Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Discussion Points for Homa Hoodfar's "The Veil in Their Minds and On Our Heads"

Information About The Article:

Homa Hoodfar illuminates the reader with the origins of the various veils worn by Muslim women and explains the ways in which the veil has been used by both Westerners and Muslims alike to facilitate their own person goals for either continued oppression or liberation. As Hoodfar states “veiling is a lived experience full of contradictions and multiple meanings” (Pg. 5).  Some women wear it because it is so socially ingrained that a proper women wears it and that to do otherwise makes them feel naked.  Some women wear it to fight the oppressive colonial influence in the Middle East and North Africa.  Some women wear it as a symbol of feminine empowerment.  Hoodfar points out that the veil is not directly forced by Islam, and instead has been adopted through interpretations of religious text.  The misconceptions and misinterpretations of the veil and it’s actual place in Islam and Muslim culture illustrates the underlying ignorance and racism of Western culture towards Muslims.  The Western patriarchy uses the veil as a way to show how good women in the west have it, and they should be grateful they aren’t oppressed in such a way, thus reinforcing the patriarchy.  This is mentality then permeates Western feminists and they in turn try to implement their feminist belief structures on Third World Women, with no care for these women’s actual desires for equality, thus perpetuating the oppression and ignorance. As Homa Hoodfar explains this forces Muslim women  to choose between fighting racism and fighting sexism, and in her opinion they shouldn't have to choose at all.

Questions For The Class:

Before reading this article did you know the history of veiling, or the realities of the practice?
How far have we come since the 90’s in regards to understanding veiling and the various ways in which it is used considering how veiling has since been outlawed in some countries in the West? 
Do you believe countries have a right to ban veiling?
Do you believe veiling to be oppressive and a reinforcement of a patriarchal system?

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