Monday, September 14, 2009

Unveiling Abstraction

Robert Fulford writes about Marnia Lazreg in The National Post article The politics of the veil:
Lazreg's fascinating book, Questioning the Veil: Open Letters to Muslim Women (Princeton University Press), tells us that the veil comes and goes, according to the rise and fall of ideologies and the change in male perceptions of women and women's beliefs about themselves. Algeria illustrates the point. After women helped achieve independence from France in 1962, many ceased to wear the veil. It lost its political force as a form of rebellion and became an archaic custom of an older generation.
In the book, Lazreg writes about, what Fulford calls, "the most potent human symbol on earth," although it is not a symbol for piety. According to Fulford, Lazreg believes:
In truth, the veil stands for political ideology and male power.

Further, any woman wearing the full body and face covering is erased:
...Unable to look anyone in the eyes, lacking peripheral vision, her hearing muffled, she becomes an abstraction.
In the Swallows of Kabul by Yasmina Khadra ( nom de plume of Mohammed Moulessehoul), a woman must be executed, but the individual woman under the burqa is not really the issue. The identity of the prisoner is never verified because the need to assert control over all women is so strong - any woman will do and must die.

The execution is concrete enough; but the whole process is symbolic of political ideology and male power. The woman becomes an abstraction.

Marnia Lazreg teaches sociology at Hunter College CUNY. She elucidates these issues on behalf of us all, as she studies, lectures on, and writes about development, gender, and geopolitics of Islam.

I would like to invite Marnia Lazreg to my soiree.

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