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A Short History of the (Muslim) Veil

Issue: Vol 16 No. 4 (2013)

Journal: Implicit Religion

Subject Areas: Religious Studies

DOI: 10.1558/imre.v16i4.387


The concept of implicit religion recognizes the many connections between the secular and the religious, unlike mainstream social narratives that continue to oppose them. Understanding that religious and non-religious worldviews both fulfil the human need for meaning and that they are equally capable of becoming intransigent ideologies, is ever more critical because of the instrumentalization of the religious-secular divide in present- day domestic and international politics. Modernity’s dualism possesses global ramifications; by conflating Western identity and progress with secularism, it painted the rest of the world—particularly the Orient—with the brush of religion and backwardness. The Muslim veil has constituted a symbol to denote Muslim religious fanaticism and misogyny, in contrast to Western freedom, feminism and democracy. Its constitutive role in producing modern Western self-identity, through contradistinction, explains the continued debates on Muslim veiling practices, as well as the tenacity of the veil sign. This article traces the history of the veil with the aim of simultaneously charting and unpacking its reification in Western contexts.

Author: Valerie Behiery

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