NON-MUSLIMS TEND TO REGARD VEILING as a sign of women’s repression. That is true in highly patriarchal societies like Iran and Saudi Arabia, where women have second-class status and are required to cover both head and body when outside the home.
GENERALLY, ISLAMIC RELIGIOUS SCHOLARS cite two verses in the Koran to support their consensus that Muslim women must, or should, cover their hair. The first is Verse 33:59, addressed to the prophet Muhammad and his family: “O Prophet! Tell Thy wives and daughters And the believing women, That they should cast Their outer garments over Their persons (when abroad): That is most convenient, That they should be known (As such) and not molested.” Verse 24:31 states, “And say to the believing women That they should lower Their gaze and guard Their modesty; that they Should not display their Beauty and ornaments except What (must ordinarily) appear Thereof; that they should Draw their veils over Their bosoms."
“It basically lets them off the hook from having to talk about what might constitute good behavior on their part….” she said. “There’s no discussion of how they should be dressing or behaving.... Why is the onus always on women to be the custodians of the community’s morality or identity?”
TODAY, IT IS THE MOST severe forms of the veil – the niqab and the burqa – that are generating heated debate in Europe and some Muslim majority countries.