Identity is a complex and multifaceted concept. For Arab Americans, self-identity becomes a carefully balanced, personal reconciliation of one’s Arab ancestry and American residency. But identity is decided by more than just cultural factors; identity is influenced by many components from one’s current life and one’s past as well. Religion, gender, family, ideology, education, environment, friends, occupation, and interests all play a role in the shaping of an individual’s identity.

In the face of competing, and sometimes clashing, cultural forces, Arab Americans face the by no means small challenge of forging a new identity for themselves, usually one that draws on aspects of both Arab and American culture and tradition. For women, finding that sense of identity can sometimes be even more difficult, as women must endure the stereotypes, cultural expectations, and even at times oppression and discrimination of those around them.

For Arab American women, a prominent identity-related topic is Veiling. The choice to wear or not to wear the hijab is a huge decision in a Muslim American woman’s life, and one that will likely reflect her inner sense of identity and impact the way others see and identify her.

For more information on veiling history and the debate surrounding modern veiling practices, visit ReOrienting the Veil.