Access the Significance of the Veil in Islam

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Discuss the significance of the veil in Islam

Lidia Fiorelli

Spring 2012
PLT 364
Hadi Enayat

The question of Hijab, Arab common name for what is imprecisely meant as veil, as well as gender issues, has been a sensitive case of perception of Islam, in European and Western counties. “The subject of women in Islam is in fact a burning issue and a source of polemics and mutual incomprehension” The question of Islamic veil is problematic. The Hijab is in fact a symbolic banner, both for Muslims, among Muslims so to speak, in establishing the boundaries between Muslims and non-Muslims. The difference is between a literalist attitude, of an acceptance of Arab tradition, noting that in some Islamic territories, the veil is a militant symbol, and a modernist, interpretative attitude, which leads to a symbolizing tendency. The word veil is a reduction to the multitude of definitions given by the diverse styles of female dresses both within and across social classes within Muslim society. Burqa, Chador, Foulard, headscarf, Nijab and Niqab, are all different names for diverse types of veils. Some of them cover the whole body, leaving only the hands and the eyes to be seen, whilst others simply cover the hair, or face. The variety of veils range from, the uniform black cloaks, worn by women in post revolution Iran, to the exclusive designer scarves of the aristocracy in Egypt. Helen Watson, in, Women and the Veil: Personal Responses to Global Process, speaks of the brightly colored scarves of Turkish peasants girls, the tie racks for European Muslims, the white Haik of Algerian women, and the Burja of women in Oman. This continuum of veiling, runs from state regulated attire to individual fashion accessory, and leaves expression for various local varieties. All of these different styles of veils hold a universal, formal, symbolic and practical aim; the Hijab preserves modesty and conceals the shame of nakedness. In essence, this paper will discuss the significance of the veil in Islam, observe its broad definition, and how it is regarded and known by Western and European countries. An important element of this research, are the variety of the authors looked at, in consideration of a non biased view, in analyzing the veil from a Muslim, non-Muslim and converted Muslim perspective. These have established the various views and opinions on the use of the veil, in generic terms, as well as help to analyze the re-veiling movement, which started with the revolution in Iran in 1970. Furthermore, it will look at the reasons which are behind such covering, and why Muslim women have been covering the past four decades in the present era of a revival of religion. The principle of this essay, is to explore the multi ethnic religious views of the veil in Islam, and clarify the words of the Qur’an, to remove pre conceptual ideas behind the veil, and look at it’s depth. Many books have been written on the women behind the veil, yet one of the major issues that seem to arise from such research is that the non-Muslim writers don’t give enough space for Muslim women to speak their truth. Muslim women are seen as contributors to society in a state of veil. For non-Muslim writers, the veil is depicted as a symbol of oppression, “A constraining and constricting form of dress, and form of social control, religiously sanctioning women’s invisibility and subordinate socio-political status”. Indigenous writers, Muslim and others with a more positive view of the Hijab, stress the liberating potential of veiling and the personal, resulting with strategic advantages of public anonymity. A discussion of veiling and Hijab has a place in contemporary debates about processes of globalization and postmodernity. Many issues central to a discussion of veiling revolve around the Qur’anic concept of modesty. The Qur’an speaks of being modest in thy bearing in verse 31;19. Other instructions are set out in verses 14;30-1, stating for believing women...
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