Class Year


Document Type

Student Research Paper

Publication Date

Spring 2016

Department 1



In a world where we are constantly bombarded with countless images of Islamic terrorism, violence, and danger, it is not surprising that we have come to associate all aspects of Islamic society with malevolence. This destructive way of thinking has impacted the way we—as Westerners— think about, portray, and perceive Muslim men and women. While Muslim men are often depicted as hostile, cruel, and savage-like, on the other hand, Muslim women are usually depicted as powerless, obedient, and docile. These stereotypical representations of Muslim men and women have harmful consequences—consequences that not only promote Western ignorance, but also tarnish the mindsets of individuals, encouraging a shallow, one-dimensional view of Muslim women as oppressed. Consequently, every aspect of Muslim women’s lives, including what they wear, has been analyzed and manipulated by Westerners in order to serve as evidence to explain Muslim women’s oppression. For this reason, according to Westerners, Muslim women wearing the hijab (veil covering the head) have become a symbol of Muslim women’s oppression, ultimately preventing Muslim women from escaping their religion. As a result, Western media has tended to focus on the veil, often linking it with Muslim women’s oppression.

Interestingly, however, Westerners’ obsession with the veil has not been a recent occurrence. In fact, Westerners’ infatuation with the veil and rendering of it as a tool of Muslim women’s oppression arose during the colonial period and was used as part of colonial discourse in order to serve the purposes and goals of Westerners—the goal of taking over the lands of the Muslim world to impose their own culture and values. For these very same reasons, the West is currently still using the veil for neocolonial purposes; however, recently, there have been attempts by Muslim women to reappropriate the meaning of the hijab in order to challenge Western stereotypes and misconstruals of the symbol of the veil. [excerpt]


This paper was written for Professor Amy Evrard's course, ANTH 218: Islam and Women, Spring 2016.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.