In an article written by Elizabeth W. Fernea and Robert A. Fernea, the authors go inside the meanings and interpretations of the veil, which has many names in different areas of the world, worn by women in the Middle East. It has been a long debate among people in the United States regarding the core restrictions of the veil, and whether or not it should be seriously looked at as a demeaning symbol of inequality among women. It was very interesting to read about the comments that women gave who were asked questions pertaining to their own view of the veil, and also women here in the U.S. When a westerner looks at the practice of wearing a veil which covers all but the eyes of a Middle Eastern woman, it is pretty common to react with a look of shock and wonder why something like this has been allowed to continue. They are being treated so unfairly! The men are suppressing the women, it seems so disrespectful, etc… What westerners lack in these cases is an understanding of the people themselves, and where this practice comes from. It is a key part of the Muslim religion for the woman to cover herself up in order to get rid of several bad things. First of all, in covering the woman from head to toe, there is no temptation given off for the young men, and consequently the woman is kept safe from the wandering eyes that lead to a temptation of the moral center of a devout Muslim male. It also provides a woman with the ability to represent herself and have herself judged by the way she presents herself, not in the way she looks. People learn to identify the women based on who they are. Another important thing to understand is that the veil, in many areas, represents a certain status. Women who are able to wear the veil present themselves to be on a certain level of society. They are not the women who have to work alongside the men to keep up economically, for it is true these women would not be able to afford such commodities. So in this way, it is a way for the women to promote their own views of social status.
When asked about the veil and what its meaning is for them, there are many women, if not the majority, who prefer to wear the veil in Middle Eastern countries. For them it is a simple sign of religious commitment, as well as a socially enacted ritual, just like the use of high heels in American culture. It is also a type of protection, as mentioned earlier from sexual predators, and immoral thoughts against a woman.
Some of my initial thoughts were directed towards those in the US who choose to make immediate moral judgments about the wearing of the veil. How can we sit from our point of view and make judgments about a culture we can’t possibly understand the way they have for generations? We are the melting pot of diversity in the world. When diversity is here in the US, we fight for equality and justice towards those individuals in the minority; African American struggles in the 60’s, gay rights, gay marriage, women equality, etc… But on the other side of world we see an element of diversity like the veil and judge it to be something immoral and something to be corrected. I think we as Americans should learn to try and see things through the eyes of those who behave in the manner we are questioning, and try to understand that there are ways of life that are just as natural to those practitioners as our ways of life are to us.
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