Connect with us

#Society

Hijab And Niqab In North America: Politics, Identity, And Media Representation

Published

Hijab and niqab

SUMMARY

This article looks at the hijab and niqab in North America through four lenses:—identity, commerce, media, and politics. It begins with some clarifications around terminology of the words hijab, niqab and the English word “veil,” to argue that the word “veil” should only be used to talk about the face veil—niqab—otherwise we flatten and homogenize clothing that has incredible variety. Although the article is focused on the current situation in North America, it mentions the history of the veiling debates that go back to nineteenth-century colonial occupation of the Middle East.  Section one summarizes findings of sociological studies about why Muslim women wear the hijab/niqab. Section two looks at the rise of the commercial industry that supports these sartorial choices, called modest or pious fashion. Section three briefly summarizes the largely negative representations of Muslim women in the mainstream media. Section four considers the bans against hijab/niqab in politics and in North American courtrooms.  The article concludes that such bans are illogical and based in psychological reactions to the veil like those of the colonial era: a fear of and fascination with the cloth that obstructs the gaze, making the observer feel powerless.

KEYWORDS

Colonialism, hijab, hate crimes, fashion, Muslim women, identity, Muslim orientalism, and veil.

Contextualizing the Debate on Veil and Veiling

Maliha Masood, a practicing Muslim woman of Pakistani heritage who grew up in Seattle, Washington, recounts her travels through Egypt, Syria, Turkey, and the USA, where she wore a headscarf, or not, depending on the situation at hand. Remembering regaling her mother with questions about “why hijab,” her mother would point to Quranic verses about a woman covering her “adornments” that she believed made head covering mandatory. Maliha was not convinced, challenging her mother, “It says nothing about covering the hair…it doesn’t clearly say so.” In response, “It is clear enough to me,” her mother would reply.1Maliha Masood, “On the Road: Travels with My Hijab,” in The Veil: Women Writers on Its History, Lore, and Politics, edited by Jennifer Heath (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008), 218.

Keep supporting MuslimMatters for the sake of Allah

Alhamdulillah, we're at over 850 supporters. Help us get to 900 supporters this month. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Masood’s anecdote about this debate between herself and her mother is a personal version of a debate that has been writ large over the Muslim world since the nineteenth-century. As we know western colonization targeted the veil and turned it into a symbol of Islamic civilization’s backwardness, necessitating its removal.2Leila Ahmed, A Quiet Revolution: The Veil’s Resurgence, from the Middle East to America (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2011); Katherine Bullock, Rethinking Muslim Women and the Veil: Challenging Historical and Modern Stereotypes (Herndon, Va.: The International Institute of Islamic Thought, 2002). Her story reminds us that scripture speaks to different people in different ways.3The verses in question are: “O you Children of Adam! We have bestowed on you raiment to cover your shame as well as to be an adornment to you. But the raiment of righteousness, that is the best. Such are among the Signs of Allah, that they may receive admonition.” (Quran, 7:26) ; “And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what must ordinarily appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers, their husbands’ fathers, their sons, their husbands’ sons, their brothers, or their brothers’ sons or their sisters’ sons, or their women or the servants whom their right hands possess, or male servants free of physical needs, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex, and that they should not strike their feet in order to draw attention to their hidden ornaments. And O you Believers, turn you all together towards Allah, that you may attain Bliss.” (Quran, 24:31); “O Prophet, tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks close round them (when they go abroad). That will be better, so that they may be recognised and not annoyed. Allah is ever Forgiving, Merciful.” (Quran 33:59).  Worn for centuries as Muslim civilizations expanded, encountering, and absorbing other cultures that also had veiling practices,4Faegheh Shirazi, The Veil Unveiled: The Hijab in Modern Culture (University Press of Florida: Gainsville, 2001). the veil was subsequently targeted by modernizing native elites. They came of age under colonial tutelage, and now viewed the veil as an age-old custom without necessary roots in the Quran that could be dispensed with as part of the march forward into modernity. Within fifty years, veiling had almost disappeared.5Leila Ahmed, A Quiet Revolution: The Veil’s Resurgence, from the Middle East to America (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2011); Katherine Bullock, Rethinking Muslim Women and the Veil: Challenging Historical and Modern Stereotypes (Herndon, Va.: The International Institute of Islamic Thought, 2002).

After the Arab defeat to Israel in 1967 and the 1979 Iranian revolution, an Islamic Revivalist movement that had been pushing back against Westernizing modernists since the early twentieth century rose to prominence. Women, including those who had never worn a headscarf, neither had their mothers, began covering. More and more Muslim women the world over began to wear hijab or niqab. Children of immigrants in Euro-American societies started wearing it, many converts adopted it after embracing Islam. Anthropologists and sociologists began to understand that something more complicated than women being manipulated, forced, duped or brainwashed into wearing the veil was going on. “False consciousness” as an analytical paradigm would not be able to comprehend this practice. Scholars built up interview-based research to understand veiling from the perspective of the wearer, connected it to veiling practices in other faith traditions, investigated the commercial industry behind the buying habits of the wearers, and pondered the practice’s relationship to identity, modernity, multiculturalism, piety, and secularism.

As more women adopted hijab or niqab, especially in Euro-American societies, the wider populace reacted with discomfort. Mainstream media representations replicated secular anxieties about the dress; politicians and legal systems responded with increasingly harsh anti-veiling laws in the domestic sphere; the War on Terror’s imperial responses to September 11 was “camouflaged”6Krista Hunt and Kim Rygiel, “(En)Gendered War Stories and Camouflaged Politics,” in (En)Gendering the War on Terror: War Stories and Camouflaged Politics, edited by Krista Hunt and Kim Rygiel (Abingdon, Oxon: Taylor & Francis Group, 2016), 4. as saving Muslim women from the veil; and some individuals expressed their anxieties through street level harassment and violence against covered Muslim women.

The “veil” is a contested piece of clothing, symbolized in conflicting metaphors, signified through different conceptions of the self and its relationship to the socio-political order and in particular historical contexts. Contradictory impulses are at work: a Muslim woman cricketer made history by wearing hijab at a 2021 cricket match in the UK,7Ajit Vijaykumar, “Scotland spinner Abtaha Maqsood makes waves at the Hundred wearing hijab – in pictures,” The National News, July 25, 2021, https://www.thenationalnews.com/sport/cricket/2021/07/26/scotland-spinner-abtaha-maqsood-makes-waves-at-the-hundred-wearing-hijab-in-pictures/ while six days prior the European Union’s highest court allowed private employers to ban religious symbols where the workplace required “neutrality” in religious, political, or philosophical beliefs.8Hillary Margolis, “European Union Court OKs Bans on Religious Dress at Work: Allowing Private Employers to Ban Religious Dress Hurts Muslim Women Most,” Human Rights Watch, July 19, 2021, https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/07/19/european-union-court-oks-bans-religious-dress-work. This article considers Muslim women’s practices of veiling from these various vantage points: identity, commerce, media representation and politics.  Here I refer only to those studies focused on women in North America, i.e., Canada and the USA.  Worldwide there are many such studies. First, let us clarify some key terms: hijab, niqab and veiling.

The Question of Terminology

The English term “veil” has been used for over two centuries to describe Muslim women’s dress. This is problematic for two reasons. Throughout history, clothing practices have evolved depending on the specificities of the locale and class position of the wearer. This is a simple enough statement.  Regional variations of dress have different names for clothing, even for garments that are similar in form and function. In Australia a “jumper” is a warm long-sleeved top, in the US a “jumper” is a sleeveless dress worn over a blouse. This is a “pinafore” in Australia, while a “jumper” is a “sweater” in the US. Likewise, the piece of cloth that covers a Muslim woman’s head is made from different fabrics and cut and sewn differently, with different names depending on the era and region: al-zayy al-shar’i (Egypt); burqa (Afghanistan); chador (Iran); dupatta (South Asia); haik (pre-colonial Algeria); jalabiyya (Egypt); jilbab (Indonesia); khimar (Arab world); or tesettür (Turkey). Yet all this variety is squeezed, homogenized, into the English word “veil,” flattening the clothing’s multitudinous and locale specific articulations.

Second, many women call their headscarf, which covers the head and leaves the face showing, a “hijab,” yet it is referred to as a “veil” in English, whereas “veil” in English implies a “face-veil.” The “veil” is a word closer to the practice of “niqab,” which is a piece (or pieces) of cloth covering the head and face. In the 1990’s a distinction between hijab/niqab was rarely made because the head covering that left the face showing was still experienced negatively as if it were a face-veil. These days, at least in Anglophone societies, both public and political spheres are more accepting of a headcover, while the face veil receives invective and legal bans. We cannot talk of “veiling” precisely if we are not distinguishing between a headcover that leaves the face showing or a face cover that does not. To talk about themselves, in English, wearers will call themselves a “hijabi” or “niqabi,” corresponding to the Arabic muhajjabat: the veiled ones, headcover; munaqqabat: the veiled ones, wearing niqab.9Sherifa Zuhur, Revealing Reveiling: Islamist Gender Ideology in Contemporary Egypt (New York: State University of New York Press, 1992), 53.  Scholars replicated this lingo in their studies. Bakht suggests this reduces women to a piece of clothing when “they are so much more,”10Natasha Bakht, In Your Face: Law, Justice, and Niqab-Wearing Women in Canada (Toronto: Delve Books, 2020), 10. and prefers the term niqab-wearing women.  I follow suit in this article, using hijab or niqab-wearing women, rather than the opaque catch-all word “veil.”

