Sunday, May 22, 2011

A quiet revolution by Leila Ahmed - review - The Guardian.

Jordanian vendor arranges headscarves for sale, in downtown AmmanA Jordanian vendor organizes the headscarf for sale in downtown Amman. Photography: Ali Jarekji/Reuters.

In 1955, historian Albert Hourani of Oxford published an article entitled "The Vanishing sail", predicting that the secular practice would soon disappear in Muslim societies. Over the previous half century, Oriental women in the Arab countries of the Mediterranean, led by the Egypt, had gradually abandoned their traditional coatings. At the time where a nostalgic isolated called for Gamal Abdel Nasser at a rally in 1962, asked to restore the wearing of the veil, the Egyptian President could dismiss him with the quip that he did not wish to "engage in battle with 25 million people" - people of the Egypt at the time.

More than 50 years later, many forms of hijab (Islamic headscarf or accompanying) are on the rise in the Muslim world and the West - and are therefore ineffective attempts of States to contain. A law banning face-covering public sails tickets recently came into force in France; The Germany has a partial ban on sailing for teachers. The Turkey has banned Islamic universities coatings; and Syria recently reversed a ban on headscarves to teachers of primary schools. Great Britain excluded a "burqa ban" project in 2010, but Islamic dress remains a reliable staple of controversy, the House of Commons for the Daily Mail ("Tower Hamlets Taliban: threats of death for women who don't wear veils" was a recent headline).

In a quiet revolution, Professor at Harvard divinity Leila Ahmed defines the context of this remarkable reversal and heated debate surrounding it. Ahmed, who grew up in Cairo in the 1940s and 1950s, was part of a generation of Muslim women for which will unveiled was a standard which was not related to their level of religious commitment. Exploring the changing attitudes to women's dress in Egypt, the cradle of the unveiling movement and return of sailing, throughout the 20th century, she tackles some of the questions if challenged by journalists and politicians. Why the veil did re-emerge in University and professional women? Is this really a symbol of female oppression? It doesn't mean the rejection of the West? Why it inspires such fear and repulsion?

The most fascinating and most incisive sections examine the roots of these issues in the intimate links between sailing and colonialism. Late 19th - and early 20th century colonial officials, the traditional forms of wear the veil and isolation were evidence of "degradation of women" by Islam, the religionof the inferior to Christianity and the absolute necessity of the Western domination on the companies that followed it back. In his book of 1908 modern Egypt, Lord Cromer, former consul general of the country, as opposed to these practices with the freedoms of the West. "The only restrictions placed on the movement [British woman]," he reflected humbly, "is those dictated by his own sense of propriety." (At home, at the same time, in his role as President of the League for opposing Woman Suffrage, male fulminé Cromer against the horrors of "the woman unsexed visiting the booth"). In Egypt, he put an end to the freedom of State primary for both sexes and denied education to the only school in the country for women doctors.)

These stories show how little rhetorical West around porter veil left. In disputes about the French ban, Nicolas Sarkozy described sails of face as "a sign of slavery and degradation", and Minister of immigration former Éric Besson labelled them a coffin of "walk". Now as at the time, Islamic dress is enlisted to serve as political opportunism. In the weeks following the invasion of the coalition of the Afghanistan in 2001, Laura Bush gave a radio address on "brutality against women and children by the network terrorist al-Qaeda and the regime that supports in Afghanistan" - for which the burqa has become a mental shortcut - while Cherie Blair has added that the burqa was "one of the crucial barriers [Afghan women] face". Sailing is still the subject of a tug of war ideological - as Ahmed puts a sign insoluble tension and confrontation between Islam and the West - and it could add within Islam itself.

In the 1920s to the 1960s, the unveiling was a symbol of the desire of the Egypt to emulate the success of scientific, policy and Western economic - the majority of Egyptians, Ahmed said that, had accepted the Western view of the veil as "barbaric." A quiet revolution provides a clear summary and speed of the changes that have led to his return: the decline of Arab socialism after 1967, pro-Western Saudi expansion of the influence of the ultraconservatives of Islam and the Muslim Brotherhood and the failure of economic policies. In the 1970s, disillusioned students and professionals were addressing an activist Islam - Islamism - which promised to renew social, moral and political. Observing strict dress became a way to display egalitarian principles and transmit the force and the authority of the carrier. A symbol of powerlessness, the sailing today, for some, has become a hallmark of liberation.

In the next few decades, the veil are gathered at a range of new meanings: from an expression of personal faith, solidarity with Palestine, Chechnya, Iraq or allegiance to the Muslim Ummah, to protection against sexual harassment, a fashion statement, a critique of Western "sexism", an appeal for the rights of minorities, an evangelical tool. Ahmed did not romanticise these justifications — it is clear on the growing pressure on women of Islamic organizations and preachers and families, peers and the media. But the quiet revolution is a timely reminder that the veil today is a symptom of less than one exotic fanaticism of a long political and cultural intermingling with the unveiled West.

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