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Misconceptions about the Veil

Discuss about the Significance of the Veil.

The topic under study is the significance of the veil where a discussion will be drawn from an anthropological perception. The essay will be based on the ground of two important question often asked in the Middle-Eastern societies. There are many misconceptions about the purpose of the veil worn by the women that will be critically analyzed followed by the opinion of the outsiders and the insiders of the culture. A critical discussion will be drawn linking the use of the veil and women’s social position in the Middle Eastern societies. Various articles have been studied to form a conceptual background of the topic and carry out the discussion. Some of the important articles that are used in this context are A look behind the veil, Conflict and conformity, Core concept in Cultural and Women in the Middle East: perceptions, realities and struggles for liberation.

A culture is carried out by many traits that are particularly seen in that culture. It is the means that can distinguish the culture from other such groups. Clothing is one of them that culture carries. Different cultures have different clothing patter which distinguishes them from others. As the blue jeans are known to be a trait of American culture, the veil on the other hand is worn by the Middle Eastern women. Many western writers showed curiosity about the veils and the pardahs used in the Middle Eastern societies to hide their women and keep them separated. There are many misconceptions among the westerns regarding the practice of veil in the Middle Eastern society. They believe that it is solely a sign of women’s subjection to men which is not completely correct. Light will be thrown in the matter in the essay. These dress patterns are just an outward manifestation of the cultural practices and the meaning. The reason behind this practice is rooted deep into the cultural history of Mediterranean and Southwest Asian society. The woman wearing veil believes that it symbolizes their devotion and piety. This is a question of identity and self expression to them. Historically, veil was only worn by only the upper class women to show their status in the society. It was present long before the time of Muhammad.  There is also different type of veils present in different societies. It is hijab in Arab, Niqab if the Gulf States, Chador in Iran and burqa in Afganistan. The working class women on the other hand did not wear veil as they were counted as an economic unit of the family. The historical appearance of the veil was established during Muhammad, when his wives got insulted on a number of occasions by the people coming to the mosque in search of the prophet as mistaken them with the slaves (Lavenda & Schultz, 2010). There was also a concept of economic affordability, where it states that only the rich could afford the veil where as the poor could not.

Different Types of Veils in Different Societies


The extreme examples can be drawn from the Turkey sultans. Their wives used to wear veils and were protected by the by guards (Fernea, & Fernea, 1979). On the other hand, a connection can be drawn in the religious aspect and the protection of women where it is believed to keep away all the evil in the world. It distinguish public sector from the private one. A veil serves more the than its protective function where it is used to conceal the identity of the person. In Arabic, veil is referred as hijab which comes from hajaba. It is an amulet used to keep away the evil eyes. The gate keeper and the doore keepers in government buildings are called hijabs. Among the multiple functions of the veil, is to protect the women from the men as the men of the society is unable to control their sexuality. Men are easily attracted, and hence are a dangerous to the social order. The women in Middle East look upon seclusion as practical protection. A practical experiment was done by Elizabeth where one of the researchers wore veil and noticed it to provide a great sense of protection from praying yes, dust, heat, flies and many more (Fernea, & Fernea, 1979). Family also comes into consideration in this particular topic. The male and female honor is both involved in the honor of the family. Honor of the woman is considered as private matter involving only one thing that is her sexual chastity. Once lost cannot be regained. Hence, it is kept private by using this method. Masculine aspect of the use of veil cannot also be overlooked as it plays a significant role in the matter. Veil also safeguards the interest of the male of the society. It shows the power of domination over women in the society, as the use of veil came out in a patrilineal society. Various believe are highlighted in the above discussion regarding the use of veil in the Middle Eastern society. There are different parameters regarding the matter including historical, religious and other aspects that are discussed. Hence, cultural aspect of the veil signifies not only women’s subjection of men, but have other significant purposes. So, it can be said that the concept that prevails among the western culture is not completely right and it has nothing to do with male domination in the society and has a broader significance in the society.

Historical Significance of Veil in the Middle-Eastern Societies


The veil has become a focus of attraction in the western population in the present generation. The French government had for forbidden state school students from wearing conspicuous religious symbols which includes the veil worn by the Muslims in France. They have a law prohibiting the use of veil as it conceals the identity of the individual. Proper actions were recommended for the police on finding anyone with veil in public. The reason behind the western culture opposing the veil is due to the symbol of oppression and limitation of individual’s freedom. This is due to lack of cultural exposure of the western population. Dress code for Pentagon was strict in banning Islamic bears and turbans. The schools in the western countries prohibits students from wearing veil to make sure the secularized public sphere does not have any religious interference, which led the other students to mock the girl with a hijab to mark being difference. Another core conception of western population is the equality. Due to this notion, the veil is treated as manifestation of gender inequality as only the Muslim women have to wear it. As the American population believes they have liberated women, they consider the covered faces and bodies of veiled women as constrained. People of western world the veiled women under the authorization of their male counterpart. This conception leads to the belief that the women in veil needs to be saved (Lavenda & Schultz, 2010).