Hijab/niqab in the Qur’an

Qasim Amin’s book The Liberation of Women, initiated the veil debate in the Muslim world in 1899; it targeted, amongst other customs, the veil as a symbol of backwardness.11Leila Ahmed, “The Veil Debate-Again (2005)” In Feminist Theory Reader: Local and Global Perspectives edited by Carole R McCann, Seung-Kyung Kim, and Emek Ergun (New York, New York; London: Routledge, 2021) 233 -241. Amin argued a  nation’s civilizational advancement was measured by how many women unveiled. Part of a movement to progress, to resist autocratic government, remove racial and class injustice, install democracy, education and equal pay for women, Leila Ahmed documents the excitement that linked unveiling to these conceptual dreams “emblematic, too, of the will and commitment to work for a new political and social order: for a world remade.”12Ahmed, A Quiet Revolution, 41. She argues unveiling was not associated with a push for irreligious secularism, nor did its supporters view unveiling as an attempt to undermine Islam. One could be pious without the veil. It was seen as a cultural custom that could be dispensed with in the new age.

Amin and his contemporaries were not promoting women’s liberation as understood by today’s feminists, rather nineteenth-century Victorian notions of the woman as the “Angel in the home.”  Yet they have taken up his essential point about the veil as a degrading cultural custom to be cast aside. Modernist and feminist scholarship re-reads the Quran, the traditional scriptural interpretations, the hadith, and the law, to argue that patriarchal biases against women led jurists to repressive interpretations and prescriptions for women’s dress and comportment. In 1992, Moroccan feminist Fatima Mernissi published her book, The Veil and the Male Elite.13Fatima Mernissi, The Veil and the Male Elite: A Feminist Interpretation of Women’s Rights in Islam. Translator Mary Jo Lakeland. (Reading, Massachusetts: Addison-Wesley Publishing Co, 1991). Once one of the most widely referenced books on the topic, Mernissi’s perspective is that the veil is a symbol of male supremacy, of women as antagonistic to the Divine, a hindrance to men’s spiritual relationship with God, and a fitna, a threat to the social order that can be saved only through gender segregation and veiling. Others argue that a Quranic injunction for modesty can be interpreted differently in contemporary societies and need not include a headscarf nor a face veil.14Ahmed, A Quiet Revolution; L. Clarke, “Hijab According to the Hadith: Text and Interpretation,” in The Muslim Veil in North America: Issues and Debates, edited by S.S Alvi, H. Hoodfar, and S. McDonough (Toronto: Women’s Press, 2003), 214 – 286; Soraya Hajjaji-Jarrah, “Women’s Modesty in Qur’anic Commentaries: The Founding Discourse,” in The Muslim Veil in North America: Issues and Debates, edited by S.S Alvi, H. Hoodfar, and S. McDonough (Toronto: Women’s Press, 2003), 141-213; H Hoodfar, “The Veil in their Minds and on our Heads: Veiling Practices and Muslim Women,” in The Politics of Culture in the Shadow of Capital, edited by L. Lowe & D. Lloyd (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1997), 248 – 279.

Other scholars disagree, arguing that the verses calling for women to “draw their khimar [veils] over their bosoms [Qur’an 24:31],”15Trans. Jamal Badawi, The Muslim Woman’s Dress: According to the Qur’an and Sunnah. Kuwait: Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs, nd. are not patriarchal, rather grounded in ongoing and salient aspects of male-female sexuality, and further that the various habits related to covering are enjoyable and beneficial to women. They consider the head/face covering practices amongst the wives and female companions of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) as normative role models even for contemporary times. Many consider head covering to be a Divine injunction.16Bullock, Rethinking Muslim Women and the Veil; Theodore Gabriel, “Reflections on Sartorial Injunctions in Islam,” in Islam and the Veil: Theoretical and Regional Contexts edited by Theodore Gabriel and Rabiha Hannan (The Continuum International Publishing Group Ltd, London, 2010) 12-19; Khola Hasan, “Hijab: a Symbol of Modesty or Seclusion?” in Islam and the Veil: Theoretical and Regional Contexts edited by Theodore Gabriel and Rabiha Hannan (The Continuum International Publishing Group Ltd, London, 2010), 115-126; see interviewee comments in Saba Mahmood, Politics of Piety: The Islamic Revival and the Feminist Subject (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004); Pamela Taylor, “I Just Want to be Me: Issues in Identity for One American Muslim Woman,” in The Veil: Women Writers on Its History, Lore, and Politics, edited by Jennifer Heath (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008), 119-136.

To make themselves intelligible to western discourse, these interpretations are often explained through the language of choice. Ahmed argues this is a late twentieth-century ethos: “before the era of unveiling, covering was just normal dress for all women in Muslim majority societies, and choosing not to cover was not an option…the idea that women had to be personally convinced of the need to veil— an idea that first emerged, probably in Egypt, in the 1970 s and 1980s— is now commonly accepted in twenty-first-century America.”17Ahmed, A Quiet Revolution, 125. Ghumkhor suggests this is a ploy that works politically, and is supported by many feminists, but in the long run still positions Muslim women in a secular discourse that is ultimately about revealing the body (all bodies) as part of neo-liberal secular politics of control.18Sahar Ghumkhor, The Political Psychology of the Veil: The Impossible Body, (Cham: Springer International Publishing: Imprint: Palgrave Macmillan, 2020), 41, 61, 239  She asks, would the support for wearing hijab have the same “resonance if the reasons for wearing the veil are emphasized as fundamentally a religious obligation [rather than as a choice ?]”19Ghumkhor, The Political Psychology of the Veil, 239. Other scholars concur with Ghumkhor’s assessment, though for different reasons. Wilson, Ruby, and Lewis consider “choice” as one of the “foundational myths of consumer culture.”20Thorsten Botz-Bornstein, “Can the Veil Be Cool?” Journal of Religion and Popular Culture, 25, no 2 (2013): 249-263; Reina Lewis, “Introduction: Mediating Modesty,” in Modest Fashion: Styling Bodies, Mediating Faith edited by Reina Lewis (London: IB Tauris, 2013), 9; Tabassum F. Ruby, “Discourses of Veiling and the Precarity of Choice,” in in The Routledge International Handbook to Veils and Veiling Practices, edited by Anna-Mari Almila and David Inglis (Abingdon: Routledge, 2017), 44-52; Elizabeth Wilson, “‘Can We Discuss This?’” in Modest Fashion: Styling Bodies, Mediating Faith edited by Reina Lewis (London: IB Tauris, 2013), 158-172. They point, for instance, to industry-driven fashion trends from which women choose their wardrobes. Botz-Bornstein, drawing on African American experiences balancing subordination and resistance, asks under what circumstances the veil can be “cool?” Ruby highlights social constraints around which women make their choices, mentioning breast implants and high heels as examples of Western women who are willing to compromise their health for the sake of turning themselves into an object of the male gaze.21Ruby, “Discourses of Veiling,” 48-49.

Saba Mahmood, a prominent anthropologist, argues that the liberal conception of the autonomous self does not capture the practices of hijab/niqab by the piety movement she studied in Egypt, who instead reflect an Aristotelian understanding of ethical behavior—where behavior is an aspect of teaching, creating, and habituating a pious self. She argues this is also agency, which is normally viewed as rebelling against conventional authority, particularly religious, not accepting or conforming to it. She indicates that habitual ethical training is not about identity politics either, it is about living an ethical life. Mahmood’s analysis comes to mind when reading Bucar’s honest self-reflection about how wearing a hijab during research in Iran had a moral and aesthetic effect on her, altering how she interacted with herself and others in public space, and what she “expected from and admired about Muslim’s women’s clothing.”22Elizabeth Bucar, Pious Fashion: How Muslim Women Dress (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 2017); Reina Lewis, Muslim Fashion: Contemporary Style Cultures (Durham: Duke University Press 2015), ix. These scholarly reflections problematizing choice are important for giving theoretical insight into hijab/niqab, but as sections three and four highlight, in light of current neo-liberal hegemony, to question the language of choice can only make sense inside the academy; the language of choice is also a survival mechanism against hostile public opinion and legislation.

IDENTITY

A significant portion of the scholarly literature on hijab/niqab are anthropological, ethnographical, or sociological studies of the wearers. While Mernissi’s feminist version of the veil was ascendent well into the late 1990’s, and still animates public animosity and Western political and legal bans of hijab/niqab, early scholarship of the new re-veiling movement in the late 1970s and 1980s lay the foundations for growing sophistication in the field. El-Guindi’s 1999 book,23F El Guindi, Veil: Modesty, Privacy and Resistance (London: Bloomsbury, 1999). Abu-Lughod noted in her review, was part of “emerging” analyses, that took issue with “ethnocentric” misrepresentations, and “reductionist stereotypes.”24Lila Abu-Lughod, “Review of Veil: Modesty, Privacy and Resistance,” Middle East Journal 54, no. 4 (2000): 673. These early scholars were writing against the feminist truisms that Muslim women’s sartorial choices could be simplistically read as tradition bound, restrictive and patriarchal. Scholars presented keenly observed, and theoretically robust pieces about the dress as “socially embedded,”25Abu-Lughod, Review of Veil, 673. and “polysemic.”26Shirazi, The Veil Unveiled. Eventually, scholars realized that women from other faith traditions also had “veiling” practices that ought to be explored in conversation with those of Muslim women, and scholarship expanded to include Jewish, Christian (i.e. Amish/Catholic/Morman), and Hindu women’s head covering practices.27See the chapters in The Veil: Women Writers on Its History, Lore, and Politics, edited by Jennifer Heath (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008); and those in The Routledge International Handbook to Veils and Veiling Practices, edited by Anna-Mari Almila and David Inglis (Abingdon: Routledge, 2017). Some also made comparison to other kinds of face covering such as masks.28Jennifer Heath, “‘What is subordinated, dominates:” Mourning, Magic, Masks, and Male Veiling,” in The Veil: Women Writers on Its History, Lore, and Politics, edited by Jennifer Heath (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008); David Inglis, “Cover Their Face: Masks, Masking, and Masquerades in Historical-Anthropological Context,” in The Routledge International Handbook to Veils and Veiling Practices, edited by Anna-Mari Almila and David Inglis (Abingdon: Routledge, 2017). Other niche areas became a focal point, such as studying Muslim women, hijab and sports.29Nida Ahmad, Holly Thorpe, Justin Richards and Amy Marfell, “Building Cultural Diversity in Sport: A Critical Dialogue with Muslim Women and Sports Facilitators,” International Journal of Sport Policy and Politics 12, no 4 (2020): 637 – 653; Symeon Dagkas, Tansin Benn and Haifaa Jawad, “Multiple Voices: Improving Participation of Muslim Girls in Physical Education and School Sport,” Sport, Education and Society 16, no 2, (2011): 223 – 239; Haifaa Jawad, Yousra Al-Sinani and Tansin Benn, “Islam, Women and Sport,” in Muslim Women and Sport edited by Tansin Benn, H.A Jawad, and Gertrud Pfister (London: Routledge, 2011), 25-40; Sima Limoochi and Jill M. Le Clair, “Reflections on the Participation of Muslim women in Disability Sport: Hijab, Burkini®, Modesty and Changing Strategies, Sport in Society 14, no 9 (2011): 1300 -1309.

