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What is Veiling?

Sahar Amer

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An engaging introduction to one of the most visible, controversial and least understood emblems of Islam

The Islamic veil in all its forms – from the headscarf to the full body garment – is one of the most visible signs of Islam as a religion. It is also one of its most controversial and misunderstood traditions among both Muslims and non-Muslims. In an environment of increasing conservatism in both Euro-American and Muslim-majority societies, in a world where a woman’s right to wear the headscarf has become a touchstone for issues of all sorts, and at a time when racial and religious profiling has become commonplace, it is our political and social responsibility to gain a deeper understanding of veiling.

This concise, easy-to-read and even-handed introduction is organised around three main topics: the historical, religious and cultural background; contemporary debates about the veil; and the varied, shifting meanings the veil has had for Muslim women over the past century.

Key Features:

  • Explains the role of veiling in the religious, cultural, political and social lives of Muslims past and present
  • Looks at the meaning and practice of veiling in Europe, the Middle East and the USA
  • Gives a wider perspective on the veil, leading to a more nuanced understanding of Muslim women and Islam in general
  • Presents the necessary background to more informed discussions over national and foreign policy

About the Author

Sahar Amer was born in Cairo (Egypt) and grew up in France. She moved to the US where she completed her undergraduate and graduate education. She worked at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill before moving to the University of Sydney (Australia) where she is currently Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies and Chair of the Department. She is interested in the literary and artistic representation of Muslim women in Europe and the United States. She is a prize winning author and a recipient of several major awards for her scholarship.


'[Amer] offers perhaps the definitive glossary on veiling. . . . Amer's deliberate and caring scholarly treatment is pitch-perfect. This book about "hijabistas," "muhajababes," and veiled Muslim hip-hop artists, among others, is not just about veiling; it is the story of Islam, especially modern Islam, told through the prism of the veil.'

- "Publishers Weekly" Starred Review

‘It is no easy task to intervene in a debate that has become so wedged into defending or criticising Muslim women who wear different forms of veiling, but Amer manages to move the discussion away from such polemics deftly and elegantly. This three-part book fosters a more critical attitude to the limited positions available: such as secularism vs religion, nationalism vs multiculturalism, feminism vs oppression.'

- Carolyn D’Cruz, La Trobe University, Australian Book Review

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