The Veil in Their Minds and on Our Heads: Veiling Practices and Muslim Women

  • Homa Hoodfar


Muslim women, and particularly Middle Eastern and North African women, for the past two centuries have been one of the most enduring subjects of discussion in the Western media. I can also assert without hesitation that the issue of the veil and the oppression of Muslim women has been the most frequent topic of conversation and discussion I have been engaged in, often reluctantly, during some twenty years of my life in the Western world (mostly in the UK and Canada). Whenever I meet a person of white/European descent, I regularly find that as soon as he or she ascertains that I am Muslim/Middle Eastern/Iranian, the veil very quickly emerges as the prominent topic of conversation. This scenario occurs everywhere: in trains, at the grocery store, at the launderette, on the university campus, at parties. The range of knowledge of these eager conversants varies: some honestly confess total ignorance of Islam and Islamic culture or Middle Eastern societies; others base their claims and opinions on their experiences in colonial armies in the Middle East, or on their travels through the Middle East to India during the 1960s; still others cite as reference films or novels. What I find remarkable is that, despite their admitted ignorance on the subject, almost all people I have met are, with considerable confidence, adamant that women have a particularly tough time in Muslim cultures. Occasionally Western non-Muslim women will tell me they are thankful that they were not born in a Muslim culture.


Middle East Muslim Woman Muslim Community Iranian Woman Muslim Society 
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Copyright information

© Elizabeth A. Castelli 2001

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  • Homa Hoodfar

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