Typically, employing qualitative methodologies with small sample sizes, these scholars ask interviewees about why they wear hijab/niqab, what it means to them, and what experiences they have had wearing it. They include demographic profiles of age, ethnic, class and educational background.30Leila Ahmed, “The Veil Debate-Again,” Leila Ahmed, A Quiet Revolution; Y. Atasoy, “Governing Women’s Morality: A Study of Islamic Veiling in Canada,” European Journal of Cultural Studies, 9 (2006): 203– 221; Bakht, In Your Face; Bullock, Rethinking Muslim Women and the Veil, Chapter Two; L Clarke, Women in Niqab Speak: A Study of the Niqab in Canada (Gananoque: Canadian Council of Muslim Women, 2013); Homa Hoodfar, “More Than Clothing: Veiling as an Adaptive Strategy,” in The Muslim Veil in North America: Issues and Debates, edited by S.S Alvi, H. Hoodfar, and S. McDonough (Toronto: Women’s Press, 2003), 3-40; Rashelle V. H Litchmore, Saba Safdar, “Meanings of the Hijab: Views of Canadian Muslim Women,” Asian Journal of Social Psychology, 19, no 3 (2016): 198-208; Sabah Rahmath, Lori Chambers, and Pamela Wakewich, “Asserting Citizenship: Muslim Women’s Experiences with the Hijab in Canada,” Women’s Studies International Forum 58 (2016): 34–40; F Shirazi and S Mishra, “Young Muslim Women on the Face veil (niqab): A Tool of Resistance in Europe but Rejected in the United States,” International Journal of Cultural Studies 13, no 1, (2010): 43–62. Such studies are initiated either expressly to study women and covering, or, covering comes up as an aspect of wider conversations about what it means to be a Muslim woman in North America, such as Islamic schooling,31Patricia Kelly Spurles, “Coding Dress: Gender and the Articulation of Identity in a Canadian Muslim School,” in The Muslim Veil in North America: Issues and Debates, edited by S.S Alvi, H. Hoodfar, and S. McDonough (Toronto: Women’s Press, 2003), 41-71; Jasmin Zine, “Unveiled Sentiments: Gendered Islamophobia and Experiences of Veiling among Muslim Girls in a Canadian Islamic School,” Equity and Excellence in Education 39, (2006): 239–252. conversion to Islam,32Heather Akou, “Becoming Visible: The Role of the Internet in Dress Choices among Native-Born Converts to Islam in North America,” Hawwa, 13, no 3 (2015): 279-296; Géraldine Mossière, “The ‘Discipline of the Veil’ among Converts to Islam in France and Quebec,” in The Routledge International Handbook to Veils and Veiling Practices edited by Anna-Mari Almila and David Inglis (Abingdon: Routledge, 2017). or fashion.33Bucar, Pious Fashion; Reina Lewis, Muslim Fashion: Contemporary Style Cultures (Durham: Duke University Press 2015). A few authors explore more unique aspects of covering, such as Suterwalla’s aim to explain the “haptic” [sense of touch] experience of covering,34Shehnaz Suterwalla, “Smart-Ening Up the Hijab: The Materiality of Contemporary British Muslim Veiling in the Physical and the Digital” in The Routledge International Handbook to Veils and Veiling Practices edited by Anna-Mari Almila and David Inglis (Abingdon: Routledge, 2017). or Ghumkhor’s extended exploration of the political psychology of veiling.35Ghumkhor, The Political Psychology of the Veil Some combine these sociological studies with philosophical ruminations of Muslim women’s veiling, others focus on the latter alone, often in conversation with analysis of philosophical, psychological aspects of Western discomfort and opposition to the veil.36Bullock, Rethinking Muslim Women and the Veil; Mahmood, Politics of Piety; Sherene H. Razack, “A Site/Sight We Cannot Bear: The Racial and Spatial Politics of Western of Banning of the Muslim Woman’s Niqab,” Canadian Journal of Women and the Law 30, no. 1 (2018); Joan Wallach Scott, The Politics of the Veil (Princeton, NJ : Princeton University Press, 2007); Meyda Yeğenoğlu, Colonial Fantasies: Towards a Feminist Reading of Orientalism (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998); Rafia Zakaria, Veil (New York: Bloomsbury 2017).

These studies illuminate similar themes:

  • Young women often adopt hijab as part of an identity journey that includes exploration of spirituality.
  • Some young women wear it in defiance of their families.
  • There are many reasons women adopt it, so no “singular” meaning can be read from the clothing.
  • Some young women have found adopting it facilitates access to public space, with less restrictions from their parents.
  • Some young women have utilized wearing hijab as a way to resist patriarchal cultural customs such as arranged marriages in which they had little say.
  • For some it is a way to resist anti-Muslim racism by claiming a public Muslim identity.
  • Style and choice of colors, fabric, and cut introduce a fashion element that is part of communication the self to the wider society.
  • Fashioning the self through dress involves reading or re-reading traditional religious texts for application to their current environment, speaking to their agency.
  • Way to resist objectification and the beauty myth.
  • Experiences of street level harassment is common. Muslim women, especially those visibility Muslim, are the highest targets of hate crimes in Europe and North America.37S.M. Ahmad, S.M, “Islamophobic Violence as a Form of Gender-based Violence: A Qualitative Study with Muslim Women in Canada, Journal of Gender-Based Violence 3, no 1 (2019): 45-66; Neil Chakraborti and Irene Zempi, “The Veil Under Attack: Gendered Dimensions of Islamophobic Victimization,” International Review of Victimology, 18, no 3 (2012): 269–284.
  • Collective guilt and responsibility to “represent Islam” positively to counter wide-spread negative stereotypes.
  • Experiences with the “hijab” police and intra-community surveillance and judgment on their dress.

Qualitative studies never claim to be representative viewpoints and experiences of the world’s Muslim women. They illuminate and highlight at an individual level everyday perceptions and experiences of wearing hijab/niqab that help us understand and go beyond the wide brush-stroke narratives that often take place in public debates over “veiling.”

COMMERCE

A natural extension of sociological/anthropological or ethnographic studies of Muslim women and their covering practices is to consider their sartorial choices through the lens of fashion.  Regrettably, only very few scholars have investigated covering from this angle over the last decade. Sandıkçı observes that the early qualitative scholarship outlined above focused on “political and economic” aspects of covering, completely overlooking “aesthetics” in choices such as shape, color, fabric, and design.38Özlem Sandıkçı, “Culture Industries and Marketplace Dynamics” in The Routledge International Handbook to Veils and Veiling Practices edited by Anna-Mari Almila and David Inglis (Abingdon: Routledge, 2017). There are two possible reasons for this: First, the early revivalist-inspired covering included a strongly anti-Western, anti-materialist, and anti-capitalist rhetoric.39Sandıkçı, “Culture Industries” Ahmed, A Quiet Revolution. Women would adopt specific kinds of overcoats and headscarves or face veils that differed from that of their grandmothers, in subdued colours such as black, brown or dark blue. It was meant to be egalitarian dress erasing class differences, uniting women as believers in a single sisterhood.  It was anti-fashion due to a belief that “fashion” promoted vanity and “impiety.”  Second, given secular modernity’s emphasis on revealing the body, and feminists celebrating the uncovered female form, “veiling” is regarded as “failed fashion.”40Lewis, Muslim Fashion, 84. So it is typical to regard religion as opposed to fashion, and vice versa.41Emma Tarlo and Annelies Moors, editors, Islamic Fashion and Anti-Fashion: New Perspectives from Europe and North America (London: Bloomsbury 2013).

As these scholars point out, the human body is clothed for reasons that go beyond the basics of warmth and protection against the elements. There is a communicative function in clothes. We learn these codes as part of the locale in which we live. A bathing suit is not to be worn at the office, unless someone does not want to signal they are “professional.” A business suit on a beach would look out of place. As mentioned above, these social and market-based constraints limit the nature of clothing “choices” we make as consumers.  Muslim women, like all human beings, like to differentiate themselves. Within the constraints of their locales, they do so.

At first, without ready-made apparel for those choosing covering, Muslim women sewed their own, or for each other.  As the revivalist movement grew in numbers and morphed as it articulated with secularist nation-states and the Western-hegemonic global capitalist that dominated, several scholars have labelled a “post-Islamist” phase, which has prioritized an individualized piety, rather than a state-centric political movement.42Peter Mandaville, “Is the Post-Islamism Thesis Still Valid?” in Rethinking Islamist Politics edited by Marc Lynch, POMEPS Studies 6 (2014): 31-33. In the pre-modern era, veiling was a sign of wealth and class, as well as piety. Such impulses soon resurfaced, and brand, cut, kind of material, pattern design, extent of covering, colour, accessories, and so on individuated modest dress clothing choices.  Lewis notes that fashion amongst covered women is usually illegible to outsiders.43Lewis, Muslim Fashion, 193.

