Banned in public institutions in France and Turkey, mandatory in Saudi Arabia and Iran, no other item of clothing incites such furious reactions. The Islamic veil – a catch-all term that encompasses everything from a simple headscarf to the all-covering burqa – has, over the past decade, become a heated battleground for debates on everything from women’s rights to multiculturalism.
Elizabeth Bucar goes beyond the simplistic question of whether the veil is “good” or “bad” to ask instead why it has become so politically symbolic. Cutting through the condescension and fear that typify the debate, she reveals the huge diversity of women’s experiences of veiling. Her illuminating global perspective takes in everything from the new veiling movement among the Egyptian middle class to hijab fashion in Indonesia. It will be invaluable to anyone looking to understand the veil beyond its status as shorthand for Islamic fundamentalism and female oppression.