The "Veil" Debates

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Annotated Bibliography | Other Topics | Syllabus

The Story of the "Covered Girl"

by Destiny Davis

In our society we tend to have the mindset that women who choose to veil are those who are stripped of their rights to express themselves as women, or as some people would put it- oppressed. The western views of veils are often shaped by the extreme use of veils in some countries, such as Afghanistan, where women do have to face extreme patriarchal ideals. As a society it is important for us to take a moment and think about the different circumstances women who choose to veil face. Throughout our project, we found it essential to explore the political and social factors of the veil, practiced by women of different faiths. In essence we aimed to reveal why the “veil debate” is indeed taboo by connecting it to personal stories across the globe.

For the most part, when the topic of the “veil debate” is mentioned, we usually tend to think about Muslim women who wear hijabs or niqabs (hijabs being the traditional head covering where the face is exposed while the niqab covers the entire face and only the woman's eyes are exposed). We rarely tend to think about other cultures or religions where women have some sort of head covering as well, such as nuns and Hasidic Jewish women, who decide to shave their heads after they are married and wear wigs or simple handkerchiefs.

Nuns within the Catholic faith wear a habit, which is the head covering that is worn as a dedication to God, as well as to demonstrate their unity as a group and show that fashion is not important. Women who are a part of the Orthodox Jewish community, who decide to shave their head and wear a wig or a handkerchief, do so to coincide with the principles of “tzenuit” (modern dress) within their faith. Even though all Hasidic women do not go to these extremes, many women still feel covering their hair to be necessary because of their faith. Seeing that it is not only in the Muslim faith that women wear head coverings, why does it seem like the debates always tend to focus on Muslim women?

As stated earlier, in western culture women who chose to veil are usually viewed as oppressed and the victims of extreme patriarchal practices, which makes it unsurprising that, in March of 2004, France became the first European country to ban the wearing of the veil in public, reasons being from France's President Nicolas Sarkozy that the veil “imprisons” women and goes against the secular nation's values of dignity and equality. When taking a closer look at the law itself, we see how French government officials were able to tip-toe around this ban since they did not mention “women,” “Muslim,” or “veil.” Instead the law outlawed covering one's face in public spaces. In addition to this, French government officials made sure to mention other faith-based clothing choices, such as the Jewish Kippa and large Christian crosses. In other countries, such as Tunisia and Turkey, the veil has been banned for quite some time, but the difference is that these countries limited the ban to certain institutions, such as schools or government buildings.

It is not a secret, however, that there are women who are faced with being forced to wear veils, ranging from hijabs to burqas (covers the entire body from head to toe, with a mesh covering for the eyes) since there are countries that do use religious practices to reinforce patriarchy. Unfortunately, for women who live in Afghanistan under the Taliban's rule, wearing a Burqa is only the least of their worries. Women have to deal with other restrictions, such as studying at any educational institution, not being able to go outside the home without being accompanied by a close male relative, and being victims of violence if they do step outside of the many restrictions that govern their lives on a daily basis.

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Annotated Bibliography

News Sources and Blogs

"BBC News | Europe | Headscarf Deputy Stripped of Turkish Citizenship."   BBC News - Home . 15 May 1999. Web. 28 Apr. 2011. <>. (Visit Site)

A women deputy from Turkey was stripped of her Turkish citizenship, because she wore a headscarf to a ceremony in parliament. In Turkey headscarf are ban from being worn in public.

BBC NEWS | Europe | Muslim Girl Shaves Head over Ban."   BBC News - Home ., 01 Oct. 2004. Web. 28 Apr. 2011. <>. (Visit Site)

France instates new laws banning religious symbols from public schools, including Islamic veil (head scarf, bandanna, and beret), a Jewish skullcap, a large Christian cross and a Sikh turban. The aim of this law was to enforcing France's republican ideal of secularism . A French Muslim girl in reaction to this law, shaves her hair as a form of protest of this ban.