Along with the rise of global pietist commerce, especially in Islamic finance and food, a global Islamic fashion industry worth billions—around 14.4% of global fashion expenditure44Sandıkçı, “Culture Industries.” rose to meet the demand, often driven by those women who wanted to cover but could not find the right clothing in the marketplace.45Lewis, Muslim Fashion, 287; Sandıkçı, “Culture Industries.” Sandıkçı and Lewis track the evolution of related business practices, including the challenges of advertising, marketing, and retailing such apparel, and discrimination faced by hijab-wearing Muslim women job seekers. In the 1980s advertising served mainly a “pedagogical” function:46Sandıkçı, “Culture Industries,” 200. “At the core of this distinction has been an opposition between (Islamic) modesty and (secular) indecency. Women adopted the new forms of veiling to communicate their commitment to Islam and quest for visibility in the public sphere.”47Sandıkçı, “Culture Industries,” 201.  Lifestyle magazines with a heavy emphasis on fashion navigated the difficult line between selling “modest dress” modestly. E-commerce was essential to the development of this industry and came with blogs, YouTube tutorials, and social media.48Lewis, Muslim Fashion, 240; Annelies Moors, “’Discover the Beauty of Modesty’: Islamic fashion Online,” in Modest Fashion: Styling Bodies, Mediating Faith edited by Reina Lewis (London: IB Tauris, 2013): 14-40. Given its dominance by women, some scholars interpret the accompanying celebration of, discussion over, and commentary about wearing modest dress as a form of female religious authority.49Lewis, Muslim Fashion, 267.

An interfaith element emerged early on, as modest dressers from other faiths would be interested in such apparel.  Some women of no faith as well, but conscious of their body and seeking less revealing clothing, also became customers. Lewis and Moors argue that this diverse customer base led businesses and bloggers to develop an inclusive and non-judgmental space, where “modesty” was largely defined by the customer. That has not stopped nasty online harassment, frequently male but also female, judging women for their alleged failures to live up to scriptural dress requirements, as defined by the harasser.50Lewis, Muslim Fashion, 263, 266.

Lewis aptly notes that the “inability to control entirely how our dressed bodies are read by those that encounter us is true for everyone, although many Muslim women in Muslim-minority contexts tell me they use fashion to communicate to majority observers that they are part of contemporary modern society.”51Reina Lewis, “Modest Fashion and Anti-Fashion,” in The Routledge International Handbook to Veils and Veiling Practices edited by Anna-Mari Almila and David Inglis (Abingdon: Routledge, 2017), 145. She finds a youth subculture of Muslim women that has “trickled up” to their mothers,52Lewis, Muslim Fashion, 194. who buy their clothes mostly from the mainstream stores and adapt and adopt them for modesty, with layering under- (long-sleeves under a t-shirt, pants under a short dress) or over-garments (a cardigan over a short sleeved dress.) This applies to Muslim women in the workforce as well, so it goes beyond the youth. They use hybrid dress styles to negotiate the ethnic subculture in which they live, with its preferred dress styles for women, and the wider society’s anti-Muslim gaze that prefers unveiling.

Called “modest” or “pious” fashion, these scholars have identified one of the most important aspects of covering these days: the fashioning of the self. Even if this ought not be cast in the language of the autonomous neo-liberal self, asking about pious fashion, rather than veiling, is to connect: the aesthetic to the ethics of the spiritual search; clothing choices to a moral community; a quest for beauty to fashion and religion; and dress codes to character development. Lewis demonstrates that modest fashion includes in its scope all kinds of dress variations and codes, motivations, and desires: women who do not consider a headscarf mandatory in Islam and/or those who “dejabbed ”53Reina Lewis, “Uncovering Modesty: Dejabis and Dewigies Expanding the Parameters of the Modest Fashion Blogosphere,” Fashion Theory 19 (2015): 243–270. for various reasons but still seek modest dress; women who are not particularly religious but embrace modest dress for other practical measures, such as appeasing parents and signalling upright behaviour to continue attending school, employment, or civic engagement. The term also encompasses those who embrace hijab/niqab to avoid the fashion industry and consumer capitalism’s emphasis on the thin and beautiful body.54Bullock, Rethinking Muslim Women and the Veil. Pious fashion treats Muslim women’s dress choices as normative for them and does not set out to peculiarize their clothing as something that needs explaining. It allows for honest comparisons with the constraints on women’s dress in secular cultures (corsets, high heels, bras, thinness and revealing clothing as the beauty standard). It investigates the industry accompanying it, designers, manufacturing, advertising, marketing, retailing, which makes the study of the “veil” more holistic than the “oppressed Muslim woman” paradigm prominent in the media and politics. As Bucar says, “[t]he women in this book are real people trying to express their religious beliefs and look good at the same time.  They are not merely symbols of something else-whether a universal form of Islamic politics or patriarchy.”55Bucar, Pious Fashion, 197.

MEDIA REPRESENTATION

The “veil,” as an object of the gaze, is a quintessentially European item. As the sections above conveyed, for Muslim women, the head and face covers are quotidian articles of clothing; they either enjoy or resist wearing it, but it is part of their world or their history in which they grow up.  In general, in Western film, television, and political cartoons, covered Muslim women are largely absent.  These genres tend to focus on the figure of the male terrorist.56Evelyn Alsultany, Arabs and Muslims in the Media: Race and Representation after 9/11 (New York: New York University Press, 2012); Peter Gottschalk and Gabriel Greenberg, Islamophobia: Making Muslims the Enemy (Maryland: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, 2008). Since the colonial era, in the Western imagination, the veil has symbolized exotic backwardness, women’s oppression, and anti-Western threat (albeit a handful of contemporary pioneering television shows, such as Little Mosque on the Prairie; Grey’s Anatomy; and Quantico, or some news articles, that feature positive representations of hijab-wearing women). These are not entirely chronological. They are different significations that form a toolbox from which journalists or creative people in the arts, painters, directors, costume designers, and the like draw on depending on the message they want to send. Different political moments give prominence to one or the other.

When Lady Mary Mortley Montagu accompanied her diplomatic husband to Turkey in 1717-1718, she disputed the western notion that the veil was oppressive for women. Ironically, she recounts Turkish women’s shocked reaction to her corset: “they believ’d I was so locked up in that machine that it was not in my power to open it, which contrivance they attributed to my husband.”57Cited in Wilson, “‘Can We Discuss This?’” 48. Europeans, especially men who could never see the women behind it, were fascinated by the veil, unlike the women who could meet unveiled women in the women-only spaces of homes or at public baths (who nevertheless often adopted a masculinist gaze).58Yeğenoğlu, Colonial Fantasies, 91. Unfulfilled desire and affronted by the actual piece of cloth blocking their gaze, the veil became a symbol of the enchanting, exotic and frustrating Middle East that they needed to unveil in order to grasp: “The veiled existence is the very truth of Oriental women; they seem to exist always in this deceptive manner. This metaphysical speculation or mediation, this desire to reveal and unveil is at the same time the scene of seduction.”59Yeğenoğlu, Colonial Fantasies, 45. The colonial era gave us a hegemonic European interpretation of the veil brilliantly theorised by Edward Said and named “Orientalist.”60Edward Said, Orientalism. New York: Vintage Books, 2nd ed. 1994. (1979). Orientalist paintings, and then photographs, depicting women in various states of nakedness, offering herself to the male gaze, were a metaphorical unveiling that was later accompanied by very real unveiling campaigns by colonial settlers and administrations. It lived on in Western film and television in the character of the “harem woman,” the exotic belly dancer, for instance, Jeannie in I Dream of Jeannie.61Katherine Bullock, “Orientalism On Television: A Case Study Of I Dream Of Jeannie,” ReOrient 4, no 1 (2018): 4-23. Sexualized use of the veil is still drawn on for marketing products, e.g. Presidents Choice Instant Vegetable Couscous Soup, featuring a woman with a blue headscarf and face veil and heavily kohled eyes.62Shirazi, The Veil Unveiled, 20. The Europeans thought of themselves as colonializing to save and civilize the backward peoples of the Middle East, an impulse replicated in modern times during the War on Terror’s response to the 9/11 attacks in the USA. The predominant message in mainstream media accounts of the War on Terror was that Afghan women were oppressed, the veil was the symbol of that, and that the US was leading the world in liberating them.63Michelle D Byng, “Symbolically Muslim: Media, Hijab, and the West,” Critical Sociology 36, no. 1 (2010): 109–29; Dana L. Cloud, “To Veil the Threat of Terror”: Afghan Women and the ⟨Clash of Civilizations⟩ in the Imagery of the U.S. War on Terrorism,” Quarterly Journal of Speech, 90, no 3 (August 2004), 286; Yasmin Jiwani, “Gendering Terror: Representations of the Orientalized Body in Quebec’s post‐September 11 English‐language Press,” Critique: Critical Middle Eastern Studies 13, no 3 (2004): 265-291; Yasmin Jiwani, “Orientalizing ‘War Talk’: Representations of the Gendered Muslim Body Post-9/11 in the Montreal Gazette.” In Situating “Race” and Racisms in Time, Space, and Theory: Critical Essays for Activists and Scholars, edited by J. Lee and J. Lutz, 178–203. Montreal and Kingston, ON: McGill Queen’s University Press, 2005; Yasmin Jiwani, “Trapped in the Carceral Net: Race, Gender, and the “War on Terror,” Global Media Journal – Canadian Edition 4, no 2 (2011): 13-31; Rochelle Terman, “Islamophobia and Media Portrayals of Muslim Women: A Computational Text Analysis of US News Coverage,” International Studies Quarterly 61 (2017): 489–502; Kim Rygiel and Krista Hunt, eds. (En)Gendering the War on Terror: War Stories and Camouflaged Politics (Abingdon, Oxon: Taylor & Francis Group), 2016; Lisa K Taylor and Jasmin Zine eds. Muslim Women, Transnational Feminism and the Ethics of Pedagogy: Contested Imaginaries in post-9/11 Cultural Practice (New York: Routledge: 2014).

