a minor that has been allowed to withdraw from school due to the banning of face coverings, and presents it as an example of “Muslim female assertion.” In this article, Chadia is portrayed as the archetype of piety and strength within Islam, which further perpetuates the idea that “pious” Muslim women are extremists who rely on facial garments to assert their faith. In addition, these depictions undermine diversity in Islam and the feminist struggles and interpretations that exist within the religion. Moreover, Chadia is shown as the stereotype of conservatism that disregards society, the law and education in the name of Islam, contributing to the idea that Muslims are not interested in participating in Western society.
Furthermore, she is said to practice proselytism. The paper interviews a number of her friends, who assert that Chadia, as a stereotypical conservative Muslim, has attempted to impose her religious views on them. El País makes a correlation between Chadia’s conservative “Islamic” views and her “undemocratic” approach to relationships that promotes the idea that Islam is in opposition to individual choice and respect for others.