Roxanne Bibizadeh considers the experiences of women who choose to wear the manteau
Two girls were walking to their usual bench in the playground; the only difference was the floating black cloth gracefully sweeping over the grey pavement. She stuck out like a dark cloud on a sunny day: an anomaly. Faces would turn, fingers would point, a sea of whispers surrounded her, she was different and could never fit in. They sat alone on a bench and began talking, ignoring the reaction she aroused. Difference is a disease.
Upon starting her A Levels, one of my friends decided to don what I would refer to as a manteau and a veil, which left only her eyes exposed. At the time, I wondered why she would want to change her appearance so dramatically. I must admit that my initial response was to assume that her family had forced her into the Islamic dress, because I could not imagine anyone wanting to sacrifice one uniform for another.
Nonetheless, it quickly became clear that it had been her decision, interestingly she had wanted to wear a net over her eyes but her father had forbade her. Our school was just as displeased. She caused great controversy, with many teachers stating that they felt uncomfortable teaching her. They attempted to ban her from wearing the veil, worrying it might inspire others to do the same, considering it a challenge to their authority.
Image is by artist Leila Bibizadeh, www.iwantthatpainting.com, used with permission