The Seeds of My Own Re-evaluations
Mary Walker was Production Co-ordinator on the BBC2 series “Living Islam”.
a position of honour and respect. “It is not liberation where you say women should go naked. It is just oppression,
because men want to see them naked.”
Just as to us the veil represents Muslim oppression, to them miniskirts and plunging necklines represent oppression.
They said that men are cheating women in the West. They let us believe we’re liberated but enslave us to the male
However much I insist on the right to choose what I wear, I cannot deny that the choice is often dictated by what
will make my body more attractive to men. Women cannot separate their identity from their appearance and so we
remain trapped in the traditional feminine world, where the rules are written by men.
By choosing to wear the veil, these women were making a conscious decision to define their role in society and
their relationship with men. That relationship appeared to be based more on exchange and mutual respect (a
respect that was often lacking in the personal relationships I saw in the West), than the master/servant scenario I
had anticipated. The Veil to them signified visual confirmation of their religious commitment, in which men and
women were united, and for Zeenah and Fatima an even stronger commitment to a political ideal.
So were my notions of oppression in the form of the veil disqualified? If my definition of equality was free will then
I could no longer define that oppression as a symptom of Islam. The women had all exercised their right to choose.
To some extent, they were freer than me – I had less control over my destiny. I could no longer point at them and
say they were oppressed and I was not. my life was influenced by male approval as theirs – but the element of
choice had been taken out of mine. their situations and their arguments had, after all, served to highlight
shortcomings in my view of my own liberty.
* Mary Walker was Production Co-ordinator on the BBC2 series “Living Islam”.
Article courtesy of Impact Magazine