At The Frontline Club in Paddington on Wednesday night, Professor Leila Ahmed talked about her new book, “A Quiet Revolution”, which looks carefully at the resurgence of the veil in the Islamic world and what that means for the West.
During the evening, Professor Ahmed emphasised that wearing the hijab was not necessarily related to piety - meaning that wearing it does not automatically establish someone as profoundly religious and likewise, that not wearing it, does not mean a less devout attitude towards Islam. Some wear it as a reminder of their faith or because they believe it to represent a commitment to God. Others wear it to show solidarity to their community or see it as a symbol of respect and protection. Some even view it as a means of support to the Palestinian cause or a way to refute a government ban.
An interesting focus of her research has been the hijab as a form of activism - a way to rebel and make a statement: “In many occasions the veil represents a sign of protest and often of liberation”. She noted that the hijab is a controversial subject because it is often linked with the oppression and subjugation of women. However, Professor Ahmed states that for many women, the hijab is not a sign of oppression and that the banning of the veil in places like Egypt in the 1990s has proved itself to be equally as restrictive and counter-productive as it discriminates against a minority.
She argues strongly that many Muslim women in Western society wear the hijab as a symbol of choice and empowerment - a quiet revolution, as the title of her book suggests.
With dry humour and sharp wit, she quipped how boring a subject the veil has become for many Muslim women. As she highlighted, there does seem to be an unnecessary focus on what Muslim women wear that is not comparable to that of other communities or faiths.
The hijab carries several connotations, which are now clearly evolving over time – as are opinions regarding it.
“I don’t want to romanticise the hijab. The things I am saying only have meaning where there’s freedom to choose. Women are deciding what the veil means to them but not all women can choose. The freedom to make it mean what you want it to is Western.” – Professor Leila Ahmed
Injury, reflection drove mother of nine back to school.
The realization came to Deborah Rashada while she was lying flat out in bed with a broken ankle, staring at the ceiling.
Until then, every ounce of her had been dedicated to the happiness of her family. She raised nine children and had her soul mate by her side to prove it.
She graduated from Butler High School in 1978, skipped college to marry at 18 and never stopped to worry about herself until that day in 2005 when she toppled like a bowling pin from her roller blades.
“I was lying in bed with a broken ankle feeling sorry for myself,” Rashada said. “I was very satisfied being a wife and mother, but I wanted more for myself. I asked myself ‘Is this the best I can do?’ “
It wasn’t, and as soon as she could walk again, Rashada, not quite 50, enrolled in college.
In 2007, Rashada graduated from the Georgia Military College where she earned an associate’s degree in education. The real challenge was when she continued her studies at Paine College to pursue a bachelor’s in education.
A 32-year-old Saudi Arabian who has crusaded for women to drive in her country said she was stopped Saturday for driving a car, even though there is no law against it.
Manal al Sharif, a mother of a 5-month-old boy, told CNN that authorities released her and then tried to detain her again early Sunday.
Al Sharif supports Women2Drive, an initiative endorsing the right of women to drive and travel freely in Saudi Arabia. She said traffic and religious police detained her for six hours Saturday after they spotted her driving in Khobar. She said she was forced to sign a form promising not to drive again, and then was allowed to go home.
She told CNN that lawyers are trying to stop police from detaining her for a second time. A Women2Drive tweet later said that al Sharif and her brother had been taken from their Khobar residence to a police station.
“As a Muslim feminist woman of color, I cannot relate to Slutwalks as it caters mostly to the definition of emancipation set by white women. Slutwalks deviate in terms of delivering the message against sexual assault. It turns a blind eye to women of cultures where flimsy clothes don’t necessarily lead to rapes. Muslim women get raped too. Nassim Elbardouh is right. “Do Not Rape” Walk sounds better. This isn’t to say that I don’t support Slutwalks. I simply can’t relate to a liberating movement that does not liberate nor acknowledge me. Western feminism, despite its undeniable achievements, still perpetuates the image of a white woman as the liberated one. If these feminists do claim to represent all women, they need to understand the dynamics of the cultures other women hail from. Don’t care if you’re wearing a thong or burka, no one has the right to rape you. Burka clad brown Muslim women get raped too. Represent us. I want a movement that represents me regardless of my color and creed. End victim blaming and rape culture by representing everyone.”—Mehreen Kasana (via intoxicatedspirit)
A Saudi mother said Sunday she defied a ban on women drivers in the ultra-conservative kingdom by getting behind the wheel for four days without being stopped.
