Veilophobia, veilophilia: the great debate about the Muslim veil

veilophobia                                                         veilophobia

Veilophobia, veilophilia: the great debate about the Muslim veil. This was the title of Souad Halila’s presentation at the International Diversity Conference in Belfast 2010 where I was a speaker as well about a very different subject: diversity in economical perspective. The debate about the veil is fierce and emotional, also in Tunisia.
Halila showed us that our knowledge about veils starts in Assyria in the 7th century BC. Veils were used by Greeks, Romans, Jews, Christians, Muslims and Hindus and became only a discussion item in the 20th century years ’30, ’40 and ’50 when new leaders in Persia and Turkey declared the veil to be retarded; they promoted a western lifestyle. This is how the veil became a symbol for Muslim identity.
Nowadays, Muslims – also Muslim women – take the debate about the veil in their own hands, the discussion about the veil being retarded is retarded itself. In many places, also in The Netherlands, this debate is dominated by white men – joined by just a few women – telling that they want to liberate women. They like to decide for the women what liberation consists of, they have one concept, one vision and we have to adopt it all. Today they propose to forbid that women, wearing a veil, work in public organisations because the presence of veils would harm the separation between state and religion. As if our public organisations would be more neutral with only white men and Muslim men working there…
Souad Halila asks us to choose between unity in diversity (the concept of the Ummah) or diversity in diversity (room for many different visions). She promotes the second choice and so do I.

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