More Egyptian Women Fighting the Revolution Under a Veil


Not even 100 years after Egyptian women fought to break free from veiling, a new age has ushered in a brand-new acceptance of hijab, with women turning to the practice, sometimes at a young age, sometimes later in life. “The observation is accurate,” Egyptian sociologist Saad Eddin Ibrahim told VOA News, “that there are more women in veil, or behind the veil, than ever there were in modern Egyptian history.”

While many experts attribute the veil’s increased demand to conservatism brought in by Egyptian men who worked in Saudi Arabia, the women wearing it are not so quick to agree, preferring instead to take on a more active role that involved choice on their part, not passive acceptance of what conservative men preferred.

By covering up, women have in effect reflected a greater void in modern Egyptian society — the “gap between what the people needed and what the government provided,” explained Center for Egyptian Women’s Azza Soliman, “so many people turned to religion to fill the gap. And many women chose to express their new religion by putting on the veil.”

“The veiling was, in a sense, a compromise to be able to participate as fully as possible without being perceived as lacking in ethics or morality or being loose,” Ibrahim said. “If veiling was the price, many women, many young girls, have accepted to pay that price.”

While Western society typically sees veiling as a step backwards, even a symbol of oppression, women who engage in the practice don’t tend to agree. “On the contrary, sometimes women feel empowered by their veil because it protects them somehow from being targeted,” said newspaper editor Rania Al Malky. “Some of the leading youth figures, who are women in the youth movement that led this revolution, were young, veiled women.”

“In some cases you had women who were not veiled, but basically played no role in society,” said veteran journalist Hisham Kassem. “But when I see a veiled woman who’s out there demonstrating, this is somebody on the move to play a role. The attire is not going to be an issue here. It’s the role they are going to play. And that will eventually lead to full equality, as opposed to women simply taking off the veil, but playing no active role.”

Just like a book can’t be judged by its cover, neither can these women be judged by their veils. Veil or not, what really matters to many in Egypt is the role that a woman plays in society, not the way she dresses. It’s the way she acts, not the way she looks, that will have a far greater influence on the outcome of Egypt’s future.

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Photo courtesy of Ed Yourdon via flickr


Donna S.
Donna Smallwood7 years ago

Here's what's real, people; religion is a personal and private choice, not to be confused with reality. The sooner we drop the fear based thinking and focus on moving into the future as one global human family by taking responsibility for our actions and progress as human beings, the sooner all the "issues" of what to wear and where to pray and many other hindrances will become "non-issues". The veil or lack of one doesn't really stack up high against people not having enough to eat, a job, adequate health care, protection from violence. Become part of the solution by doing your part in your corner of the world and leave the "appearances of faith" to those who still need to be bound by fear and confusion. We are facing a global crisis for survival right now; it's ok for us to do some critical thinking about what we can do to ensure survival of our part of the planet. All that is truly holy will work with us in spirit and in truth when we do our part to spread real love.

Carole R.
Carole R7 years ago

All I can say is I am so glad I live in a free society.

Mary L.
Mary L7 years ago

I think it's very cultural. I wouldn't dream of it, but I didn't grow up with the concepts. My objections is the reasoning some imams have given.

A woman should expect rape if she isn't wearing a hijab or burka? Doesn't say much for the "men" who would do so, does it?

Mohammad Yamin
Mohammad Yamin7 years ago

This is a reaction to over modernization of the Egyptian society. Any extremism is not good.

Verdi Verdi
Verdi Verdi7 years ago

''If you don't cover you will be perceived as a whore !"

That's a choice ???

And then they are being told since childhood that Allah-God demands the covering - and if they refuse they will be fried in hot oild and tormented in hell forever.

Also Mohammed the islamic prophet told them how he actually saw what was in Hell ... Women ! Why ? For not being OBEDIENT.

Is that a choice ???

Huda G.
Huda G7 years ago

Alex L. Please read about Islam, you are blaming Hijab and your misunderstanding of its meaning as a reason for rape. Muslims/Islam like all sections of society have people who are practising and represent their faith and people who DO NOT practice and commit crimes of all manners against society under the name of Islam. It distresses me when the media accuses Islam of crimes ie rape when it is only the man who committed the crime. Non muslims can commit crimes, their religion is never blamed, but when a non practising muslim commits a crime Islam is always blamed!!
Women are 'treasures' to a practising Muslim, that are to be respected and protected. Look at the rights Muslim women were given 1400 yrs ago. They could inherit from their fathers, brothers and husbands at a time when in other societies women were being burned or buried alive with their husbands! They can work, but the income they make is theirs alone, it is the Fathers/Husbands responsibility to provide for them, ie shelter, food, clothing etc. Many rights were given, far too many to be listed here! People need to separate culture from Islam, there are many differences. Also people need to start blaming individuals for the crimes they commit not Islam or the society they live in. Before you write about things, read so you understand what you writing about. Islam is portrayed so negatively by the Media, when in fact it is a very peaceful way of life.

Will Rogers
Will Rogers7 years ago

I would hate to be a Muslim woman. Wow! Those women must have a lot of love, I mean, they're not killing their enemies who happens to be their men folk! Freedom for women is the most important struggle in the world, and a reason to fight. And just like how south Africa was one of the last bastions of racism and was a disgusting blight, the religion of Islam as it exists today is the 'south Africa' for women.

Sharon Balloch
Sharon Balloch7 years ago

Well here in Canada the Muslim women want to get rid of the veil.. we all like the head scarf, but no one wants to give terrorist a hiding place to blow up men, women and children and that is the fruits of wearing such a garment.

And maybe Canadian Muslims think their men are stronger and more able to resist the tempation to rape women or see them as sexual objects. To me wearing such a thing is not just hard for a women but it says something not so nice about Muslim men... something that is not true.

So we have to ask ourselves this question, why do women want to wear it in some countries but women hear see it as holding them back.

fadzilah d.
fadzilah din7 years ago

@ Ernest R,

I know, I was grabbed too when window shopping in Cairo. My husband was only 15 feet away. They always mistook me for a Japanese. Probably didn't think the guy was my husband coz he looks like an Egyptian.

But anyone who listen to the stupid imam is stupid. There's nothing Islamic of what he said as you reported it. Why do you think Muslims are supposed to pray 5 times a day and fast? For self-restraint, my dear. So, many Muslims aren't really Islamic.....aren't Buddhists? Christians? Hindus? Whatever?

As for the Shariah, Muslims of course want Shariah if they are committed Muslims. Shariah covers a very wide area. From hygiene, to food, to prayer and fasting and hajj, clothing, business laws, international laws, penal codes, family laws, etc. Did I mention sex? It's much like the jewish halacha. How many people know these things properly and academicly before they say anything? What are the basis or objectives of Shariah? Muslims are not blameless in this regard also. Even the most unschooled ones want to talk about Shariah too like your imam. Maybe it was their emotion talking as most uneducated people do instead of trying to solve problems.

Yes, don't be swayed into thinking evil is good and vice versa.

I think people just hate Islam for no reason and they just don't care about finding the truth. Its a trend these days.

Winn Adams
Winn A7 years ago