Parsing the Veil

By Christina Huh

In the midst of the battle over Muslim head coverings– most recently, the Dutch government’s proposed ban on the burqa – a variety of Muslim views have begun to appear in the press.

Writing for the Los Angeles Times, British journalist Zaiba Malik decided to spend a day in full modest garb: hijab, the curve-hiding abaya, and the face-covering niqab. She details her day in an op-ed piece called, “The veil: too obviously hidden.” While Malik did not find the experience particularly enjoyable—in fact, she felt it was isolating and almost traumatic—she finds a new respect for women who don the modest wear.

But Harvard student Nadia Gaber does not think there is any solid justification for what she sees as a “physical symbol of self-denigration.” Gaber writes in an op-ed published in the Crimson, the Harvard student newspaper, that she began to question the role of the veil in Islamic society when she spent a summer in Egypt. In “Why I Won’t Veil” she argues that Muslim women’s decision to wear their “modesty, humility, and purity on their sleeves” does a great “disservice to God by underestimating and neglecting his greatest of creations: mankind’s faculty of reason.” Even worse, she believes, are the women who submit to the veil from societal pressures.

Meanwhile, the Dutch may have found a Muslim supporter in their call for the ban of the veil. Egyptian Foreign Minister Farouk Hosni denounced the veil to be “regressive” in an interview with the independent daily newspaper, Al Masri Al Yom. “Each woman with her beautiful hair is like a flower, and should not be concealed from the view of others,” he said, and called upon the days when the women of his mother’s generation went scarf-less. “Religion today focuses on appearances too much,” he said.

Christina Huh is a student at the University of Southern California.