Analysis A Look behind the Veil
Middle-Eastern and North African clothing culture is distinguished from other cultures by the veil, a clothing that provokes many reactions from authors and debates between the Western and Eastern people. Subject: The main topic of this text is the veil in North African and Middle-Eastern regions. Western people and Middle-Eastern people do not share the same opinion about its use, while the occidental region considers it as a simple cloth, sometimes it is even considered as humiliating, the Middle-Eastern region gives an important value to it due to its religious and historical significance.
Many authors from different countries debated about the pros and cons of wearing the veil. Audience: The primary audience is the people who don’t have much knowledge about the Middle Eastern culture. The secondary audience is the radical and extremist Muslims. Purpose: The authors’ purpose is to give an explanation about the “hijab”’s value in the North African and Middle Eastern culture. The authors list many reasons behind the cause of wearing a veil by giving examples and justifications.
The writers have a wide knowledge regarding this topic since they used to live in the Middle East region (in the 21st paragraph: “In the Iraqi village where we lived from 1956 to 1958 “). In addition to that, these authors are considered as the pioneers in the Middle Eastern field to inform the Western people about the importance of wearing the veil. Also, they wanted to inform the audience that the veil is not necessarily related to the religion. Design: This text contains both short and long paragraphs in order to make the text more fluent and smooth to read, also, it gives variation in the text.
Short paragraphs are used to describe words or concepts while long paragraphs are used to narrate historical events or actual situations. The authors use italic font when they make use of words from different languages, such as ‘hijab’ (Arabic origin) or ‘pueblo’ (a Spanish word, Latin origin). Since the main topic is the veil, many Arabic words are used; hence, definitions of these words are given between brackets (paragraph 5, hijab is defined as a curtain). Finally, there is a picture attached to the text which is helpful to get an image of the veil to the audience. Strategy:
This text uses both description and cause & effect strategy; the authors describe many words along the text by putting the word’s etymology and the context in which it is used. Also, they describe many historical situations related to the veil, whether it is religious (paragraph 6) or political (paragraph 15). In addition to that, the cause & effect is used to explain how historical situations and social contexts evolved along the past decades; this strategy is mainly used to explain how the use of hijab (cause) had a big impact on many countries regarding the social, religious and daily habits of life aspects. Values:
In the text “A Look Behind the Veil”, the author refers to the North Africa and Middle East values. As in any culture, clothing plays an important role; however, a special cloth in the Arab and Phoenician society provoked many reactions in the Western region: the veil. The Western’s region’s attitude is against coexistence and tolerance values when reacting against the veil. Despite the small size of the veil, also called ‘hijab’ in Arabic, its importance is big enough to create many debates about the values it represents. Depending on the mentality and way of seeing things, hijab’s values are different for the different societies.
According to some people, the primary value of wearing the veil is the religious value. In Islam, the verse that penalizes the barrier between both genders is the “Sura” of the “hijab” (veil in Arabic); it claims the importance of the veil and its utility. On the other side, some historians think that the veil’s most important significance resides in the social value, specifically in the historical context in which the veil divided female’s society between honorable wives and slaves by creating a controversial situation for the respectable households wearing the hijab, making them deprived of freedom and socially higher.
Concerning the social context, honor and respect are two significant values that the ‘hijab’ represents. By wearing the hijab, a woman is less likely to be attractive to men and being approached by them, she creates a ‘barrier’ that implements respect between her and another person, by consequent, she preserves her sexual chastity and keeps the family’s honor intact. This is an important detail in the Middle East culture; honor is more a group matter than an individual matter, and in this case, honor’s family is related to women’s sexual abstinence before marriage; in case the honor is lost, it can’t be regained.
Another aspect of the veil is the identity value, many women from different countries affirmed they feel that the veil is part of them; it is so important for them that “many women […] feel self-conscious, vulnerable, and even naked when they first walked on a public street without the veil […] as if they were making a display of themselves” – paragraph 22 Despite all the values that the hijab is representing in different countries of the world, the only value that is demanded is the egalitarianism and justice value, whether a woman is wearing the veil or not, they are “calling for equal access to divorce, child custody, and inheritance; equal opportunities for education and employment; and abolition of female circumcision,…’ – paragraph 26 Attitude:
The authors express different aspects of why veils are undesirable in many western countries. For every aspect of why veils are undesirable, the authors introduce some critical reasons for why putting on veils should be considered as a normal act . Putting on veils is described by the authors as a traditional aspect of the Middle-Eastern area and also as an honor for both the woman and her own family. It appears from the text that the authors partially support the idea of wearing the veil, and instead of considering women feminism as to remove the ‘hijab’, the authors state that putting on the veil shows power for men and wealth and high status for women.
Although the writers support putting on the veil partially, at the end they describe it as a complex reality, by other means; many Unreligious or even non-Muslim women are forced to wear veils in some regions. The overall attitude of the authors is considered to be diverse, the authors portray many ideas and provide a deep explanation for each idea . Not only the writers used brief explanations to support each of their claims, but also used historical as evidential support. The writers conclude that they are neither against nor with putting on veils, but they support creating equality between men and women in terms of civil and financial rights. There might be an advantage in this diversity as to show that the author is not biased on one side of the argument, at the same time it shows ambiguity in the authors’ main opinion. Beliefs:
According to the authors, the veil itself isn’t just a garment worn because it should be worn in Islam , it symbolizes that the woman wearing it is caring about her Islamic religion and her Middle-Eastern culture, however, it doesn’t mean that any women that is not wearing it isn’t caring about her Islamic or Middle-Eastern origins. The authors’ beliefs are shown when narrating the Muslim prophet’s story with his wives, it states that the veil guards the women’s honor and preserves her beauty for her future husband and family. The authors also quoted an Egyptian anthropologist, Nadia Abu Zahra, in order to reflect their beliefs in another author’s words: “expresses men’s status, power, wealth and manliness. It also helps preserve men’s image of virility and masculinity, but men do not admit this; on the contrary they claim that one of the purpose of the veil is to guard women’s honor – paragraph 8.
“ While Western people consider that the veil is just a piece of cloth worn over the head because it’s a part of traditions or habits that our ancestors used to do, the authors believe that it is a disciplined concept in the Middle-East and in Islam that proves a point and protects the women from any male strangers. Also, occidental people believe that it is just a man’s way to be more dominating, however, the authors believe that women in Islam wear the veil because they are convinced that it should be worn for many good reasons, also, the Western people believes that it is a way to identify a women or to make a difference between women and men while the authors believe that Islam is a religion of peace that prevents and forbids any kind of sexism or racism.