Covid-19: Muslim women with ‘purdah’ or niqab not exempt from wearing face masks, says Dr Noor Hisham

Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah speaks during a press conference in Putrajaya on October 22, 2020. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

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KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 22 — Health Director-General Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah stressed today that Muslim women who wear niqab, or veils covering their face called “purdah” in Malay, are still required to wear face masks to curb Covid-19.


He said there are several criterias for wearing a face mask which are recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO), those wearing a niqab are not exempted from these regulations.

“We are all required to wear a face mask when in public since August 1. There are two types of masks, the medical and non-medical mask,” he said in his daily press briefing, when asked if the regulations still apply to women wearing such veils.

“The three-ply mask is used by medical officers and the sickly with chronic diseases. This is the recommended mask to wear for them.

“However, for those who are not infected or sick you can wear the non-medical masks in public but they must be in accordance with the criteria set by WHO which states that a mask must have at least three layers,” he added.

Dr Noor Hisham said the face masks must be worn inside the niqab.

Dr Noor Hisham said the face masks must be worn inside the niqab.

He also said that WHO also allows the use of the fabric or cloth mask, explaining that fabric face coverings and masks are easy to find or make, and can be washed and reused.

Masks can be made from common materials, such as sheets made of tightly woven cotton. Instructions are easy to find online. Cloth masks should include multiple layers of fabric.

“However, they must have three layers and not one,” he added.

File picture of a woman wearing a niqab in Shah Alam October 3, 2014. — Picture by Choo Choy May

Niqab, which only shows the eyes, are worn by some Muslim women who subscribe to the more conservative view that a woman’s face is considered as “aurat”, or “intimate body parts” that must be covered.

The niqab is usually worn in Arab countries, but have now spread to some minority of Muslim women even in Malaysia.

The veil came under public spotlight after popular television host and entrepreneur Neelofa was reported last week confirming she now wears niqab, after starting to wear hijab or “tudung” a few years ago and starting her successful hijab business Naelofar.


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