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Muslim Women Speak Up About the Veil

Adam Jones

Rarely do articles of clothing receive as much attention as the Muslim headscarf does in the 2000s. In quite a strange twist, the glances and questions that women who wear the headscarf, in non-Muslim majority societies receive is many times in contradiction with one of the purposes of the veil, which is to not draw attention to oneself.
Banu Gökarıksel, a professor of Geography at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, spoke with guest host Isaac-Davy Aronson about the assumptions surrounding headscarves and the Muslim women who where them. “When a woman is veiled in a recognizably Muslim way, she is immediately taken as representative of all of Muslim women,” Banu says. “The veil is also perceived as a sign of oppression of women. But in my research I find women quite actively involved in their own veiling, and do not see it as a sign of oppression at all.”

And many Muslim women are not silent about this issue. Sahar Amer, professor of Asian Studies and French and Francophone studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, discusses the art that “progressive Muslim” women are making in order to dismantle stereotypes people have of them both in and outside of the Arab world. The assertion of their voice spans anywhere from portraiture to poetry to stand up comedy.

“There is new hijab poetry genre that has emerged that talks about veiling from the perspectives of Muslim women and their struggle to fight the stereotypes that non-Muslims have about them, oppressed, as suicide bombers, as sexualized." Sahar notes. "But also the stereotypes that many Muslims have regarding the specificity of the conservative clothing they must wear. “

Banu Gökarÿksel and Sahar Amer are both organizers of the conference and webspace “ReOrientingthe Veil.” The conference taking place today and tomorrow at UNC-Chapel Hill, which creates a space to explore veiling through many lenses. 

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Isaac-Davy Aronson is WUNC's morning news producer and can frequently be heard on air as a host and reporter. He came to North Carolina in 2011, after several years as a host at New York Public Radio in New York City. He's been a producer, newscaster and host at Air America Radio, New York Times Radio, and Newsweek on Air.