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Islam and the Veil: Theoretical and Regional Contexts

No matter how many attempts there have been to clarify the significance of the Islamic veil it remains a hotly contested issue. In Western civilizational discourse it is taken to be a symbol of women’s oppression and, beyond that, of Islam’s inability to grant gender equality and so of its followers’ unsuitability for membership in the countries of secular/Christian Europe. In an ironic transformation of its literal meaning as a curtain or screen to preserve modesty by segregating the sexes, the hijab has become, for its critics, the flag of an Islamist insurgency.

 

No matter how many attempts there have been to clarify the significance of the Islamic veil it remains a hotly contested issue. In Western civilizational discourse it is taken to be a symbol of women’s oppression and, beyond that, of Islam’s inability to grant gender equality and so of its followers’ unsuitability for membership in the countries of secular/Christian Europe. In an ironic transformation of its literal meaning as a curtain or screen to preserve modesty by segregating the sexes, the hijab has become, for its critics, the flag of an Islamist insurgency.

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