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The Hijab: Constraint or Liberation

  • Date Submitted: 10/30/2011 04:08 PM
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7/18/10
The Hijab: Constraint or Liberation

“O believers, enter not the dwelling of the Prophet, unless invited…And when you ask of his wives anything, ask from behind a hijab. That is purer for your hearts and for their hearts.”
Qur’an (33:53)

The hijab is a garment worn by Muslin women which covers the entire body with the exception of the upper face and hands. In Arabic, the word hijab literally translates to screen, partition, curtain, or veil, and which also may refer to amulets carried by someone for protection against any type harm (Guindi 157). This specific form of bodily coverage was originally introduced as a stratification marker to distinguish between the upper nobles and lower class, the elites and the commoners. The Western translation of hijab to veil relays a completely different connotation. The term veil in modern language signals a harsh notion of seclusion and politically enforced inferiority of women in Muslim society. Something as seemingly simple as an article of clothing has caused immense divides between Islamic traditionalist views and Western feministic ideologies. Although the two sides may appear to be on opposite ends of the cultural spectrum, it is only through the understanding of both worlds and their foundations that the true issues behind the hijab may be uncovered and addressed.
The veil as a physical barrier has caused much debate as it acts as a literal visibility shield for those who cloak themselves beneath it. Julia Lustick, a graduate student in Philadelphia, commented in her article on the female veiling in Iran that, “[t]he veil cloaks women in a shroud of darkness, leaving them literally and metaphorically invisible to society.” The physical covering of the women in this society is acting as a silencing mechanism created by men, where, by making the women unseen, they are then unable to be heard and their opinions are not taken into any sort of consideration. This literal concealment of women makes...

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