Brothen, Tanya. "Wearing the Veil in the United States ." Blogs. 25 Nov. 2010. Web. 06 Apr. 2011. <>. (Visit Site)

This article follows teenage Rowaida Addelaziz of New Jersey, to show that the wearing the Hijab is about choice and not about being submissive. Increasing awareness and changing the attitudes about head coverings, she hopes will alter the negative feelings towards Muslim women, and towards personal freedom.

CNN, John Blake. " Muslim Women Uncover Myths about the Hijab - CNN." Featured Articles from CNN. 12 Aug. 2009. Web. 06 Apr. 2011. <>. (Visit Site)

As veil-wearing is debated (and sometimes outlawed) in countries around the world, the U.S. Department of Justice is working to enforce laws that allow women to express their religious beliefs. All Americans have freedom of religion and freedom of expression, and this includes the right for Muslim women to wear the veil.

Ravve, Ruth. "Muslim Women in U.S. Struggle to Balance Western Freedoms and Islamic Culture - Local News | News Articles | National News | US News -" - Breaking News | Latest News | Current News . Mar.-Apr. 2009. Web. 09 Apr. 2011. <,2933,511275,00.html>. (Visit Site)

Thousands of Muslim women have come to the United States for a better life however, Muslim women say they're constantly caught balancing their lives between the freedoms they have in Western culture and the restrictions they face from religious and societal pressure. They worry about whether they're following the habits of "a good Muslim woman."

Scholarly Sources

De Groot, Joanna. “What goes around comes around”; Veiling, Women's Bodies, and Orientalisms' Past and Present” . History/Women's studies Article: 1-19.

Debates on the veil have been shaped by political, along with religious and secular confrontations, which continue to be debated, within the social societies of the west and the east.

Haddad, Yvonne Yazbeck, Jane I. Smith, and Kathleen M. Moore. Muslim Women in America: the Challenge of Islamic Identity Today . New York: Oxford UP, 2006. Print.

Tensions between Muslims and American Society in general should not be overstated. What follows in this book describes not only the problems Muslims encounter but also the opportunities enjoyed by many American Muslim women to define their own identities and determine their own destinies.

Lazreg, Marnia. Questioning the Veil: Open Letters to Muslim Women . Princeton: Princeton UP, 2009. Print.

Marnia focuses on letters that are from women whose religion is Islam and who either have taken up the veil or are thinking of wearing it. These letters are relevant to all people, women and men, seeking to understand the human experience. Marnia also discusses the perspective that the veil has traditionally be perceived, as well as political and social from both the western and eastern cultures, and the struggles that women who wear the veil have endured.

Video Sources

True Life: Resist the Power! Saudi Arabia, aired on MTV on May 24th 2010, (Visit Site)

YouTube - A Campaign for Me, Episode 1: A Special Kind of Person."   YouTube - Broadcast Yourself.   Acampaignforme, 09 Aug. 2010. Web. 28 Apr. 2011. <>. (Visit Site)

This series focuses on the moderate woman who use veils, and how they have come to the decision to wear the veil, as well as the reason why.

Personal Interviews

Alkhatib, Amira (April 12, 2011). Alkhatib is a 21 year old Biology student at the University. She does not wear the head covering, but she is a practicing Muslim.

AloTaibi, Sara (April 12, 2011). AloTaibi is a 21 year old English student at the University, who is a practicing Muslim. She was raised mostly in Saudi Arabia. She does not wear the head covering.

Ames, Anita (April 12, 2011). Ames was born in Brooklyn, and is an African American woman. She is also a junior at the University.

Creegan, Nick (April 12, 2011). Creegan is a non-Muslim, who is a student at the University, he is 19 years old. He was also born in the United States.

Khan, Javerea (April 12, 2011). Khan is Pakistani who is a practicing Muslim. She is a sophomore at the university.

Noori, Zeinab (April 12, 2011). Noori is an Afghani/American who was born in America, and who is a practicing Muslim. She is 20 years old, and a student at the university. She wears the headscarf, and used to practice niqaab at an earlier stage.

Map Sources (Visit Site) (Visit Site) (Visit Site) (Visit Site)

Team Members: Paula Brown, Destiny Davis, Shelby France, Celine Cauderlier, Sharmin Hossain, and Jill Kuklis.