Women > Veiling

Image by Hamed Saber

All around the world, the debate about hijab takes many forms. Many believe that the veil is a way to protect personal liberty in a world that objectifies women. Women of this point of view have argued that hijab allows them freedom of movement and control of their bodies. Understood in such terms, hijab protects women from the male gaze and grants them a degree of autonomy. However, others have argued that the veil only provides the illusion of protection and serves to absolve men of any responsibility for controlling their own behavior. Most women who wear the hijab are proud to do so; rather than creating a barrier, they see it as opening up doors to communication. In addition to their Muslim identity, these “hijabis” also get in touch with their feminine side, sporting new fashions, bright colors and trendy ways to wear hijab.

Ghada Amer, Borka' 1997. Silk and black pearls: 80.6 x 70.5 centimeters. © Ghada Amer, courtesy Cheim and Read, New York.

Fashion is a form of self-expression, and one that is often engaged in to attract attention. For many, the veil, or hijab, is exactly the opposite. Veiling is about modesty and attracting as little attention as possible. But modern women who wear hijab may still want to look stylish and fit in with the current trends while simultaneously dressing modestly. Today a growing number of Muslim women are successfully finding ways of blending the two objectives, often adding a dose of acceptable fashion to their traditional apparel.

For Westerners there is often confusion concerning the different forms and styles of hijab seen on Muslim women around the world. A question quite frequently asked by individuals unfamiliar with Islamic culture is: “What is the hijab and why do women wear it?

Find out more about the History of the hijab, the veil ban controversy, and Muslim women fashions.