Colonisation and hijab: A case study of Egypt and India

Ahmad, Nasreen (2001) Colonisation and hijab: A case study of Egypt and India. MPhil(R) thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis is an analysis of the contemporary perception of the Muslim woman's dress known as the hijab in order to determine the extent of the influence of European culture on this perception through the process of colonisation. In light of the resurgence of the hijab amongst young Muslim women during the last decade, the study is an attempt to analyse some of the factors that may have contributed to its decline in popularity amongst certain sectors of the Muslim population during the early part of the twentieth century. The study will investigate why the hijab as a religious tradition was abandoned by some women and analyse to see if there may have been a link between the so-called 'unveiling' and the subsequent occupation of Muslim lands by the secular Europeans in order to demonstrate that their influence may have been intrinsic to the subsequent change of perception. Prior to the phenomenon that came to be known as colonisation, Muslim women everywhere accepted the hijab as a traditional part of their dress with its origin in religion. The emergence of feminist idealism and its development into a movement proved decisive for the key players thus marking this period as a landmark in the feminist phase. The exploration into imperialism revealed as much about the diversity of cultures as it did about the ethnocentric climate within which the empire was established. Critical to understanding the ideology of empire was the essence of understanding the philosophy of the men who documented the structure of the empire with all the stereotypical images that helped to perpetuate the myth of the East. Within this category were travellers such as Burton, I Doughty, Edward Lane and T. E. Lawrence, and government officials such as John Stuart Mill and Lords Cromer and Balfour. These men along with many others helped to establish the myth of the corrupt and uncivilised east with its savage and backward culture. Their views contributed towards the understanding that the Islamic hijab was a contributory factor to the backwardness of the people and underlying this assumption was the belief that the hijab as a practice was subjugating the women and only through its removal could the people be liberated. The colonial process of attempting to convert the Muslim east was no myth. It entailed a systematic mechanism of subtle and aggressive proselytising by government social engineers and missionaries alike. The failure to convert the Muslims through direct preaching forced the colonial scheme to abandon its strategy and resort to the indirect method of assaulting the religion of Islam by associating its practice and customs with backwardness. It therefore used the hijab as its visible marker and the women as their target. The climate within which the Muslim women's perception of the hijab developed cannot be encapsulated within a specific moment in time. It was the outcome of a process that developed over a period of time reaching its climax during the Victorian era. The prejudices and misconceptions of the culture and character of the east were a deliberate attempt by the dominant cultures of the West to establish an image of the east that would allow them to empower and dominate with justification. This thesis contains references to the Holy Qur'an and Traditions from the life of Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam). The formula uttered by Muslims when they hear the name of the Prophet is a salutation for blessings upon him. Muslim readers of this thesis are requested to utter the formula wherever the name of the Prophet is mentioned.

Item Type: Thesis (MPhil(R))
Qualification Level: Masters
Additional Information: Adviser: Samia Loucif
Keywords: Islamic studies, social research.
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities
Supervisor's Name: Supervisor, not known
Date of Award: 2001
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2001-73243
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 14 Jun 2019 08:56
Last Modified: 12 Nov 2021 10:02

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