Being that I am not a Muslim woman, this a not a question I have ever addressed or ever will. I won’t even take a stand on it for my wife or daughter. But I know how much some non-Muslims obsess over the Islamic covering of the hair; or veiling or hijab in Arabic.
So I thought I would make a point known on this subject that is often forgotten: many Muslim choose to veil. It is a choice. No man is forcing them, it is not imposed by society. It is simply an act of free will by many Muslim women. This New York Times article details this matter very clearly in secular Turkey.
Instead of Turkey, I will offer the evidence from my birth country of Tunisia. In Tunisia, the secular authorities there look down upon the veil. A Tunisian minister once referred to the veil (something that precedes Islam in Arab culture) as a foreign object.
Women that veil are often harassed and as of a few years ago denied employment in state ministries and agencies. Women who are veiled are often denied entrance into public schools to pick up their children. A family member of mine who choose to wear the veil eventually took it off because of the constant struggle she was involved in with the authorities over her head covering.
This is no submissive woman, her husband that not ask her, let alone demand, she wear the veil, some of her children live overseas and all of them, including her daughters, openly date. She made the decision to wear the veil out of her own personal freedom. And, yet, the self-described modernizers of the Tunisian police state, in the name of freedom no less!, sought to prohibit her from wearing the veil.
Westerners often miss this side of the debate. They think that the only issue at hand is that some governments seek to subjugate women by forcing them to wear the veil. Although this is true in only two Muslim countries, it gets all the attention. While there are many Muslim women who want to wear the veil and are forced to not do so.
Why are they neglected by the West’s attention? Is this effort not just as anti-women rights for its also limits women personal freedom? Of course it is. So next time you hear someone talk about the lack of women’s rights in some Arab and/or Muslim country, think about the lack of freedom for women to wear the veil. They deserve freedom too. True freedom knowns not the banning or forcing of the veil. True freedom is not about what the state should allow one to wear or not to wear. True freedom does not consider the veil but only women’s freedom to make their own decision.