Najla al-Hariri, a housewife in her mid-30s, said she drove non-stop for four days in the streets of the Red Sea city of Jeddah “to defend her belief that Saudi women should be allowed to drive.”
“I don’t fear being arrested because I am setting an example that my daughter and her friends are proud of,” Hariri told AFP, adding she was offering driving lessons for women.
Hariri said she was an experienced motorist as she had driven for five years in Egypt and another five years in Lebanon, while she could not drive in her own country.
In addition to being banned from driving, Saudi women cannot travel without authorisation from their male guardians, and are also not allowed to vote in the municipal elections, the only public polls in the absolute monarchy.
When in public, they are obliged to cover from head to toe.
Hariri ridiculed the social belief that Saudi women are treated “like queens” as they are driven around by their male relatives or drivers, saying “this is a big lie.”
“We are always under their mercy to give us a lift,” she said.
Meanwhile, a group of Saudi women have launched a Internet-based campaign calling for a nationwide protest drive on June 17 in a bid to get rid of the ban once and for all.
“On Friday June 17th, we women in Saudi will start driving our cars by ourselves,” says the Women2Drive page on Twitter.
The page for the event on Facebook is entitled “I will drive starting June 17” and has 1,998 supporters.
“We’ve grown so used to hearing non-Muslims speak for Muslim women, dissecting their decisions about dress, behavior, belief and identity, and this worries me — I want my daughter to be able to speak for herself. I want people to accept her reasoning and the choices she makes, rather than dismiss her as oppressed or ignorant. She will not be ignorant. I don’t think there’s a Muslim woman alive today who can afford ignorance. I hope people will recognize that she is perfectly capable of speaking for herself.”—
There always seems to be a fascination with how Muslim women cover. Whether they wear a hijab, a niqab, or the full-on burqa, the intrigue around it never seems to be abate. The interest goes beyond why they cover to why some Muslim women do not cover, and more specifically to why a Muslim woman would put on a hijab and then take it off.
NPR did a story on April 21st called “Lifting the Veil: Muslim Women Explain Their Choice.” The story focused on several Muslim women who had chosen to remove the veil after wearing it for a period of time. It also included a multimedia section where you could listen to each woman’s story and see them with the scarf and without.
There are a number of issues that caught my attention with this story. First, the title. There must be hundreds of books and articles with titles like: behind the veil, underneath the veil, lifting the veil. As a reader, you already know from the first part of the title that most likely the focus of the story will be on Muslim women. Why? Because Muslim women seem to be almost entirely defined by the veil. While the veil is important in some discussions of Islam, Muslim women are concerned with more than just the question of covering.
Second, the images of before and after were a little disconcerting because in a way it relayed the message that by removing the veil, these Muslim women were somehow liberated. In other words, it was as if they were lifting a burden (i.e., the veil). Some of these women may in fact feel that way, but I don’t understand how the before and after shots help the reader understand their decisions. It just seems to feed into the fascination with veiling and unveiling in a very public manner.
Third, according to the article, 43% of Muslim women in America wear the veil all the time and 48% do not cover their heads. Since, the numbers are fairly close, a story that really explores the idea of veiling should have included women who choose to veil as well. The way the story is set up gives the impression that what is interesting is why a Muslim women removes her veil because we already know why Muslim women choose to cover.
The choice of Muslim women to veil or not is entirely personal. The question for me with this story is why the continued fascination with only one facet of Muslim identity, especially when it comes to women? The veil does not and should not define Muslim women, but if a story focuses on the veil it should be more nuanced and address the myriad reasons why a women would choose to veil, choose not to veil, or choose to remove the veil. Then, one could understand the complexity and personal nature of the veil and one aspect of a Muslim woman’s identity.
On Thursday, al-Obeidy fled Libya and crossed into Tunisia with the help of a defecting military officer and his family. According to CNN, al-Obeidy left Tripoli in a military car, hidden under a head cover. Although the car was stopped at various checkpoints, al-Obeidy…