Sociology and Anthropology

Unveiled Muslim Identity in the West: A Muslim Male Perspective

This paper focuses on the meaning and promise of hijab in the transnational contexts, specifically in the Muslim diasporas. I argue for broadening the national imaginary of citizenry in the “Western” milieu to incorporate its “Other,” Islam, through reconsideration of the prevailing perception of hijab, which has long symbolized Islam’s oppression of women to the “Western” eyes. To this end, I set out to situate hijab at the crossroads of the deep issues of Orientalism, multiculturalism, feminism, and notions of citizenship informed by a wider meaning of politics. Inspired mostly by the emphasis of Katherine Bullock’s seminal work on the multiple meanings of hijab, my perspective proposes the revision of the dominant so-called liberatory feminist attitude that in effect sustains the oppression of women in both Muslim and “Western” settings. In offering this, however, I am closer to a cosmopolitan outlook than a multiculturalist one. I specially suggest avoiding assimilationary policies that would miss the real possibilities of empowerment and liberation of Muslim (and) women globally. The solution, instead, lies in the de-Westernizing of the West. In another vein, my “male” perspective will pose a challenge to certain commonplace convictions of some feminists that essentialize women’s experience over any other subjectivities that women and men share in other contexts and that might prove indispensable in working out the broader questions I will handle in this paper.

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