Behind the Muslim Veil: A Qualitative Analysis of Pakistani Female Students' Views towards Veiling/DERRIERE LE VOILE ISLAMIQUE: UNE ANALYSE QUALITATIVE DES CONSTATATIONS DES ETUDIANTES PAKISTANAISES SUR LE VOILE

By Yun, Zhou | Cross - Cultural Communication, March 31, 2010 | Go to article overview

Behind the Muslim Veil: A Qualitative Analysis of Pakistani Female Students' Views towards Veiling/DERRIERE LE VOILE ISLAMIQUE: UNE ANALYSE QUALITATIVE DES CONSTATATIONS DES ETUDIANTES PAKISTANAISES SUR LE VOILE


Yun, Zhou, Cross - Cultural Communication


Abstract:

The research is conducted after a ten-month stay in Islamabad, Pakistan. It intends to qualitatively demonstrate the veiled women's own opinions towards issues regarding veiling and women's rights in Islamic society. It also presents the functions of veils from a point of view of multiculturalism.

Key words: Veil; Islam Feminism; Women's Rights; Multiculturalism

Résumé: Cette recherche est menée après un séjour de dix mois à Islamabad, au Pakistan. Il tente de démontrer qualitativement les propres opinions des femmes voilées à l'égard de questions liées au voile et aux droits de femmes dans la société islamique. Il présente également les fonctions de voile d'un point de vue du multiculturalisme.

Mots-Clés: voile islamique; féminisme; droits de femme; multiculturalisme

1. INTRODUCTION

After the attacks of 911, Islam phobia, a term coined to reflect "the general hatred and fear towards Muslim" becomes much apparent among (western) public. Islam is portrayed and scrutinized as the "other" culture by the media and is sometimes subjected to vicious criticism. In the realm of academia, Islam is often referred to as a gender-biased religion that does not treat women equally. One of the many supporting evidences for such claim is the (mandatory) veiling of Muslim women. This research is conducted after a ten-month stay in Islamabad, capital of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. In this paper I intend to look behind the veils and demonstrate the veiled women's own opinions towards issues regarding veiling and women's right since their voices as insiders are equally, or even more important than the tirade of outsiders. After qualitatively analyzing their responses, I intend to present the functions of veiling from the point of view of multiculturalism.

Literature Review

It is rather difficult to define the term feminism, or for that matter, gender equality in a culturally un-biased manner. Some Muslim feminist thinkers argue that today "Muslim women do not favor the Western Concept of equality." (Madani, 2005). At the same time, the practice of veiling by Muslim women is viewed as "the most visible marker of the differences and inferiority of Islamic societies" (Leila Ahmed, 1992: 152 quoted from Grace 2004:2) and "the symbol [in colonial discourse] of both the oppression of women (or, in the language of the day, Islam's degradation of women) and the backwardness of Islam" (Leila Ahmed, 1992: 152 quoted from Grace 2004:2) It is generally believed that "most Euro-American feminists and Asian feminists agree that the veiling of women is a result of oppression and domination of women by patriarchy in the name of religion" (Grace 2004:18) though these feminist thinkers are constantly challenged by their Muslim counterparts. To some extent, the review of literatures on veiling and women's rights seems to be leading us stumbling into a battlefield. Moreover, as Schumann noted:

"Especially since the attacks of 9-1 1, but also before, media coverage on Muslims in the West has been dominated by issues like security, terrorism and the question of Western identity versus Islamic identity. As a result, the complexity of Muslim life in the West has been reduced merely to its problematic aspects" (Schumann, 2007)

Hence it is rather problematic, or even dilemmatic to determine whether it is true that "veiled women were necessarily more oppressed, more passive, more ignorant than unveiled women" (Mabro, 1991:3 quoted from Grace 2004:1). Is the equation that tries to equalize "veiling" to "gender oppression and backwardness" a mere construct that in fact depicts a biased attitude toward Islamic culture? When the past seemingly contradicting theories fail to provide any answer, it is only nature and logic to look behind the veils for the insiders' opinions towards such matter.

2. METHODOLOGY

The data in this paper are collected through a ten-month stay in National University of Modern Languages, Islamabad, Pakistan. …

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