Part 16 - The Veil (which is about half way down on this page)
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Finally, let us shed some light on what is considered in the west as the greatest symbol of women’s oppression and servitude, the veil or the head cover. Is it true that there is no such thing as the veil in the Judaeo-Christian tradition? Let’s set the record straight.
"According to Rabbi Dr. Menachem M. Brayer (Professor of Biblical Literature at Yeshiva University) in his book ‘The Jewish woman in Rabbinic literature’, it was the custom of Jewish women to go out in public with a head covering which, sometimes, even covered the whole face leaving one eye free . He quotes some famous ancient Rabbis saying,”It is not like the daughters of Israel to walk out with heads uncovered” and “Cursed be the man who lets the hair of his wife be seen….a woman who exposes her hair for self-adornment brings poverty.”
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"The veil signified a woman’s self-respect and social status. Women of lower classes would often wear the veil to give the impression of a higher standing. The fact that the veil was the sign of nobility was the reason why prostitutes were not permitted to cover their hair in the old Jewish society. However, prostitutes often wore a special headscarf in order to look respectable. 79 Jewish women in Europe continued to wear veils until the nineteenth century when their lives became more intermingled with the surrounding secular culture. . . .
"What about the Christian tradition? It is well known that Catholic Nuns have been covering their heads for hundreds of years, but that is not all. St. Paul in the New Testament made some very interesting statements about the veil: . . . (I Corinthians 11:3-10).
"St. Paul’s rationale for veiling women is that the veil represents a sign of the authority of the man, who is the image and glory of God, over the woman who was created from and for man.
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"From all the above evidence, it is obvious that Islam didn’t invent the head cover, but Islam endorsed it. The Quran urges the believing men and women to lower their gaze and guard their modesty and then urges the believing women to extend their head covers to cover the neck and the bosom . . . (24:30,31).
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"Thus, the only purpose of the veil in Islam is protection. The Islamic veil, unlike the veil of the Christian tradition, is not a sign of man’s authority over woman nor is it a sign of woman’s subjection to man. The Islamic veil, unlike the veil in the Jewish tradition, is not a sign of luxury and distinction of some noble married women.The Islamic veil is only a sign of modesty with the sole purpose of protecting women, all women. The Islamic philosophy is that it is always better safe than sorry."
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Other interesting comparisons and observations are made in this lengthy article, including an appeal to morality in the West. I have not read more of this series than some of the first part of this page, which compares the use of polygamy in Islam with the practices of Judeo-Christian tradition.