Does this lady look angry to you?

Clipping of picture of a Muslima in niqab from today’s Observer

This picture appeared in the Observer today, on page 19 of the Review section next to this article by Miranda Sawyer. The article is about a programme on the BBC World Service called Europe’s Angry Young Muslims, about alienated young Muslims in Holland. As you can see, it shows a Muslim woman in a niqaab next to the quote:

‘Tolerance is not a positive thing’: Europe’s Angry Young Muslims on the World Service

Now, the World Service is a radio station and a set of radio broadcasts in various languages. It doesn’t have a TV station, and the picture does not appear on the programme’s website. So the conjecture is that it’s a library picture, chosen to be suitably scary next to a quote about how tolerance isn’t a good thing.

The fact is, niqab has nothing to do with anger; it does not coincide with extremist groups, political groups or particularly rigid sects; in fact, not all women belonging to such groups and sects wear niqab even if some such groups have an increased proportion of women who wear it. It is a form of dress which some scholars say is compulsory and some women wear because they believe this or because they believe it preferable, or because their husbands or fathers do, or because it’s the norm where they live. The use of the picture thus makes a false connection between niqab and extremism.

I’d like to encourage readers to write to the Observer’s readers’ editor (email: reader [at]; postal address: The Observer, 3-7 Herbal Hill, London EC1R 5EJ) to make these points. You might also write a letter to the editor (letters [at] with subject “letters to the Editor”, fax 020 7837 7817). The Observer has a weekly corrections and clarifications section in which they post corrections to wrong statements and impressions in their articles, so if they get enough complaints, they may well publish a correction.

By all means reproduce this on websites and blogs, but do not start or forward chain emails. If you wish to re-display the image, please download and display it on your site rather than posting an image link to here, which saps my bandwidth, and let me know (indigojo_uk [at] in case the image needs to be taken down for legal reasons.

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