The Islamic Paradox

Why hijab? Is it simply its visibility that makes it such a target for critique or are people drawn to this debate because of what it symbolizes? Someone told me soon after I arrived how the clothing (here, in Turkey) served as a barrier between non-Muslim and Muslim women, making nonengagement the only option and leading to a kind of invisibility in which veiled women ceased to be seen by other women.
Brooks brings several views to bear on hijab, representing various strains of hadith, tradition, and scholarly thought. Ultimately, she argues that “the paradox between sexual license and repression” (42) is played out here:
“In Muslim societies men’s bodies just weren’t seen as posing the same kind of threat to social stability as women’s. Getting to the truth of hijab was a bit like wearing it: a matter of layers to be stripped away, a piece at a time. In the end, under all the concealing devices &emdash; the chador, jalabiya or abaya, the magneh, roosarie or shayla &emdash; was the body. And under all the talk about hijab freeing women from commercial or sexual exploitation, all the discussion of hijab’s potency as a political and revolutionary symbol of selfhood, was the body: the dangerous female body that somehow, in Muslim society, had been made to carry the heavy burden of male honor” (32).

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