Our Human Library Book of the Month is a series of portraits of our books created with the purpose of offering our readers a chance to understand the diversity and variety within our bookshelf around the world.  It also provides unique insights into the motivations and values of being a book and volunteering for our organization.

Book of November is a highly relevant and inspirational story about the life as a Niqab wearing young woman living in Denmark. Please welcome 21-year-old Meryem, who has been a book on our Danish bookshelf for six months, and today insists to wear her niqab, although it was made illegal in Denmark on the 1st of August 2018. Her title and place as a book in the Human Library has never been more relevant since the passing of the law that bans people from wearing both burqa and niqab in the public.

When asked about most frequent questions from readers, Meryem explains that the most recurrent questions are “Why do you wear niqab?” and “How is it to be a niqabi in Denmark?” For Meryem, the essential reason to be a part of the Human Library is because of the ongoing stigmatization and discrimination that women wearing the veil is facing on a daily basis. She feels that there is a limited representation of niqabi women in the Danish society, and she believes that this has led to alienation and a lack of both understanding and respect towards those who wear it. As she says, “such a portrait of myself would perhaps break the stereotypes and make it easier for people to understand the story behind my choice of wearing the niqab.

Being a book at the Human Library is for her, a way of contributing to a better world and society. Through dialogue and conversation, she and the other books aim at challenging the stereotypes and prejudice in our society, as she says: “I believe that many of the world problems would be solved if only people would communicate more often and start to show respect to each other despite differences”. One of her clearest messages is, that she is not interested in, nor trying to convince other people to wear the niqab “I’m not [..] demanding others to understand why I’m wearing it. I understand that my choice is hard for some people to understand and I fully respect that. However, I’m requiring others to at least listen to what I have to say and to be acknowledged and respected as the human being I am”.

If you are interested in learning more about Meryem and her personal story, you can listen to her episode on our official Human Library podcast series called “Menneskebibliotekets podcastserie”. Meryem is also very active on social medias, and you can find her profile on Instagram as “niqabinuancer”. Here, she posts photos and stories about how it is to live as a Danish niqabi, and how the recent ban in Denmark has affected her life.

Lastly, we would like to cite Meryem from an Danish article published right after the burqa and niqab ban in Denmark, where she states beautifully: “Prejudice can only be challenged through dialogue, not by forcing the niqab off me.” [1] To us, this quote is essential to why the Human Library works so hard to promote dialogue and conversation, as it is the only way to reach human understanding, and to make people stop judging books by their covers.