Being honest with myself, I think I became especially interested in Islam after learning about the concept of "hijab". Yes, the headscarf of course, but the entire concept encompassing modesty in all forms. The way you dress, speak, act, move. I feel somehow very attached to hijab. I like to think I am modest in the way I dress (although no headscarf), speak and act, but the added part to hijab the headscarf, is that it's a public declaration as well. It tells everyone that you are Muslim. That believe in one God, and the message sent down through Muhammad, and that you wish to submit yourself to God. Or for people who are not as educated about Islam, it shows them that you make a point of being modest so they know not to speak or act with you in certain ways. I like that.
So obviously, I do have positive thoughts on hijab. But I don't know if I believe that it is mandatory. I think that I would wear it if I became Muslim, just like some niqabis wear it without definitively answering the question of whether or not it is mandatory. Because they figure it is better for them to do so and has benefits for them. I definitely feel that way about hijab. It has the benefit of keeping you more modest (the headscarf) and identifying you as Muslim, which is really so important. This seems to be the most important reason, and part of the reason that pushes me to think that it is mandatory, and at the very least, highly recommended.
About niqab, I definitely do not think it is mandatory. I don't really feel like it's especially recommended under regular circumstances, but I do think it is "useful". For me personally, I would not imagine or consider wearing niqab in the West. I see niqab as a good thing to use for "protection", so not something that would replace hijab, but something that could be added to hijab and only used in situations where the woman would require this extra protection. I can imagine myself wearing niqab in places like Egypt. Not full time, but under circumstances. I know that in Egypt I was stared at a lot and men came up to me thinking that just because I was a foreigner, it was OK to start up conversation as I briskly walkd down the street. I didn't have any real problems, but the staring itself is enough to make me want to cover. I went out with hijab occaisionally and it made no difference really. Niqab would, I'm sure. And so this would be one of those circumstances. I think it might be weird for some people that a woman would wear niqab when she goes out alone but not at work, school, only sometimes when she's out with he husband or friends, etc.
Anyway, I just wanted to post about this topic after reading Umm Travis' informative post on niqab. I seem to be taking my post ideas from others' posts lately. Just putting my reply here on my blog, although I did write some comments on Umm Travis' blog. Go visit it if you haven't, I love her blog. :) Called "Tea Break Thoughts" (women only).