- Islam and the Veil: Theoretical and Regional Contexts edited by Theodore Gabriel and Rabiha Hannan
This collection of essays examines the role of hijab and other forms of Islamic modest dress as an identity marker for women. The hijab grants them a specific identity as Muslims while, in the West, removing their individuality in the eyes of a society which sees them as walking hijabs rather than as unique human beings. The essays fall into three categories: theoretical discussions, scriptural discussions, and ‘human rights’ (for instance, the right to wear the hijab). Thematically, three main concerns bind the essays: (a) whether the hijab should be seen as a form of seclusion (purdah), (b) why Muslim women actually wear the hijab, and (c) the politicization and symbolism of the hijab in the modern era, which has led to an overemphasis on Muslim women’s dress both among Muslims and non-Muslim Westerners. Overall, the essays are slanted towards a liberal view, both Islamically and socially, in that while the view that the hijab is not religiously mandated is given a certain weight (such as on pages 74-80, and 87-90), the authors assert the right for Muslim women to exercise their agency by dressing however they please as members of a multicultural society. Several articles also explore the nuances of specific clothing items, from khimars to bandanas. Although the essays encompass several regions, the book focuses extensively on Muslim women in Europe, and much of the book takes the form of sociological or anthropological research – for instance, interviews of Muslim women who wear hijabs (a rather plentiful research subject in contemporary Europe). The authors primarily engage with Sunni scripture, heritage, and experience, with the exception of a section on the views of the Aga Khan III on hijab and the non-wearing of the headscarf as a marker of Nizari Isma‘ili identity. Lastly, without intending to be nit-picky, it was difficult to ignore some curious and no doubt unintended symbols lightly peppering the transliterations (such as on pages 106 and 107), as well [End Page 507] as some unorthodox spellings (such as on page 200), but the former is a common bugaboo in typesetting diacritics, and the latter could be resolved by a specialist proof-reader.
The Islamic College, London, UK