Re-Claiming the Veil: A Historical and Literary Study of How Islamic Feminists Have Appropriated the Veil Symbol as a Hermeneutical Tool in the Study of Islam
Author(s)Wortmann, Kimberly T
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AbstractA study of a renewed ijtihad among Muslim women in the last century reveals a strong reliance on the veil symbol as a vehicle for asserting Islamic Feminist hermeneutics. The hermeneutics of these scholars shows how differing interpretations of the veil symbol or hijāb breaks open the [Weberian] ‘iron cage’ of ‘veiling essentialism’ posited by traditional male scholars, providing Muslim women with several possible ways of being in society. The veil is an exceptional frame of reference for this project as it is, borrowing Anthropologist Clifford Geertz’s theory; a symbol most closely related to the Muslim woman it has come to signify. In appropriating the veil as the center of their hermeneutical project these women have shown how, in Geertzian fashion, this symbol provides Muslim women a “model of” their situation as is in society and a “model for” how their situation should/could be. This use of symbols allows Islamic feminists to transgress Muslim cultural norms in order to transcend and reconfigure traditional Islamic ethos.