The centrality of veiling and invisibility: The construction of the Muslim woman identity in contemporary discourses and media

Title: The centrality of veiling and invisibility: The construction of the Muslim woman identity in contemporary discourses and media
Authors: Ramji, Rubina
Date: 2003
Abstract: This thesis investigates the "Muslim woman" as an ideological construct and what it has come to mean in both Eastern and Western thought. It examines the discourses within the historical, social and political context of Islamism, Orientalism and Feminism. This thesis explores the foundations and influences of Islamic images constructed by the West. It analyzes contemporary feminist thought in order to offer a survey of Islamic feminist approaches to the Islamic woman. There is a consistent, truncated, stereotypical image of Islam in general, and Muslim women specifically, which are overwhelmingly evidenced in popular films in America. In order to contextualize these images, this thesis offers suggestive evidence that these stereotypes are not just in films, but are perpetuated within Islamist discourse, substantiated by Orientalism and repeated by Feminist discourse. Chapter One provides an overview of current relations between the West and the East to show how the image of Islam has come to be understood today. Although the role of Muslim women is generally ignored, it is important to understand how historical and current events have used religious rhetoric to demonize Islam as a religion, and Muslim men as terrorists and oppressors. Chapter Two investigates how the veil has become the "unifying" symbol: a signifier that distinguishes Islam from the outside. It is unique as a symbol because it constantly tells the West to stay out of Islamic issues. Chapter Three provides an overview of Colonialism as a framework for the historical inclusion of the image of Islamic women and of the veil in Western thought. I demonstrate, by examining contemporary theorists such as Edward Said and Homi Bhabha, how colonial discourse has created a socially constructed colonial subject of the Muslim male and female which is based on "difference." Chapter Four draws on current scholarship in the areas of religion, film and gender to demonstrate the importance of cinematic representations of the constructed Islamic woman and how they have been perpetuated within the discourses of Orientalism, Feminism and Islamism. By examining films and numerous movie guides, this chapter demonstrates the thorough research sampling done to illustrate how the Muslim woman is constantly depicted in American cinema as veiled, silent and invisible. The concluding chapter explores the voices of women writing from within the Islamic tradition who are interrogating the assumptions of the nationalist framework, and its compatibility with women's rights. It explores various eminent Islamic feminist scholars' approaches to the Muslim woman. Leila Ahmed, Fatima Mernissi, and Nawal El Saadawi all claim that the veil is a major element of stereotyping, and that it is among the most visible signs of Islam women's oppression. (Abstract shortened by UMI.)
CollectionTh├Ęses, 1910 - 2010 // Theses, 1910 - 2010
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