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Opinion

The Conflict of the Veil. Is there really a problem?

In the book “A quiet Revolution: The Veil’s resurgence, from the Middle East to America” by Leila Ahmed addresses the controversy of the hijab. More specifically Ahmed focuses on a certain amount of history of the hijab and its use in Muslim communities around the world. The historical background of the hijab is essential in understanding how it was viewed and its function in Muslim communities, including why women wear it. The veil has a long history and has played a different role depending on the context of its resurgence this is the focus of Ahmed’s book.

To be able to understand the complexity of veil and its impact on certain situations a certain amount of background is addressed. The question of what the veil symbolizes is a major theme throughout the book. The use of the veil by Muslim women in a certain context can have a specific meaning or influence during a certain period, where as when the veil is not used as much can also have significant meaning. There have been periods of unveiling where the veil is not as prominent in Muslim communities. Ahmed writes, “But it is noteworthy that the process of unveiling occurred initially because of the Western meaning of the veil—as a sign of the inferiority of Islam as a religion, culture ad civilzation—trumped and came to profoundly overlay the veil’s prior indigenous meaning (common to all three monotheistic religions in the region) of proper and God- given gender hierarchy and separation.” [1] This is an important point where historically the veil was more common among these different religious traditions and the impact of the Western modernity has played a role in this period of unveiling because Islamic communities did not want to be inferior to Western ideals. The implication of Western views continues to play a vital role in Muslim communities and the context of the veil in modern day. Ahmed discusses the reappearance of the veil in different periods, which include the political, and social strife happening during this time and the role the veil had. The veil could be used from everything to rejecting the West and its ways to female students attending school that is male dominated and extremely crowed.[2] While the history of the resurgence of the veil and the contexts for its reappearances is important to understand the role it has today, which is a very different context.

The role the veil has had in the past is influential in how it is used today and its context. After addressing a certain amount of Islamic history, including the role the veil played Ahmed continues on to discuss the veil and its contexts after the attacks of 9/11. There was a significant amount of dispute and fear that arose after the 9/11 attacks of not only Muslim men, but of women wearing the hijab and others that were mistaken for Muslim or Arab. This fear, and suspicion that Americans had of Islam lead to brutal attacks not only on school girls by classmates, to a woman being stabbed by two men at a red light, to murder and many other terrible acts of violence occurred.[3] This is a central point that Ahmed makes because these types of acts influence many different debates about the hijab and Muslim women, but it also influenced how and why the hijab was worn by Muslim women and what it symbolizes for them. The attacks of 9/11 were awful acts of terrorism, which is not condoned but the acts that occurred here in the United States against Muslims and others that were mistakenly identified were acts of terrorism as well. While no one wants to acknowledge this terrorism that was done by Americans. The face is that terrorism can take place anywhere and anyone is capable of this not just Muslims or Arabs is a mute point. It is key to keep in mind that these acts of terrorism created a variety of responses towards the hijab and Women’s right to wear it in public. There were many people that supported women in hijab, some women stopped wearing the veil for fear of discrimination and acts of violence against them occurring. [4] This was a period of political unrest, there were many different views and understanding of Islam after 9/11. There were pamphlets being produced titled, “Why Islam is a Threat to America and the West” which stated that, “ Islam is quite simply, a religion of war.” Others viewed the veil “as a way of signaling a call for justice in whatever aspect of it was in the foreground for the wearer.”[5] These many different views continue to have influence even now, but things have settled down. The hijab in this specific context came to symbolize many different things to some it has the stigma of the threat of terrorism to others it identifies who they are and their religious beliefs. The hijab will continue to be something that is controversial, but as Abdul Ghafur expresses, “most of us are exhausted with the hijab debate and envision a future where we move beyond the judgments of women with the and sans hijab.” [6] This is a vital point it is time to move beyond what we assume the hijab means and making rash judgments. Ahmed makes the important point that without understanding the history of the veil in the past four decades in Islamist movements and political crisis then we could not understand how it affected men and women in society. [7] This is a key point that will continue to be prevalent in what happens in the future.

The veil and its role in society has had a profound impact on different communities and political issues that are taking place. The hijab is not something that is as threatening as some may believe and to others it’s their form of religious expression. The veil can have a multitude of meaning depending on the specific context it is in and the specific time period, which is central to keep in mind. The veil will continue to play a vital role in the future of not only the United States,  but in Islam as it develops and changes.


[1] Leila, Ahmed. “A quiet Revolution: The Veil’s resurgence, from the Middle East to America. 2011. 45.

[2] Leila, Ahmed. “A quiet Revolution: The Veil’s resurgence, from the Middle East to America. 2011. 83, 88.

[3] Leila, Ahmed. “A quiet Revolution: The Veil’s resurgence, from the Middle East to America. 2011. 193, 204-205.

[4] Leila, Ahmed. “A quiet Revolution: The Veil’s resurgence, from the Middle East to America. 2011.205-208.

[5] Leila, Ahmed. “A quiet Revolution: The Veil’s resurgence, from the Middle East to America. 2011. 211, 218.

[6] Leila, Ahmed. “A quiet Revolution: The Veil’s resurgence, from the Middle East to America. 2011. 285.

[7] Leila, Ahmed. “A quiet Revolution: The Veil’s resurgence, from the Middle East to America. 2011. 230.

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