In contrast to this idea, the Middle Eastern population believes that the veil works as strength to the women who wear it. It declares the limitation and protects them from any outside threats. At the same time, it also states the status of the women in the society. They believe it has nothing to do with the male domination in the society.

9/11 is the devastating day for the American and the rest of the world when world’s longest towers were destructed in terrorist attack. This made the western world generalize and build a notion that hijab is the symbol of terrorist which is completely wrong. They believed that Islam is the symbol of operation and the women in veil need to be freed from them. The western and the world often confused the terrorist the Al-Quida, with the Muslim population (Fernea, & Fernea, 1979; Spradley & McCurdy, 2012).


Another negative notion of the western population is built due to the concept of beauty in their mind. They believe that women’s beauty lies in how comfortable she feels nude. The women in western world are associated with body and men are with mind. Hence, covering one’s body with veil is seen from the top down approach by the western, especially American population. Enculturation had its impact on many women residing in the western countries and made them stop using the veil in public. Some of them also believe that religion has nothing to do with their veil and they are leading similar life as they used to with the veil. The recent development in the case of veil is seen among the women, especially who are residing in the western countries. Many refuse to wear the veil and enjoy similar social status (Afshar, 2016).

Women's Social Position in the Middle Eastern Societies

On contrary, Islam thinks that their beauty should be concealed when outside their home. It also works as a barrier between the men and the women. The veil is also a religious symbol of Islam. The focus should also be given on the reason behind the women in veil. Though there are different perceptions at present time regarding the veil in the Middle East, some common reasons can be marked out. Some wear the veil out of obligation as it represents as good Muslim. The veil is used as litmus test to determine the piety of Muslim women in the Middle Eastern society. The level of social prestige within the Muslim community is dependable on wearing of veil. It also shows their faith in the susceptible to discrimination in secular Western society. Whoever follows the rule of veiling are often perceived as conveying a greater passion in their observation of Islamic practices (Lavenda & Schultz, 2010).  The use of veil is directly related with the women’s social position in Middle Eastern society. It is an integral part and cannot be separated. The trait is present in the society before the appearance of Muhammad, but his appearance made the veil an integral part of the society and now an integral part of the Muslim culture. The people believe that, the veil fulfills the purpose of guarding the women’s honor. The veil works as a symbol that puts restriction in men’s behaviour as well as women’s (Fernea, & Fernea, 1979). It works as a signal to prevent anyone from harming them. Anyone who approaches veiled women seeks nothing but danger upon himself in Middle East. The proof of social status is seen in the history itself, where only the rich could use this practice. It is a luxury for the Muslim community what the poor families couldn’t afford. This at the same time represents the status of the woman and the wealth of his male counterpart in the society. A woman with veil in Middle East is considered to belong from a family with high status and class (Spradley & McCurdy, 2012).


The essay is based on the argument of the use of veil in the Middle East societies and the view that is possessed by the Western societies regarding the matter. The views of both the societies are completely contradictory in the matter. The first part of the essay discuss on the cultural background of the veil in the society. Different aspects of the culture and the religious practices of the society are discussed briefly. It provides a clarification to the misconception that prevails in western society. Focus has been given on the historical background, defending the concept of male domination in the society. The second part of the essay is contributed to the comparison of the western and the Middle Eastern mindset regarding the issue. Social, cultural and political issues have been discussed. Both the perception regarding beauty, security, impact of male domination in the matter and the political issues are briefly explained.  At the end of the essay, discussion has been done on the social status that of women with veil in the Middle Eastern society. The veil carries a significant role in women’s status in the society. It has been observed throughout the history which is discussed in the essay

References

Afshar, H. (Ed.). (2016). Women in the Middle East: perceptions, realities and struggles for liberation. Springer.

Fernea, E. W., & Fernea, R. A. (1979). A look behind the veil. Human Nature, 2(1), 68-77.

Lavenda, R. H., & Schultz, E. A. (2010). Core concepts in cultural anthropology. McGraw-Hill.

Spradley, J. P., & McCurdy, D. W. (2012). Conformity and conflict: Readings in cultural anthropology. Jill Potash.

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