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Wall Street JournalMs. Ahmed's narrative deftly captures the mood of the [colonial] era, registering the range of ironies surrounding the status of the veil.—Mira Sethi, Wall Street Journal
— Mira Sethi
In Cairo in the 1940s, Leila Ahmed was raised by a generation of women who never dressed in the veils and headscarves their mothers and grandmothers had worn. To them, these coverings seemed irrelevant to both modern life and Islamic piety. Today, however, the majority of Muslim women throughout the Islamic world again wear the veil. Why, Ahmed asks, did this change take root so swiftly, and what does this shift mean for women, Islam, and the West?
When she began her study, Ahmed assumed that the veil's return indicated a backward step for Muslim women worldwide. What she discovered, however, in the stories of British colonial officials, young Muslim feminists, Arab nationalists, pious Islamic daughters, American Muslim immigrants, violent jihadists, and peaceful Islamic activists, confounded her expectations. Ahmed observed that Islamism, with its commitments to activism in the service of the poor and in pursuit of social justice, is the strain of Islam most easily and naturally merging with western democracies' own tradition of activism in the cause of justice and social change. It is often Islamists, even more than secular Muslims, who are at the forefront of such contemporary activist struggles as civil rights and women's rights. Ahmed's surprising conclusions represent a near reversal of her thinking on this topic.
Richly insightful, intricately drawn, and passionately argued, this absorbing story of the veil's resurgence, from Egypt through Saudi Arabia and into the West, suggests a dramatically new portrait of contemporary Islam.
— Mira Sethi
— Christine Stansell
— Bridging Cultures Bookself Selection, Muslim Journeys Project
— Joseph Preville
— Malise Ruthven
Part 1 The Islamic Resurgence and the Veil: From Emergence to Migration
1 Unveiling 19
2 The Veil's Vanishing Past 46
3 The 1970s: Seeds of the Resurgence 68
4 The New Veil: Converging Influences 93
5 The 1980s: Exploring Women's Motivations 117
6 Islamist Connections 131
7 Migrations 157
8 The 1990s: A Changing Climate in America 177
Part 2 After 9/11: New Pathways in America Prologue 193
9 Backlash: The Veil, the Burka, and the Clamor of War 199
10 ISNA and the Women of ISNA 233
11 American Muslim Women's Activism in the Twenty-First Century 265