19 December 2009

Decision to Veil in the UK

"My choice of the veil is one of the most important personal decisions of my life. I was at school thinking about applying to university...In that kind of world I felt that it was imiportant to dress so that people would know I was a Muslim...My decision to wear the veil also ties into my feelings of coming from this different kind of background. We are a British family but because of Islam and our links with Pakistan we have different values and traditions from the families of my non-Muslim friends...I would feel completely exposed without my veil. It is liberating to have the freedom of movement and to be able to communicate with people without being on show. It's what you say that's important not what you look like...At the same time wearing the veil makes me feel special, it's a kind of badge of identity and a sign that my religion is important to me...I find it easier to mix and get around in public and not be bothered by lecherous stares or worse. But these are just advantages of a certain style of dress which doesn't draw attention to the body or fit the Western stereotypes of sexy clothes. They don't have anything specific to do with Islam, they have more to do with being female in a sexist and male dominated society where women are judged by how they look."

-Nadia, a British-Asian medical student who adopted the veil at the age of sixteen.

Extracts from Helen Watson, 'Women and the Veil: Personal Responses to Global Process', in Akbar S. Ahmed and Hastings Donnan (eds), Islam, Globalization and Postmodernity, London and New York; Routledge, 1994.