Wailing over Veiling

When even young girls wear the hijab, it needs to
be asked what the female cover-up symbolizes?

By Saira Baig | Aptil 2020


How is the Islamic veil seen in the West, particularly in parts of Europe, which is under attack by a loose coalition of the willing? There is an emergence there of a xenophobic right that is suspicious of Muslim immigrants. They even enjoy the support of some on the left who fight against what they see as subjugation. Liberalism is being tested by the new Islamic fervour. A French-style ban is unwise and unjust and so is it in Austria and Denmark.

Recent reports by Amnesty International and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation show that Muslims are long-standing victims of prejudice in the West. Today, Islamophobia in Western societies is a climbing concern. Muslim women face perhaps the greatest challenges of due to multiple layers of discrimination rooted in religion, gender equality and migration.

It could be a long-standing crisis or a delayed reaction to decades of bad history, but millions of Muslims seem to have turned inwards, hankering for an imagined golden age. They are contemptuous of modernity’s bendable, ductile values. Some are drawn to reactionary dogma and preachers while a good number have thrown themselves into political Islam to resist and combat Western hegemonies — or so the story goes.

The Islamic veil has been a particularly polarising garment since the turn of the century. Of course, I use the term ‘Islamic veil’ loosely because the cacophonous variety of veils can be confusing, from the all-encompassing tent-like burqa of the Afghans to the more contoured face-baring dress of the United Arab Emirates, with the loose-fitted burqa of Pakistan straddling middle ground. And veils are not necessarily Islamic but sometimes more an instrument of socio-cultural projection. Many theologists argue that Islam does not in fact mandate full cover, but requests an appreciation of modesty.

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The writer is a freelance writer focusing on politics in Asia, the Middle East and Latin America. Her subjects cover feminism, fashion, cinema and sport. She contributes to The Lahore Times, The Daily Notable, The Express Tribune, Sri Lanka Guardian and The Turkish Weekly and can be reached at sairabaig2019@gmail.com

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