“Veiling is legitimized by the element of choice, and it is the presence or lack of choice that creates the context of whether the hejab frees a woman or objectifies her. Yet history, in all its intersections between the Old and New World, shows that patriarchy repeatedly finds a way to sneak in and impose itself on women’s dress, all in the name of “liberation.”
Leila Ahmed, an eminent scholar on gender and feminism in Islam, has argued that the linking between women and the veil as oppression “was created by Western discourse.” A seemingly progressive male-driven resistance developed, which urged women to abandon the veil as a means of emancipation was therefore a mirror image of the colonial narrative; it “contested the colonial thesis by inverting it – thereby also, ironically, grounding itself in the premises of the colonial thesis.” Back home in Europe and America, these same “liberating” men fought against female suffrage for the right to vote. Feminism, in many ways, became a passive aggressive tool by which to continue to control women within a patriarchal framework.
Veiling, conversely, became a symbol for resistance against invading colonialism, only truly becoming an issue for women when they felt their cultures come under attack. Far from reconciling themselves as symbols of female submission, women, throughout the history of Western intervention in the Middle East, have persistently covered themselves to make their presence known, to be seen in opposition to whatever powers would rather paint them anonymous and invisible.”