Challenging Historical & Modern Stereotypes

Katherine Bullock

The need to challenge the negative stereotype of the veil as oppressive is urgent.

It is on many people’s minds and the debate on whether to wear or not to wear is becoming ever more heated as mainstream media equate it with Muslim backwardness

and barbarity.

This work focuses on the popular Western cultural view that the veil is oppressive for Muslim women and highlights the underlying patterns of power behind this constructed

image of the veil.

It examines the colonial roots of this negative stereotype and successfully challenges the arguments of liberal feminists such as Mernissi to assert that in a culture of consumerism, the veil can be experienced as a liberation from the tyranny of the beauty myth and the thin ‘ideal’ of woman.

Dr. Katherine Bullock’s treatise on Rethinking Muslim Women and the Veil was first published by the IIIT in 2002 with a second printing in 2007.

It is a forceful and intelligent critique of the popular western notion of the veil as a symbol of Muslim women’s oppression. Addressing many of the key socio-political

concerns which this global issue has raised, the author examines the West’s historical fixation with the veil (including aspects of colonialism and fetishism with the harem), appraises feminist discourse, and offers an alternative theory of the veil.

An important feature of the work is the voice the author has given to the views, opinions, experiences, and perspectives of a sample of Muslim women interviewed in Canada on the subject of the hijab.

The author embraced Islam during her Ph.D. candidacy and, interestingly, it was the experience of people’s reaction to her conversion that led her to change the original topic of her doctoral thesis and choose instead the study of the veil as the subject

of her Ph.D. Through careful and meticulous study into an area fraught with historical and cultural misconceptions, the author has sought to challenge some of the subjective and negative fundamentals which have come to dominate much of the discourse into this important issue today.

Dr. Bullock’s work forms an important background to any study or debate of the huge and growing political issue that the veil has become in the West.