Some scholars identify post 9/11 as the rise of an altered media discourse around Muslim women and the veil: instead of submissive, exoticized, woman needing rescue, she became the accomplice of the terrorist, especially if, despite living in free western societies, she refused to unveil.64Shakira Hussein, “From Rescue Missions to Discipline: Post-9/11 Western Political Discourse on Muslim Women,” Australian Feminist Studies 28, no. 76 (2013): 144-154; Zakaria, Veil, 92-93. My research pins the start of the signification “Muslim woman as symbol of terrorism” much earlier, to the 1979 Iranian revolution.  Media images from the 1980s and 1990s signalled the veiled Muslim woman as a threat, either using this word, or through images of veils and guns.  A look at headlines from newspapers in the 1990s includes:

  • “The Veiled Threat of Islam,” New Statesman, 27 March 1992, cover page.
  • “Women of the Veil: Islamic Militants pushing women back to an age of official servitude,” The Atlanta Journal/The Atlanta Constitution, June 28, 1992, Section P.
  • “Foulard. Le Complot: Comment les Islamistes Nous Infiltrent, [The Veil.  The Plot: How do the Islamists Infiltrate Us?]” L’Express, 17 November, 1994, cover page.
  • “Islam’s Veiled Threat,” Le Nouvel Observateur, 28 September, 1994.
  • “An act of faith or a veiled threat to society?” Toronto Star, May 14 1996, F5.
  • “Muslim Veil Threat to Harmony in French Schools, Minister says;” Vancouver Sun, September 15, 1994, A18.
  • “The New Law: Wear the Veil and Stay Alive;” Montreal Gazette, April 11, 1994, B3.
  • “Women Trapped Behind Veils.” Toronto Star, December 15, 1996, F4.

Malise Ruthven’s “Islam in the World,” published by Penguin in 1984, has on its cover a woman in black hijab with a small triangle showing her eyes, nose and face, holding a gun. The Australian Magazine from February 25-26, 1995, which carried an excerpt and extended interview with Geraldine Brooks about her book Nine Parts of Desire, had as its cover image a group of women in chadors with red headbands and the word Khomeini written in Arabic calligraphy. The title was “Behind the Holy Veil.” The inside story pictures a group of Muslim women in chadors with green headbands and Arabic calligraphy, holding guns, titled “The Hidden World of Islamic Women.”

We could argue that even the orientalist imagery of the sexualized woman reclining on the couch was an image carrying an underlying threatening tone. Even if she was unveiled, she symbolized the fecundity of woman, of the civilization they were trying to conquer and control, of woman creating desire in man. The missionaries and colonists were particularly focused on converting mothers to their cause, knowing full well the socialization aspect of the young children at home with their mothers. In Our Moslem Sisters, an author argues that “the primary object of Mission schools for girls was to lead them to Christ, ‘If you get the girls for Christ, you get Egypt for Christ.’”65Annie Van Sommer and Samuel M Zwemer (eds), Our Moslem Sisters: A Cry of Need from the Lands of Darkness Interpreted by Those Who Heard It (New York: The Young People’s Missionary Movement, 1907). The post 9/11 era intensified and made dominant this pre-existent sign of the veil as a threat, tying it up inexorably to the sign of the Muslim male as a terrorist.66Lalaie Ameeriar, “The Gendered Suspect: Women at the Canada-U.S. Border after September 11,” Journal of Asian American Studies 15, no 2 (2012): 171–95. The aim now in unveiling is to secularize rather than Christianize the Muslim woman’s body.

Likewise, the binary “oppressed Muslim women vs empowered White Western women” is not a post 9/11 signification – although it was used extensively by politicians, their feminist supporters, and mainstream media to promote the War on Terror.67Hussein, “From Rescue Missions to Discipline;” Krista Hunt, “‘Embedded Feminism” and the War on Terror,” in (En)Gendering the War on Terror: War Stories and Camouflaged Politics, edited by Kim Rygiel and Krista Hunt (Abingdon, Oxon: Taylor & Francis Group, 2016), 51-71; Shirazi’s study of the “hijab in modern culture,” published before 9/11 in 2001, contains an analysis of a perfume ad by Bijan, carried in Vogue in 1992.  It is two pictures placed side by side of two different women, close-ups of the face and shoulders. On the left, a woman in a black, serious looking with luscious eyelashes and lips on a closed mouth, conveying stillness, sombreness. On the right an open-mouthed woman in a baseball cap, laughing, hair falling un-styled around her shoulders, conveying energy and fun. The caption under the “veiled” woman reads: “Women should be obedient, grateful, modest, respectful, submissive, and very, very, serious.” Under the woman in the baseball caped woman the caption reads: “Women should be bright, wild, flirty, fun, eccentric, tough, bold, and very, very, Bijan.” On top of the caption is a small American flag. As mentioned above, qualitative, and quantitative analysis of print and media news affirm this binary continues unbated.68Ruby, “Discourses of Veiling and the Precarity of Choice;” Jill Steans, “Telling Stories About Women and Gender in the War on Terror.” Global Society: Journal of Interdisciplinary International Relations 22, no.1 (2008), 159-176. The post 9/11 refinement of the “good Muslim” who is supportive of the US War on Terror as opposed to the “bad Muslims”69Mahmood Mamdani, “Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: A Political Perspective on Culture and Terrorism,” American Anthropologist 104, no. 3, (2002): 766-775. has been roped to a nod towards diversity, inclusion and multiculturalism with a performative hijabi eager to demonstrate she can wear hijab and be a good American too.70 Katherine Allison, “American Occidentalism and the Agential Muslim Woman,” Review of International Studies 39 (2013): 665–684; Ghumkhor, The Political Psychology of the Veil, 237; Shelina Kassam, “Marketing an Imagined Muslim Woman: Muslim Girl Magazine and the Politics of Race, Gender and Representation,” Social Identities 17, no 4, (2011): 543 – 564; Ahlam Muhtaseb, “US Media Darlings: Arab and Muslim Women Activists, Exceptionalism and the ‘Rescue Narrative,’” Arab Studies Quarterly, Special Double Issue 42, nos 1/2 (Winter/Spring 2020): 7-24.

Mainstream Western media thus replicates three different signification systems about the veil – as exotic, oppressed, or threatening – depending on the work the metaphor is to play. Several scholars note the irony of these significations of a veiled woman who is at times submissive and oppressed, at other times an agentic threat.71Hussein, “From Rescue Missions to Discipline.” With ascendent White nationalism in recent decades, the latter is a predominant theme, while as a subject of hate crime it seems that the former predominates, making Muslim women presumed to be easy targets. When politicians and activists campaign for niqab bans the two are blended, she is a threat to Western civilization because her culture forces her to be submissive to be through its violence.

POLITICS

Muslim women face discriminatory treatment in many spheres of society: at border crossings; their places of work; job-seeking; and in public spaces. Again, this is not a post 9/11 phenomenon, though it has intensified since then.72Ameeriar, “The Gendered Suspect”; Sahar Aziz, The Muslim Veil Post 9/11: Rethinking Muslim Women’s Rights and Leadership (Washington, DC: The Institute for Social Policy and Understanding and the British Council, 2012); Aneira J. Edmunds, “Precarious Bodies: The Securitization of the ‘Veiled’ Woman in European Human Rights,” The British Journal of Sociology 72, no 2 (2021): 315–27; Jiwani,“Trapped in the Carceral Net;” Sherene H. Razack, Casting Out: The Eviction of Muslims from Western Law and Politics, (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2008); Taylor Markey, “Westernized Women? The Construction of Muslim Women’s Dissent in U.S. Asylum Law,” UCLA Law Review 64, no 5 (2017): 1302 – 1327; Kim Rygiel; Protecting and Proving Identity: The Biopolitics of Waging War Through Citizenship in the post-9/11 Era, in (En)Gendering the War on Terror: War Stories and Camouflaged Politics, edited by Krista Hunt and Kim Rygiel (Abingdon, Oxon: Taylor & Francis Group, 2016), 145-167; Nandita Sharma, “White Nationalism, Illegality and Imperialism: Border Controls as Ideology,” in (En)Gendering the War on Terror: War Stories and Camouflaged Politics, edited by Krista Hunt and Kim Rygiel (Abingdon, Oxon: Taylor & Francis Group, 2016), 121-143. Women Working for Immigrant Women conducted a workplace test for job seekers by creating identical resumes for women who were paired on race, age, accent, country of birth and experience in Canada, education, and work history. One wore hijab and the other did not. The woman in hijab was sent in first to inquire about a position, the woman not in hijab about 30 minutes later. The number of women in hijab who were told there were no positions available compared to women not in hijab was significant enough to conclude that women in hijab were being discriminated against. This study began in 1998 with the final report published in December 2002. Focus group interviews documented workplace discrimination before 9/11 with participants reporting a worsening situation after 9/11.73Judy Vashti Persad and Salome Lukas “No Hijab Is Permitted Here”: A Study on the Experiences of Muslim Women Wearing Hijab Applying for Work in the Manufacturing, Sales and Service Sectors,” Women Working for Immigrant Women, December 2002, http://atwork.settlement.org/downloads/No_Hijab_Is_Permitted_Here.pdf.

In one of the earliest recorded instances of what would now be recorded as a hate incident, Mme Pommerol, annoyed at being denied the chance to see the faces of the Mozabite women of the Sahara, waited in an alley one day until a woman passed. Mme Pommerol caught up with her, and after telling her how beautiful she was, tried “very gently, of course, to draw aside her veil.” For this effort she received a “staggering blow,” and as the woman ran away, Mme Pommerol “debated in [her] mind how [to] achieve [her] object by less violent means.”74Pommerol, Among the Women of the Sahara, 1900, quoted in J Mabro editor, Veiled Half-Truths: Western Travellers’ Perceptions of Middle Eastern Women (London: IB Tauris, 1991), 244. Street level harassment of women, including verbal and physical assault by hostile passersby continues to this day. As already mentioned, Muslim women experience the highest number of hate crimes amongst those targeted for their Islamic faith the world over. 75Ahmed, A Quiet Revolution; Ahmad, “Islamophobic Violence,” Chakraborti and Zempi, “The Veil Under Attack,” Clarke, Women in Niqab Speak. These usually spike after a high-profile terrorist attack, either overseas or locally. While all forms of violence against innocent people is tragic and to be condemned, in North America it is worth pointing out that more violence is directed towards Muslim women by citizens supposedly representing the rational, good, and benevolent West than vice versa.

