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The Veil

Women Writers on Its History, Lore, and Politics

Jennifer Heath (Editor)

Available worldwide

Paperback, 360 pages
ISBN: 9780520255180
July 2008
$29.95, £24.00
Other Formats Available:
This groundbreaking volume, written entirely by women, examines the vastly misunderstood and multilayered world of the veil. Veiling— of women, of men, and of sacred places and objects—has existed in countless cultures and religions from time immemorial. Today, veiling is a globally polarizing issue, a locus for the struggle between Islam and the West and between contemporary and traditional interpretations of Islam. But veiling was a practice long before Islam and still extends far beyond the Middle East. This book explores and examines the cultures, politics, and histories of veiling. Twenty-one gifted writers and scholars, representing a wide range of societies, religions, ages, locations, races, and accomplishments, here elucidate, challenge, and/or praise the practice. Expertly organized and introduced by Jennifer Heath, who also writes on male veiling, the essays are arranged in three parts: the veil as an expression of the sacred; the veil as it relates to the emotional and the sensual; and the veil in its sociopolitical aspects. This unique, dynamic, and insightful volume is illustrated throughout. It brings together a multiplicity of thought and experience, much of it personal, to make readily accessible a difficult and controversial subject.

Contributors: Kecia Ali, Michelle Auerbach, Sarah C. Bell, Barbara Goldman Carrel, Eve Grubin, Roxanne Kamayani Gupta, Jana M. Hawley, Jasbir Jain, Mohja Kahf, Laurene Lafontaine, Shireen Malik, Maliha Masood, Marjane Satrapi, Aisha Shaheed, Rita Stephan, Pamela K. Taylor, Ashraf Zahedi, Dinah Zeiger, Sherifa Zuhur
List of Illustrations

1. From Her Royal Body the Robe Was Removed: The Blessings of the Veil and the Trauma of Forced Unveilings in the Middle East
Mohja Kahf
2. Shattered Vessels That Contain Divine Sparks: Unveiling Hasidic Women's Dress Code
Barbara Goldman Carrel
3. Going the Whole Nine Yards: Vignettes of the Veil in India
Roxanne Kamayani Gupta
4. Out of the Cloister: Unveiling to Better Serve the Gospel
Laurene M. Lafontaine
5. The Amish Veil: Symbol of Separation and Community
Jana Hawley
6. “What is subordinated, dominates”: Mourning, Magic, Masks, and Male Veiling
Jennifer Heath
7. I Just Want to Be Me: Issues in Identity for One American Muslim Woman
Pamela K. Taylor

8. “She freed and floated on the air”: Salome and Her Dance of the Seven Veils
Shireen Malik
9. “He hath couerd my soule inwarde”: Veiling in Medieval Europe and the Early Church
Désirée G. Koslin
10. Nubo: The Wedding Veil
Sarah C. Bell
11. After Eden: The Veil as a Conduit to the Internal
Eve Grubin
12. Virtue and Sin: An Arab Christian Woman's Perspective
Rita Stephan
13. Drawing the Line at Modesty: My Place in the Order of Things
Michelle Auerbach
14. On the Road: Travels with My Hijab
Maliha Masood

15. Purdah, Patriarchy, and the Tropical Sun: Womanhood in India
Jasbir Jain
16. The Veil: From Persepolis
Marjane Satrapi
17. Concealing and Revealing Female Hair: Veiling Dynamics in Contemporary Iran
Ashraf Zahedi
18. That (Afghan) Girl! Ideology Unveiled in National Geographic
Dinah Zeiger
19. Burqas and Bikinis: Islamic Dress in Newspaper Cartoons
Kecia Ali
20. Dress Codes and Modes: How Islamic Is the Veil?
Aisha Shaheed
21. From Veil to Veil: “What's in a woman's head is more important than what's on it”
Sherifa Zuhur

About the Contributors
Jennifer Heath is the author of seven books of fiction and nonfiction, including The Scimitar and the Veil: Extraordinary Women of Islam, and her writing has appeared in numerous anthologies. She has traveled extensively throughout the Muslim world and is the founder of Seeds for Afghanistan and the Afghanistan Relief Organization Midwife Training and Infant Care program, now International Midwife Assistance.
“Thoughtful [and] intelligent.”—The Times
“This thought-provoking collection of essays goes far in moving the veil away from any singular interpretation or judgment.”—Daily Telegraph
“Diverse, talented female writers . . . a refreshing anti-viewpoint that lets each reader peel away the various layers of meaning until she arrives at her own conclusions.”—Bitch Magazine
“Provie[s] a wide spectrum of views, traditions, feelings and issues related to the human practice of covering the head and hair.”—Bloomsbury Review
“The approach chosen for this anthology—reflective, meditative broad, and under exclusively female authorship—is commendable and refreshing.”—Journal American Academy Of Religion/ Jaar
“ ‘The Veil’ achieves its goal of opening the discussion to a wider audience, introducing a plurality of perspectives and opinions, and serving as a reminder that this is a world in which there are as many answers as there are individuals.”—AJ Al Jadid Magazine
“A critical read for feminists and students of Women’s Studies in the United States.”—Feminist Review
“Reducing the veil’s significance to a particular conjunction between religion and gender betrays the rich history of veiling and the wide variation in its meaning. The women who have contributed histories, memoirs,ethnographies and critical essays to The Veil make it plain that veiling can be motivated by a range of aesthetic goals, political ideologies, economic constraints, personal choices and opportunities….”—London Review Of Books
“Heath edits this series of short essays exploring the veil, or the headscarf that many religious women wear, and includes a number not relating to Muslim women at all—pieces that treat veiling among Hasidic women, Amish women and Catholic nuns. For example, Laurene M. LaFontaine’s brilliant essay “Out of the Cloister: Unveiling to Better Serve the Gospel” examines the Vatican ii decision that brought nuns out of the habit. Other articles explore the veil historically, looking at its non-Muslim roots and its wide presence across cultures, particularly in ancient India, as well as the poignant struggles faced by many veiled Muslim woman, especially American Muslims.”—Asma Hasan Saudi Aramco World
“The Veil is much more than a rehash of familiar territory… Editor Jennifer Heath has cast the widest possible net … [it] is made all the more readable by its smorgasbord of approaches, from autobiographical reflections to historical and sociological accounts and comic strips… full of interesting nuggets of information…”—Shakira Hussein The Australian
“[An] excellent collection of essays.”—The Hindu
“Groundbreaking.”—Wise (Women’s Islamic Initiative In Spirituality And Equity)
"The twenty-one essays here, all by women, provide an exciting, first hand account of the significance of veiling, past and present, in various countries, religions and cultures. The editor's introduction is a wonderful exposition of the current scholarship regarding the sacred, sensual and sociopolitical connotations of the veil. The book brilliantly illuminates the universality of the veil, and reveals that it is not confined to Islam. The book should be compulsory reading for policy-makers all over the world. Anyone interested in the human condition (not only researchers in the fields of sociology or economics or literary and cultural studies) can profit from this scholarly yet jargon-free book."—Shyamala A. Narayan, Jamia Millia Islamia University

"A refreshingly three-dimensional portrait of the veil in history and in our contemporary world. This collection of essays turns the veil into a mirror, reflecting back upon us our own presumptions and prejudices. You will learn something about yourself in these pages."—Asifa Quraishi

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