03 January 2010

Decision to Veil in France

"I did not think to wear the veil as a younger woman at home in Algiers, it was not important then. At the time my mother, aunts and sisters wore a western style of clothes and did not cover their hair or face...When my husband and I came to France,...I had to find employment...and there was no question that I would not wear a veil....It is important to me to keep my appearance private and not be stared at by strange men and foreigners...[Veiling] allows me more freedom and shows that I am a woman concerned about her modesty. The experience of being in a foreign place is unpleasant and difficult, and wearing the veil eases some of the problems... Sometimes wearing the veil means that you attract the attention of the French people who hate Islam, but experiences like this make me more proud of being an Arab and a Muslim...you also feel safe when wearing the veil in any kind of situation-it is a protection as well as a sign of love of Islam."

-Maryam, a middle-aged textile factory worker living in France.

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.