A less obvious form of violence are state legislation and courtroom rulings that insist a woman appear unveiled in public spaces and in state-related spaces, such as bureaucracies and courtrooms.  The 1990s until the present day are littered with political anti-veil speeches and policies, supported by huge majorities of the population. Europe is an especial epicenter of this anti-veil movement, 76Former French President Sarkozy said niqab is “not welcome” in France and proceeded to make it illegal to wear on the street and in public places (Chakraborti and Zempi, “The Veil Under Attack,” 270). France has now tried to ban hijab for under eighteens in public spaces. At either the municipal, state/provincial, or national level, other European countries have similar anti-niqab bans (BBC News, “The Islamic Veil Across Europe,” May 31, 2018, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-13038095). Austria has banned niqab in courts and schools; Belgium prohibits niqab in public places like parks and streets; Denmark fines anyone found wearing a niqab in public; half of Germany’s sixteen states have banned teachers from wearing headscarves and the southern state of Bavaria has banned niqab in schools, polling stations, universities and government offices; several towns in Italy have banned niqab; in Spain, Barcelona and two small towns in Catalonia have banned niqab in public spaces like municipal offices, public markets and libraries; Switzerland one canton banned niqab in public. but it is part of Canadian and US politics as well.  A 2018 Angus Reid poll of Canadians found significant majorities in every Canadian province supporting a view that would ban niqab from public employees (lowest was 65% in British Columbia to highest 91% in Quebec, Angus Reid, 2018). Echoing British and French colonial attempts to unveil Muslim women, contemporary politicians and other public intellectuals speak against the niqab, calling it a “visible statement of separation and of difference,” Jack Straw (then leader of the UK House of Commons in 2006 cited in Chakraborti and Zempi, 2012, 270); “a tribal cultural practice where women are treated like property and not like human beings (then Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, Jason Kenney cited in Clarke, 2013, 16);” or a dress “rooted in a culture that is anti-women…[and] it’s offensive that someone would hide their identity” (then Prime Minister, Stephen Harper cited in Siddiqui, 2015, 79).  In 2011 the Canadian government tried to ban niqab from the oath of citizenship ceremonies.  Zunera Ishaq, a niqab-wearing woman succeeded in winning a Supreme Court challenge to this and was sworn in as a Canadian citizen on October 9, 2015.77Haroon Siddiqui, “Anti-Muslim Bigotry Goes Official-Canada’s Newest Dark Chapter,” in The Relevance of Islamic Identity in Canada: Culture, Politics, and Self edited by Nurjehan Aziz (Toronto: Mawenzi House, 2015), 44-96. Since then, Quebec, a province of Canada has passed a law banning headgear from those working in the public service, including teachers, and requires those receiving government services to unveil their faces.78Jesse Ferreras and Maham Abedi, “Trudeau on Quebec’s Bill 21: It’s Not Government’s Job to Legislate What People Wear,” Global News, June 20 (2019): https://globalnews.ca/news/5413922/justin-trudeau-quebec-bill-21/

Sherene Razack points out that since niqab bans are illogical, we must turn to psychoanalysis to understand. They are illogical because none of the stated reasons, such as inability to communicate or integrate stand up to comparative scrutiny.79Natasha Bakht, “Veiled Objections: Facing Public Opposition to the Niqab,” in Reasonable Accommodation: Managing Religious Diversity edited by Lori G. Beaman (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2012), 70-108. COVID-19 public health measures requiring everyone to wear masks have exposed these anti-veil hypocrisies in a way nothing else could. A clever meme is an image of current UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson wearing a black face mask with his anti-veil remarks from 2018 superimposed above the image: “You can’t talk properly to these Muslim women who cover up their faces – they look like bank robbers & letterboxes.”  Qualitative interviews with niqab-wearing women show that they want to work outside the home, be educated and be part of society. A woman in Quebec who was expelled from government-funded French classes for new immigrants for refusing to remove her veil (after requesting a classroom accommodation the school found to be “excessive”) wanted to be a pharmacist.  “If I didn’t want to interact, I would have stayed at home,” she told the Globe and Mail.80Cited in Selby, “Un/veiling Women’s Bodies,” 445. Wearing masks during COVID, we can talk and communicate with each other just fine. Society has not fallen apart from masks; rather if it is falling apart it is due to economic and racial inequalities, unemployment and poverty.

Scholars similarly question the logic behind judicial bans on women in face veils in the courtroom.  A number of high-profile cases has seen niqab-wearing women denied access to justice, unless they remove their face veil. Judges usually cite something called “demeanor evidence,” which is the presumption that you must see the face in order to evaluate the veracity of the claims made by the person, be it accused, defendant or witness. But, as Adrian argues,

Given that the veil does not muzzle women who wear it and that they can speak and respond as they choose while moving their bodies, heads, and hands, this seems a gross over-generalization about its effects. The question at issue seems to be about the visual cues that are given by the nose, mouth, cheeks, and chin. Here, the ECHR could learn from the case of R v NS…in which dissenting Justice Abella argued that the importance of the “demeanor package,” as she referred to it, was overemphasized. There is no question that seeing someone’s face (or not) makes a qualitative difference in the way communication is experienced. However, the difference between communicating with someone who wears a niqab is no greater than communicating with someone whose facial expressions are unintentionally obscured, such as those affected by strokes, burns, or from facial impairments.81Melanie Adrian, “Faith in the Courthouse: Muslims, Law, and Political Belonging in Europe and Canada,” Journal of Islamic and Muslim Studies 2, no 1, (2017): 7.

Bakht cites social science evidence that the chances of legal professionals being able to detect liars by looking at facial cues is little more than a guess.82Bakht, In Your Face, 69 And yet, instead of moving in creative ways to solve this, following the example of a judge in New Zealand who sequestered the court room and gave two veiled woman witnesses the opportunity to unveil in front of only the judge, the counsel, and female court staff, most judges are moving towards supporting unveiling based on these illogical assumptions.83Bakht, In Your Face, 88, 103-4.

We are thus almost full-circle with the colonial era’s psychologies: the veil as refusal to yield to the masculinist gaze and the self that feels threatened by the sight of niqab-wearing women who must be removed from public; except that instead of unveiling policies being enacted by European settlers in colonies, they are enacted on fellow citizens in the “home” country.  Selby’s analysis of French and Quebec bans on hijab/niqab highlights the lack of “neutrality” involved as far as a “free liberal citizen” goes.  The secular State is clearly shaping acceptable versions of “sexuality across public and private spheres as a central component in the production of its citizens.”84Selby, “Un/veiling Women’s Bodies,” 452 She cites from politicians, scholars and activists who, recalling the Bijan perfume advertisement, envisage a woman’s ability to flirt and seduce as a symbol of emancipation.85Selby, “Un/veiling Women’s Bodies,” 446. In Quebec, the covered body evokes patriarchal religious control.86Selby, “Un/veiling Women’s Bodies,” 451. State policies force a heteronormative control over women who must be visible for the male gaze. “[M]ust women have a-religious bodies that wear skirts, are non-virgins, and are seductive, to be granted full civic membership?” Selby asks.87Selby, “Un/veiling Women’s Bodies,” 454.

CONCLUSION

Many scholars point out that the politics of modernity have been played out on the bodies of women: if the colonialists targeted the veil for removal as a symbol of oppression and civilizational backwardness, then those resisting colonization elevated wearing the veil as the ultimate sign of Muslim woman’s piety and authenticity.88Ahmed, A Quiet Revolution. Humari Jayawardena, Feminism and Nationalism in the Third World (London: Zed Books, 1986); Lewis, Muslim Fashion. This is plainly unfair, as we have seen in sections one and two, modest dress is a fluid category taken up by Muslim women at various stages of an evolving identity and spiritual journey. Neither co-religionists nor non-Muslims should make whether she wears a headcover the litmus test of her faith or her citizenship.

When I finished my doctoral thesis about the politics of the veil in 1999, I concluded with a naïve hope that my bringing to the fore the voices of covered Muslim women and my positive theory of the veil would open the lines of communication with those who are willing to listen. It is a request that Muslim women who enjoy hijab be treated with respect, be listened to gracefully, and disputed with in the spirit of goodwill. We may agree to disagree over certain issues, but at the very least, we should be able to disagree and still remain partners in the global village.89Bullock, Rethinking Muslim Women and the Veil, 229.

