A scholar asks: Have We Gotten the Headscarf All Wrong?

In an essay entitled “Veil of Ignorance, ” Harvard Divinity School professor Leila Ahmed writes in Foreign Policy magazine that while “in the late 1960s hardly anyone in such cities as Cairo and Alexandria wore hijab…by the 1990s that had all changed.” She discusses her own evolving attitude about Muslim women wearing “the veil”:

Until recently, I thought…that the disappearance of the veil was inevitable; I was sure that greater education and opportunity for women in the Muslim world would result in the elimination of this relic of women’s oppression. For decades, in books, op-eds, and lectures, I stood firmly and unquestioningly against the veil and the hijab, the Islamic headscarf, viewing them as signs of women’s disempowerment. To me, and to my fellow Arab feminists, being told what to wear was just another form of tyranny. But in the course of researching and writing a new book on the history of the veil’s improbable comeback, I’ve had to radically rethink my assumptions. Where I once saw the veil as a symbol of intolerance, I now understand that for many women, it is a badge of individuality and justice.

You can read the entire article here.

Leila Ahmed is also the author of the book A Quiet Revolution: The Veil’s Resurgence, from the Middle East to America. Order it here from Amazon. Read a review here from The New Republic.

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