An American teacher was stabbed to death in Abu Dhabi, UAE last week and there is finally a suspect in custody. It took a while because witnesses explained, and the CCTV video shows, the attacker in a full niqab. Minister of Interior Sheikh Saif bin Zayed has come out saying that a 38-year-old Emirati woman has been arrested. Police arrested her within 48 hours of the stabbing.
The murder occurred in Boutik Mall on Abu Dhabi’s Reem Island. The woman was dressed in a traditional abaya and niqab which has made the investigation more challenging. Police have also explained that the same woman has been suspected to have planted a bomb outside another American’s home in Abu Dhabi.
The police have released a 6-minute video that details the operation and arrest of the suspect. You can see it above.
Ultimately, 47-year-old kindergarten teacher Ibolya Ryan was stabbed to death. The maybe more relevant question to ask in all of this is how the niqab presents a challenge for law enforcement in the Gulf countries. It all started when an anonymous message on a jihadist website called for “Islam’s true believers” to attack American schoolteachers in the Muslim world. When a murderer can slip into a traditional and familiar style of dress which conceals their physical characteristics, their age, and can even mislead others as to their gender–it presents a society-wide concern.
The niqab is meant to obscure everything. It drapes over the body in such a way in order to encourage a conservative engagement with public displays of oneself. However, this reason alone has gotten women kicked out of operas in France and has more generally been the reason the niqab has been banned in many European countries. The conversation has always danced around concepts of freedom of religion and worship, freedom of speech, and Islamophobia.
The fact is that less French Muslims wear the niqab in France than they do mini-skirts. In the Gulf, however, it is different. Now the Gulf has evidence that this society-wide imposition can lead to unforeseen outcomes.