Unfortunately, the Western world has moved in the opposite direction, as sections three and four have demonstrated. I am not the only commentator to feel dismayed and frustrated by this. Kassem and Mustapha observe that we seem to be in a “conversational rut”90Shelina Kassam and Naheed Mustafa, “Veiling Narratives: Discourses of Canadian Multiculturalism, Acceptability and Citizenship,” in The Routledge International Handbook to Veils and Veiling Practices edited by Anna-Mari Almila and David Inglis (Abingdon: Routledge, 2017), 73. by still talking about Muslim woman and the veil twenty years after they first published about it.  Shirazi and Ahmed also express this sense of surprise.91Leila Ahmed, “The Veil Debate-Again,” Faegheh Shirazi, “Iran’s Compulsory Hijab: From Politics and Religious Authority to Fashion Shows,” in The Routledge International Handbook to Veils and Veiling Practices edited by Anna-Mari Almila and David Inglis (Abingdon: Routledge, 2017), 97-115. Consider this: Homa Hoodfar opens her piece about veiling narrating her experiences over the last twenty years in the West (mostly UK and Canada) with casual conversations in trains, grocery stores, launderettes, university and parties.  People openly admit they know little about the Middle East or Islam, yet “What I find remarkable is that, despite their admitted ignorance on the subject, almost all the people I have met are, with considerable confidence, adamant that women have a particularly tough time in Muslim cultures.”92H Hoodfar, The Veil in Their Minds and On Our Heads: Veiling Practices and Muslim Women,” in The Politics of Culture in the Shadow of Capital edited by L. Lowe and D. Lloyd (Durham, NC : Duke University Press, 1997), 248. She tried and failed to convey the complexities of veiling practices to her interlocutors, who would, at the end of the conversation reiterate similar notions as they had at the beginning.  She had thought this was an isolated experience until she started talking to young women in hijab in Montreal and learned of the discrimination they faced in their lives, even on campus. She noted the “high level of anger and frustration [in her young Muslim women interviewees] in response to the deliberate racism towards Muslims in Canada and the unwillingness, despite ample examples, to let go of old colonial images of passive Muslim women. The assumption that veil equals ignorance and oppression means that young Muslim women have to invest a considerable amount of energy to establish themselves as thinking, rational, literate students/individuals, both in their classrooms and outside.”93H Hoodfar, The Veil in Their Minds,” 249. Italics in original.

When was this published?  In 1997. That is, twenty-four years before I am writing this. The young women she interviewed would be in their mid-forties by now. That the province in which she was working and conducting her research has enacted Bill 21, which prohibits Muslim women in hijab from working in public employment, depressingly underscores her point: in spite of all the ink utilised to explain hijab/niqab from the wearer’s point of view, to emphasise its complexity, polysemic nature, aesthetics, and the agency behind those who choose to wear it, at the end of the conversation, the listener reiterates the opening statements, of the veil as a symbol of Muslim women’s oppression that must be banned for the sake of her freedom and to protect the society in which she lives from her expressing retrograde values.

Bakht’s discomfort with calling women niqabis, because of its reductionism, leads us to ponder the appropriateness of an academic field labelled by Inglis and Almila as “veiling studies” in their entry in Routledge’s handbook.94David Inglis and Anna-Mari Almila, “Veiling Studies And Globalization Studies: The Promise of Historical Sociologies,” in The Routledge International Handbook to Veils and Veiling Practices edited by Anna-Mari Almila and David Inglis (Abingdon: Routledge, 2017), 301-305. Should there be such a field?  Is there a concomitant field of “suit studies,” “tie studies,” “mini-skirt studies,” “sweater studies”? Widening the scope of the subject matter to include “veils” from other faith traditions and masking practices, is an important step in reducing the “peculiarity” of covered Muslim women, but ultimately does not rescue the field from being underwritten by a focus on the peculiar from a secular point of view. It is worth pointing out that the dominant voice enveloping the field is the one that prefers unveiling, but for wearers convinced in the Divine nature of the call to cover, what requires explaining is not veiling, but un-veiling. Moreover, “veiling studies” maintains a fixation on Muslim women in relation to their sartorial choices. Yet, they are family members, employers, employees, entrepreneurs, and so on. Perhaps it made sense in the 1980s when women the world over began wearing the headscarf anew. Women put it on and take it off. I echo dejabbi Nicole’s frustration after a 2011 NPR radio show accompanied by a slide show on its website featuring twelve Muslim women’s decision to stop wearing a headscarf, with staged “before and after shots:” “If it isn’t Muslims talking about [if I] wear a headscarf or not, it’s non-Muslims…can we get past sisters’ hair already?”95Cited in Lewis, “Uncovering Modesty,” 254 Are Muslim women to be studied only as if putting it on or taking it off is the most important thing? The political issues erupt every decade, whether it is an older orientalist and colonial narrative about saving the oppressed and passive Muslim women, or the post September 11 suspicions of the veiled woman as “subversive terrorist requiring imprisonment”96Zakaria, Veil, 93. they both revolve around the same substantive debates–legislation or court practices to ban it to protect secular western values and advance women’s empowerment.

REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE

The literature on Muslim women and the veil is voluminous, from many disciplines including anthropology, art and art history, fashion studies, gender studies, history, Islamic studies, legal studies, media studies, Middle East studies, political science, postcolonial studies, sociology, and South Asian Studies. My focus is hijab/niqab in North America, but since the practice is connected to the globalized Muslim world it is necessary to begin outside North America. Veiling was a widespread norm in the pre-colonial Muslim world, especially in the Middle East. It also dates back centuries to Ancient Greek and Persian cultures.97 Leila Ahmed, Women and Gender in Islam: Historical Roots of a Modern Debate (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992); Shirazi, The Veil Unveiled. Under colonial influence, which targeted removing the veil as part of disciplining and producing a subjugated colonial subject, veiling had all but disappeared by the 1950s. When the Islamist revival rose to prominence in the late 1970s, Muslim women, most who had never worn a veil, nor had their mothers, began wearing headcovers and/or veils. Observers were taken aback. Early scholarship focused on Muslim-majority countries, asking why these women were “returning” to covering.98Ahmed Women and Gender in Islam; El Guindi, Veil; Andrea B Rugh, Reveal and Conceal: Dress in Contemporary Egypt (Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University Press, 1986); Zuhur, Revealing Reveiling. Scholars also focused on exploring the compulsory covering laws introduced after the Iranian revolution in 1981 and its effect on Iranian women.99Haleh Afshar, “Fundamentalism and its Female Apologists,” in Development Perspectives for the 1990s edited by Renee Prendergast and HW Singer (London: Macmillan, 1991); Farah Azari, “Islam’s Appeal to Women in Iran: Illusions and Reality,” in Women of Iran: The Conflict with Islamic Fundamentalism edited by Farah Azari (London: Ithaca Press, 1983). Fatemeh Givechian, “Cultural Changes in Male-Female Relations,” The Iranian Journal of International Affairs 3, no 3 (1991): 521-530.

Scholarship about Muslim women and the veil in North America begins in the 1980s.100Bullock, Rethinking Muslim Women and the Veil; Yvonne Yazbeck Haddad, “Islam, Women and Revolution in Twentieth Century Arab Thought,” The Muslim World 74, no 34, (July/October 1984); Hoodfar, “More Than Clothing.” A rise of younger women wearing the hijab caught the attention of observers here, also surprised that the practice would develop in a non-Muslim environment that gave premium to women’s freedom. Political maneuvers against headcovers in Quebec began during the 1990s decade. Scholars quickly learned about discrimination and harassment covered women experienced.101Hoodfar, “The Veil in their Minds and on our Heads.”

The earliest voices in academic scholarship on Muslim women and the veil tended to be unveiled women who held the veil to be a sign of patriarchy. Fatima Mernissi’s The Veil and the Male Elite,102Fatima Mernissi, The Veil and the Male Elite: A Feminist Interpretation of Women’s Rights in Islam. Translator Mary Jo Lakeland. (Reading, Massachusetts: Addison-Wesley Publishing Co, 1991). published in translation in 1992, was once one of the most widely referenced books on the topic. Mernissi’s perspective is that the veil is a symbol of male supremacy, of women as antagonistic to the Divine, a hindrance to men’s spiritual relationship with God, and a fitna, a threat to the social order, which can be saved only through gender segregation and veiling. Afshar argued that women taking up the veil could be explained by the “psychology of oppressed persons [that] tells us that one strategy for dealing with their situation is to adopt the rules of the oppressor and obey them unquestioningly.”103Afshar, “Fundamentalism,” 315.

As more and more young women took up the practice, altering its material styles, scholarship matured to understand the dress has multiple meanings, not all of which are automatically negative for women. Qualitative interviews found that women explained adopting the dress as a form of asserting their identity in an anti-Muslim environment; a practice they felt resisted North American culture’s emphasis on the “beauty myth;” a method of resisting restricting parental pressures such as arranged marriage; an empowering tool to enable them to access education and employment while still being thought of as respectable; and part of a fulfilling spiritual journey towards the Divine.104Ahmed, A Quiet Revolution; Bullock, Rethinking Muslim Women and the Veil; Haddad, “Islam, Women and Revolution,” Hoodfar, “More Than Clothing;” Shirazi, The Veil Unveiled; Zine, “Unveiled Sentiments.”

Individual styles of hijab and the rise of a global Islamic fashion industry, lifestyle magazines, blogs and Muslim women entrepreneurs caught the attention of scholars in the early 2000s. Sandıkçı observes that the early qualitative scholarship outlined above focused on “political and economic” aspects of covering, completely overlooking “aesthetics” in choices such as shape, colour, fabric, and design.105Sandıkçı, “Culture Industries.” Termed “modest” or “pious” fashion, these scholars explored not only why women were wearing hijab and what it meant to them, but also the materiality of the dress they were wearing, thus supplementing and expanding the earlier qualitative research.106Lewis, Muslim Fashion; Bucar, Pious Fashion.  Studying modest fashion also widened the scope beyond Muslim women to include women of other faith and no faith.107See the various chapters in Modest Fashion: Styling Bodies, Mediating Faith edited by Reina Lewis (London: IB Tauris, 2013). Even though religious teachings often consider fashion as vanity to be avoided, and secularists consider veiled fashion as “failed fashion,”108Lewis, Muslim Fashion, 84. these scholars recognized something extremely important: that Muslim women’s dress choices were not peculiar, politicized, or anachronistic hangovers from premodernity. Other scholars also expanded their focus to include studies of veiling in other religious and cultural communities.109See the chapters in The Veil: Women Writers on Its History, Lore, and Politics, edited by Jennifer Heath (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008); and those in The Routledge International Handbook to Veils and Veiling Practices, edited by Anna-Mari Almila and David Inglis (Abingdon: Routledge, 2017).  The effect of Muslim women’s sartorial choices had an impact on their access to and role in sport, and a handful of scholars began exploring this in the 2010s.110Nida Ahmad, Holly Thorpe, Justin Richards and Amy Marfell, “Building Cultural Diversity in Sport: A Critical Dialogue with Muslim Women and Sports Facilitators,” International Journal of Sport Policy and Politics 12, no 4 (2020): 637 – 653; Symeon Dagkas, Tansin Benn and Haifaa Jawad, “Multiple Voices: Improving Participation of Muslim Girls in Physical Education and School Sport,” Sport, Education and Society 16, no 2, (2011): 223 – 239; Haifaa Jawad, Yousra Al-Sinani and Tansin Benn, “Islam, Women and Sport,” in Muslim Women and Sport edited by Tansin Benn, H.A Jawad, and Gertrud Pfister (London: Routledge, 2011), 25-40; Sima Limoochi and Jill M. Le Clair, “Reflections on the Participation of Muslim women in Disability Sport: Hijab, Burkini®, Modesty and Changing Strategies, Sport in Society 14, no 9 (2011): 1300 -1309.

