The Veil: East vs. West

Today’s blog is going to be a little different then the topics I have earlier discussed. I have recently read the novel Veil, by Christian Joppke, which examines Islam, the headscarf issue, and Muslim identities. This book along with other recent articles I read on the headscarf will be examined in this blog. Being Muslim, I personally have my own knowledge and perspective on this issue.

When reading these texts, I realized how they all show how Islam is rising and emerging as a powerful ideology. Muslim women choose to wear headscarves for many different reasons. There are many different motives for wearing a headscarf. Some wear it to please their parents and “ease their transition across the line of puberty and into late adolescence, or as a part of a conscious effort to create a new identity as they entered or left high school.” Also, a lot of young women choose the headscarf as a way to feel closer to Islam, and to create a Muslim identity for themselves. Yet this was not received without backlash. Headscarves became the new controversy and the center of many heated debates. The controversy and intense debates around the headscarf issue originate from the fear of Muslims becoming a potent force in Europe. The headscarf is viewed as a political symbol and as a demonstration of fundamentalist Islam in Europe. Clearly, the headscarf creates no threat or harm to people, and it qualifies for protection as an expression of religious freedom. Instead of ensuring these basic rights and freedoms, France and Germany have legislated anti-veil and anti-headscarf laws, employing different rationales for each of these legislations.  France’s enforcement of such a ban is said, to be aimed at safeguarding the secular “laicite” state.  In doing so France has, in my opinion, explicitly robed female-Muslim bearers of the veil of their civil liberties, contrary to the objectives of laicite. In its defense in can be argued that the French government has a noble motivation behind its action to produce a better functioning and well-integrated society. Yet by failing to identify the real obstacle to the goal of successful integration, in actuality these actions are producing an opposite result. Instead of subjugating French-Muslim women with laws such as the ban on the niqab and burqa, perhaps the French government should consider using different approach to encourage a constructive dialogue between French-Muslims and French natives. Such a dialogue could be more conducive to creating a environment suitable for effective integration. If successful, France could serve as a positive role model for other nations

These were some of the thoughts I had on the issues surrounding the headscarf. I am from a country, and region wear headscarves are part of everyday life. Women don’t even think twice before wrapping their hair everyday. I believe that this backlash against the veil is due to fear, paranoia, and ignorance. If something in foreign in the eyes of the West, it is deemed as a threat. This close-minded view needs to change, and individuals need to broaden their perspectives. A woman choosing to wear a headscarf is personal, and significant to their identity, and it should be highly respected. When we come in with our western perspectives, we judge the veil as a form of oppression, cruelty, and male domination. Yet the wearer’s of the veil believe it to be praiseworthy, for they are closer to Islam, and their God. This also reminded me of the article we read about Egypt instead of progressing, is going back in time. That currently, women who are free to dress, as they want, choose themselves to wear the veil.


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