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The Face Behind the Veil: The Extraordinary Lives of Muslim Women in America Paperback – January 30, “Proud, defiant, brave, these are the Muslim women of America. For years, the image of the Muslim woman in America has been as mysterious as the face behind the veil.
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The shifting, multi-layered object that encompasses so many words, many of them contradictory, is the veil. While it is never made entirely clear how the veil is hallucination, this thought-provoking collection of essays goes far in moving the veil away from any singular interpretation or easy judgment.

The collection is loosely divided into three sections, though there is significant overlap. The first considers the sacred aspect of the veil; the second relates it to the physical or sensual world; and the third looks at the socio-political dimensions of veiling.

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The Veil is well aware of the reasons why the veil has become such a paradoxically visible entity in the past few years, and counters this with the opening sentence of its first essay, by Mohja Kahf, which bluntly asserts: "Veiling - covering the head with a piece of fabric, and sometimes the face as well - predates Islam.

That sentence both acknowledges the connotations attached to the veil in the contemporary West and tries to make the reader consider the term more broadly - a strategy continued through much of the book, with considerable success. We have essays on veiling and the Hasidic community, veiling and the Amish, veiling in medieval Europe and the early Church, veiling across different communities in India, and even male veiling - there's a remarkable photograph of a Tuareg man in Timbuktu wearing a face-veil while his wife stands behind him with her face fully visible.

Some of the essays are in the language of academia, some veer closer to personal anecdote, and two are "visual essays" by the graphic novelists Marjane Satrapi author of Persepolis and Sarah C Bell. Rather than creating an unevenness of tone, these variations replicate the variety of relationships that women have to veiling.

Of course, some of the essays are less relevant than others.

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And there are omissions, too. There are no essays from women who donned the veil under cultural pressure, against their will though there is a very interesting essay from Sherifa Zuhar about wearing the veil for a limited period on a trip to Saudi Arabia , and there are also no essays from the many women who truly believe that female sexuality must be reined in by veiling. Perhaps these omissions reflect a view that the veil is so closely associated with a lack of choice or a fear of sexuality that space is better given to alternative viewpoints - even so, the effect is to silence a considerable number of those who wear the veil.

The many faces behind the veil | The Independent

On the whole, though, this collection is intelligent, informative, and hugely enjoyable. At its best it feels like a dialogue between the writers. This is most evident in Pamela Taylor's "I Just Want to be Me" and Michelle Auerbach's "Drawing the Line at Modesty" - Taylor is a Muslim-American woman who wears the veil; Auerbach is a Jewish-American woman who moved from a liberal upbringing towards a more orthodox form of Judaism, only to discover the veil represented the limit of how far into Orthodoxy she was prepared to travel.

To Taylor, the veil is a rejection of the objectification of women; Auerbach cannot escape the conclusion that "the symbol means exactly what the society thinks it means But there is a further layer of complexity. Taylor recognises the perniciousness behind certain ideas of veiling, and is horrified by Muslim hardliners who believe the veil's purpose is to control sexuality - so horrified, in fact, that she considers taking off the veil as a way of rejecting this notion, only to decide that the veil gives her an authority within the Muslim community to argue for reform and thus serves an important purpose.

In all the veils within these essays, there is one common thread without understanding context, it is impossible to make sweeping generalisations about veils and the women who wear them. The author offers no analysis, simply During her fourteen years at the Miami Hearld, she has contributed to two projects that won the Pulitzer Prize.

Exodus 34-35 - The Face Behind the Veil

She lives in the Miami area. Her website is www. Donna Gehrke-White.

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