All of this scholarship is focused inward on the Muslim community. Veiling has been targeted for removal by European colonists since the nineteenth century. Many scholars have focused on explaining Western hostility to the veil, beginning with the colonial era continuing up to the present-day anti-veil politics and law.111Said, Orientalism. The veil has been the metonym for the Middle East for a couple of centuries, so is heavily represented in the Western imagination, through art,112David A. Bailed and Gilane Tawadros, eds. Veil: Veiling, Representation and Contemporary Art (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003); Valerie Behiery, “Of Veils, Feminisms, and Contemporary Art,” Esse, 90 (2017): 16-27. photographs,113Malek Alloula, The Colonial Harem. Trans. Myrna Godzich and Wlad Godzich, (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1986). (Le Harem Colonial: Images d’un sous-érotisme. Paris: Editions Siatkine, 1981.) film and television.114 Katherine Bullock, “Turbans, Veils, and Villainy on Television: Stargate SG1 and Merlin,” ReOrient, 6, no 2, (2021), 151-172; Sahar Ghumkhor, “‘“To Veil the Threat of Terror: Law and the Other’s Question in The Dark Knight Rises,” Law, Culture and the Humanities 15, no 3 (2019): 862-878. Many scholars study news media representations of the veil.115Michelle D Byng, “Symbolically Muslim: Media, Hijab, and the West,” Critical Sociology 36, no. 1 (2010): 109–29; Dana L. Cloud, “To Veil the Threat of Terror”: Afghan Women and the ⟨Clash of Civilizations⟩ in the Imagery of the U.S. War on Terrorism,” Quarterly Journal of Speech, 90, no 3 (August 2004), 286; Yasmin Jiwani, “Gendering Terror: Representations of the Orientalized Body in Quebec’s post‐September 11 English‐language Press,” Critique: Critical Middle Eastern Studies 13, no 3 (2004): 265-291; Yasmin Jiwani, “Orientalizing ‘War Talk’: Representations of the Gendered Muslim Body Post-9/11 in the Montreal Gazette.” In Situating “Race” and Racisms in Time, Space, and Theory: Critical Essays for Activists and Scholars, edited by J. Lee and J. Lutz, 178–203. Montreal and Kingston, ON: McGill Queen’s University Press, 2005; Yasmin Jiwani, “Trapped in the Carceral Net: Race, Gender, and the “War on Terror,” Global Media Journal – Canadian Edition 4, no 2 (2011): 13-31; Rochelle Terman, “Islamophobia and Media Portrayals of Muslim Women: A Computational Text Analysis of US News Coverage,” International Studies Quarterly 61 (2017): 489–502; Kim Rygiel and Krista Hunt, eds. (En)Gendering the War on Terror: War Stories and Camouflaged Politics (Abingdon, Oxon: Taylor & Francis Group), 2016; Edward Said, Covering Islam: How the Media and the Experts Determine How We See the Rest of the World (New York: Pantheon Books, 1981); Lisa K Taylor and Jasmin Zine eds. Muslim Women, Transnational Feminism and the Ethics of Pedagogy: Contested Imaginaries in post-9/11 Cultural Practice (New York: Routledge: 2014).

Over the decades, scholarship on the veil has tended to replicate rather than build on these themes that have been established early on. Study after study will interview Muslim women about why they cover, uncovering similar themes as prior scholarship. Ultimately what this tells us is that for some women the hijab/niqab has an enduring call as an embodied practice that answers some problems they face in their lives. As each decade moves forward with political anti-veil crisis after another, scholars write about and focus on that – expelling girls from school in the mid-1990s, the Bill 94 and the failed Quebec Charter of values in mid-2010s, Bill 21 in the early 2020s.116Golnaz Golnaraghi and Kelly Dye, “Discourses of Contradiction: A Postcolonial Analysis of Muslim Women and the Veil,” International Journal of Cross- Cultural Management 16, no. 2 (2016): 137-152. Discrimination in the courtroom and street level harassment continue unabated offering examples to fuel a continuous scholarship explaining and examining it.117Sahar Aziz, The Muslim Veil Post 9/11: Rethinking Muslim Women’s Rights and Leadership (Washington, DC: The Institute for Social Policy and Understanding and the British Council, 2012). In the meantime, there continue to be breakthroughs and firsts that scholars will focus on, such as the first hijabi national TV news anchor, Ginella Massa. The field remains dominated by unveiled scholars but hostility or scepticism towards veiling, while still present,118Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, “Why the Veil Should be Repudiated,” Nottingham Law Journal, 25 (2016): 112-118; Marnia Lazreg, Questioning the Veil: Open Letters to Muslim Women (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009). is muted by methods and theories recognising women’s agency in sartorial choices and the veil’s multiple meanings.

***

FURTHER READING 

Ahmed, Leila.  Women and Gender in Islam: Historical Roots of a Modern Debate.  New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992.

—-   A Quiet Revolution: The Veil’s Resurgence, from the Middle East to America. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2011.

Almila, Anna-Mari and David Inglis, eds. The Routledge International Handbook to Veils and Veiling Practices. Abingdon: Routledge, 2017.

Bakht, Natasha.  In Your Face: Law, Justice, and Niqab-Wearing Women in Canada. Toronto: Delve Books, 2020.

Benn, Tansin, H.A Jawad, and Gertrud Pfister, eds. Muslim Women and Sport, London: Routledge, 2011.

Bucar, Elizabeth. Pious Fashion: How Muslim Women Dress. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press: 2017.

Bullock, Katherine. Rethinking Muslim Women and the Veil: Challenging Historical and Modern Stereotypes. Herndon, Va.: The International Institute of Islamic Thought, 2002.

Clarke, L. Women in Niqab Speak: A Study of the Niqab in Canada. Gananoque: Canadian Council of Muslim Women, 2013.

Gabriel, Theodore and Rabiha Hannan, eds. Islam and the Veil: Theoretical and Regional Contexts.  The Continuum International Publishing Group Ltd, London, 2010.

Heath, Jennifer, ed. The Veil: Women Writers on Its History, Lore, and Politics. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008.

Hunt, Krista and Kim Rygiel, eds. (En)Gendering the War on Terror: War Stories and Camouflaged Politics. Abingdon, Oxon: Taylor & Francis Group, 2016.

Lewis, Reina, ed. Modest Fashion: Styling Bodies, Mediating Faith. London: IB Tauris, 2013.

Lewis, Reina. Muslim Fashion: Contemporary Style Cultures. Durham: Duke University Press 2015.

Mahmood, Saba.  Politics of Piety: The Islamic Revival and the Feminist Subject. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004.

Razack, Sherene H. Casting Out: The Eviction of Muslims from Western Law and Politics. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2008.

Scott, Joan Wallach. The Politics of the Veil. Princeton, NJ : Princeton University Press, 2007.

Shirazi, Faegheh. The Veil Unveiled: The Hijab in Modern Culture. University Press of Florida: Gainsville, 2001.

Taylor, Lisa K and Jasmin Zine, eds. Muslim Women, Transnational Feminism and the Ethics of Pedagogy: Contested Imaginaries in post-9/11 Cultural Practice. New York: Routledge: 2014.

Yeğenoğlu. Meyda. Colonial Fantasies: Towards a Feminist Reading of Orientalism. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

Zakaria, Rafia, Veil. New York: Bloomsbury 2017.

 

Related reading:

Hijab And Jilbab In the Quran: On The Hermeneutics Of The Quranic Verse Of Khimar

Hijab And Jilbab In the Quran: On The Hermeneutics Of The Quranic Verse Of Khimar

The Purpose of Hijab: Reclaiming The Narrative

The Purpose of Hijab: Reclaiming The Narrative

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keep supporting MuslimMatters for the sake of Allah

Alhamdulillah, we're at over 850 supporters. Help us get to 900 supporters this month. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Katherine Bullock is a Lecturer in the Department of Political Science, University of Toronto at Mississauga. Her teaching focus is political Islam from a global perspective, and her research focuses on Muslims in Canada, their history, contemporary lived experiences, political and civic engagement, debates on the veil, media representations of Islam and Muslims, and Muslim perspectives on Basic Income. She was the editor of the American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences from 2003–2008 and the Vice-President of The Association of Muslim Social Scientists (North America) from 2006–2009. Her most recent work is a pioneering study of Muslim philanthropy in Canada. Past publications include audience analysis studies of I Dream of Jeannie and Aladdin; Muslim Women Activists in North America: Speaking for Ourselves; and Rethinking Muslim Women and the Veil: Challenging Historical and Modern Stereotypes, which has been translated into Arabic, French, Malayalam, and Turkish. Over the last few decades, she has co-founded and sat on the boards of several grassroots organizations. She is currently President of Compass Books, dedicated to publishing top-quality books about Islam and Muslims in English. Originally from Australia, she lives in Oakville with her husband and children. She embraced Islam in 1994.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Trending