The Veil and the Male Elite: A Moroccan Feminist’s Revision of Islam

1. Introduction

In her book The Veil and the Male Elite, Moroccan sociologist and feminist Fatema Mernissi sets out to revise commonly held conceptions about Islam, and in particular, the role of women in Islamic society. Historically, she argues, Islam has actually been much more progressive than Western societies in its treatment of women, promoting political parity between the sexes. In recent years however, with the rise of conservative Islamists, this situation has changed dramatically, and women are once again being pushed to the margins of public life.

Mernissi’s mission in writing The Veil and the Male Elite is therefore twofold: firstly, to reclaim Islam as a religion that promotes equality between men and women, and secondly, to challenge the traditional male elite who have hijacked the religion for their own patriarchal purposes. In doing so, she hopes to open up a public debate about the role of women in society, and to ultimately bring about social and political change.

2. The historical context of the veil

In order to understand the current debate about the veil, it is necessary to first consider its historical context. According to Mernissi, the veil was originally introduced into Arab societies not as a symbol of female oppression, but as a way of protecting women’s modesty. At a time when public baths were commonly used by both men and women, it was considered necessary for women to cover their bodies in order to avoid any possibility of sexual misconduct.

The veil also served another important purpose: that of ensuring that women were not treated as sex objects or subjected to lecherous looks from men. In many Arab cultures, it was considered incredibly disrespectful for a man to look directly at a woman’s face; instead, he was supposed to lower his gaze in her presence. By covering their faces with veils, women were therefore able to avoid unwanted attention and could interact with men on an equal footing.

3. The meaning of the veil

Over time, the meaning of the veil has changed considerably. Whereas it was once seen as a sign of respectability and modesty, it is now often seen as a symbol of female oppression. This change in perception is largely due to the way in which the veil has been appropriated by conservative Islamists in recent years.

For Islamists, the veil is not simply about protecting women’s modesty; it is about controlling their behaviour and preventing them from interacting with men on an equal footing. In their view, women must be hidden away from public view and kept in their place at all times. This restrictive view of female roles has led many Islamists to call for a complete segregation of the sexes, both in public and private spaces.

4. The debate about the veil

The debate about the veil is one that has been ongoing for many years. On one side are those who see it as a symbol of female oppression; on the other side are those who see it as a valid expression of religious faith. In recent years, this debate has intensified even further due to the growing visibility of Islamic State (IS) fighters who often force women to wear veils as part of their strict dress code.

The issue came to a head in 2015 when IS fighters attacked a Tunisian beach resort, killing 38 people including 30 British holidaymakers. In response to this attack, then-prime minister David Cameron called for a “muscular liberalism” that would challenge Islamic extremism both at home and abroad. This rhetoric was widely criticised by Muslims, who accused the government of Islamophobia and of equating Islam with terrorism.

5. The political implications of the veil

The debate about the veil also has important political implications. In many countries, such as France and Belgium, there have been calls to ban the wearing of veils in public spaces. Proponents of these bans argue that the veil is a symbol of female oppression and that it should not be allowed in public places. Opponents argue that such bans would be a violation of religious freedom and would only serve to further alienate Muslim women.

In the UK, the debate has largely focussed on whether or not women should be allowed to wear veils when giving evidence in court. In 2011, the UK’s highest court ruled that a witness could not give evidence whilst wearing a veil, as it would prevent the jury from seeing her facial expressions and body language. This ruling was widely criticised by Muslims, who argued that it would effectively prevent Muslim women from testifying in court.

6. The social implications of the veil

The debate about the veil also has important social implications. In many countries, such as Saudi Arabia and Iran, women are required to wear veils in public. This has led to increased levels of segregation between the sexes and has made it more difficult for women to participate in public life. In some cases, such as Iran, women have been forced to wear veils even when they do not want to; this has led to protests and even riots in some cases.

The issue of the veil also has important implications for education. In many countries, girls are not allowed to attend school if they are wearing a veil. This has led to increased levels of illiteracy among Muslim women and has made it more difficult for them to find employment. In some cases, girls have even been forced to choose between their education and their religion.

7. Conclusion

The debate about the veil is one that is likely to continue for many years to come. It is an issue that raises important questions about religious freedom, female empowerment and the role of women in society. Whatever side of the debate you are on, there is no doubt that the veil is a controversial and polarising topic.

FAQ

The role of veiling in Moroccan society is to control and oppress women. Men use the veil to control women by telling them that they must be covered in order to be proper and respected. Fatema Mernissi challenges traditional views on veiling by saying that it is a choice, and not something that should be forced upon women. The consequences of not wearing a veil can include being ostracized from society, or even killed. Some women choose to wear a veil despite oppression because they believe it is their religious duty, or because they want to show defiance against the patriarchy. There is hope for change within Moroccan society regarding the treatment of women, but it will likely be slow and gradual.

Men use the veil to control women by telling them that they must be covered in order to be proper and respected. Fatema Mernissi challenges traditional views on veiling by saying that it is a choice, and not something that should be forced upon women. The consequences of not wearing a veil can include being ostracized from society, or even killed. Some women choose to wear a veil despite oppression because they believe it is their religious duty, or because they want to show defiance against the patriarchy. There is hope for change within Moroccan society regarding the treatment of women, but it will likely be slow and gradual.

Fatema Mernissi challenges traditional views on veiling by saying that it is a choice, and not something that should be forced upon women. The consequences of not wearing a veil can include being ostracized from society, or even killed. Some women choose to wear a veil despite oppression because they believe it is their religious duty, or because they want to show defiance against the patriarchy. There is hope for change within Moroccan society regarding the treatment of women, but it will likely be slow and gradual.

The consequences of not wearing a veil can include being ostracized from society, or even killed. Some women choose to wear a veil despite oppression because they believe it is their religious duty, or because they want to show defiance against the patriarchy. There is hope for change within Moroccan society regarding the treatment of women, but it will likely be slow and gradual.

Some women choose to wear a veil despite oppression because they believe it is their religious duty, or because they want to show defiance against the patriarchy. There is hope for change within Moroccan society regarding the treatment of women, but it will likely be slow and gradual.

There is hope for change within Moroccan society regarding the treatment of women, but it will likely be slow and gradual.