Not all women who veil are oppressed

Jack Straw, a former British Foreign Secretary, currently Leader of the House of Commons and Lord Privy Seal, has caused an uproar when he revealed that he feels uncomfortable with veiled women, and asks those veiled Muslim women who consult with him to remove it.

However, in another story today:

Ruth Kelly yesterday defended the wearing of the veil as a ‘personal choice’ by Muslims that must be respected. She made her comments as the Cabinet began distancing itself from Jack Straw’s disclosure that he asked women attending his constituency surgery to uncover their faces.

What most interested me about the piece, though, was this:

Earlier this year, Kelly co-hosted a summit with Muslim women alongside Tony Blair. The veil was not raised as an issue, but the hijab – the more common traditional headscarf – was: she said the conversation had ‘challenged her assumptions’ about covering up.

‘I, along with many people, probably thought that some people wear the hijab not through choice but because they were expected to, and I found exactly the opposite,’ she said. ‘There was an overwhelming view that the people who were wearing the hijab wanted to and, among those who were not, some of them would have liked to.’

One thought on “Not all women who veil are oppressed”

  1. I once had a bird. I was afraid of it’s bite actually, and not so good with handling this bird. We kept it eight years in a lovely cage with delicious food. My classes of 1st graders and I talked to it, put it in the center of our class and in summers my kitchen…one day we moved and located next door to a neighbor with giant outside cages and lots of these same birds-he had kept them in his world across the ocean and they reminded him of home. He came over and visited my bird removing him from the cage daily, a shock for me for lots of reasons including the fact he spoke no English and I no Bicol. This was so stressful and amazing to watch. The bird was so frighted, prefered the cage, limped on the ground, couldn’t regulate flight. It took months and months of short five minute spans building through time until in several years this bird began to expand its senses of freedom and space, it took much work on the part of this person who just took an interest in this bird.And he became our friend.And we never spoke much and yet remain close. In the end the bird knew two worlds. And in both the bird found equilibrium. But in one the bird was able to reach a few more of it’s natural qualities/abilities and was less limited by the restrictions imposed from my fears. I wonder looking …no matter how I try to get the feel of the wholeness and complexity in this issue you raise….I still find myself thinking of my bird….and in my case I finally decided to allow it to go to the life my neighbor offered.As one of greater horizons…tho there is much to be said for security.

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