04 January 2010

Opinion on the Veil

"Why have young girls started to cover themselves in this new type of veil and dress like old women? I think that is just a trent, a fashion like any other.... Fifty years ago, girls were most interested in the fabrics, colours and designs which would attract a possible husband's interest... we only thout about clothes in this sense. It wasn't that hijab and modesty were unimportant, it was just that girls were not so serious about it... I do not think this new veiling is a religious duty. A woman's modest conduct is more important than what she wears... Although I have this opinion about the new veil being a trend which is not an essential part of Islam, I am not against what it stands for if it means that society is becoming more concerned with morality and turning against some of the modern ways and Western values which started to take hold...It is important for the Arab people to rediscover their own traditions and take pride in themselves... We have become used to seeing Western women almost naked in our streets and if, because of this, our women want to cover themselves in the new veil, then it is a welcome protest against indecency and our overwhelming past interest in all things foreign. The women who adopt the new veil do so for a number of reasons, but it should not be a matter of law, but one of personal choice."

-Fatima, a vegetable seller in Cairo, in her late seventies.

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.