Every wonder what life would be like if you were forced to wear a full-face veil? How do you see? How do you breathe? Would you feel unnoticed – or unnoticeable – or would you feel like you are sticking out like a ghoul?
Living in a hot climate and among Muslim women, I often think about these questions as I pass women swathed in fabric – hijabs and long coats along with the occasional niqab and burqa. Eye contact is not part of their culture as I look sympathetically in their direction.
I believe the sad truth is that life underneath these garments is close to hell (heat included). If you want to experience with just one of your senses what life is like behind these garments, click here and here and you will see two stunning photo essays of what the world looks like when viewed behind a shroud.
I have read commentary from women wearing the full-face veil who say that covering their face affords them much sought-after anonymity in cultures where persistent and incessant sexual harassment is the norm. While that in itself is a sad commentary about the length to which a woman must go to avoid having her body groped, ogled and worse, it is unfortunately not the case.
Sexual harassment in Saudi Arabia, where the burqa is mandatory is rampant and studies in Egypt, where a full 99 percent of women report being sexually harassed show that women in hijabs are as much subject to harassment as women who dress more “Western.”
But perhaps the saddest commentary on this subject comes from one of the photographers, a man from Saudi Arabia, who documented life behind veil. He ended up realizing, “Those pictures instead became a portrait of my prejudice. I’ve always resented how some Western media outlets profiled Muslims and Middle Eastern [individuals], and this showed me how I was doing the same. Turning the veil onto that barrier between us and ‘the others,’ whoever that might be.”
In truth, the veil is a symbol of male domination – a statement that the most prominent part of a woman is her sexuality, hence making that her prime worth. Such a deconstructed view as the one above only serves to further subjugate women, who are forced to live behind the dictates of a male-dominated worldview.