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Christina von Braun / Bettina Mathes Verschleierte Wirklichkeit. Die Frau, der Islam und der Westen. Aufbau Verlag Berlin 2007 ISBN 3-351-02643-9
pp. 5 - 7, 54 - 75
Christina von Braun / Bettina Mathes Veiled Reality. Women, Islam and the West.
Translated by Rupert D. V. Glasgow
© 2007 Litrix
Introduction … 9
CHAPTER I Ex Oriente Crux: The Cross with the Headscarf … 32 The Symbolism of the Cross … 33 The Historical Cross … 35 The Secularization of Cross Symbolism … 41 The History of the Veil … 52 The Diversity of Veils … 54 The Veil in Christianity and Islam … 60 The Ottoman Empire: the Fight for the Veil … 75 The Veil and the Sleeper … 79 The Cross with the Headscarf … 87
CHAPTER II The Symbolic Gender Order in the Three Religions of the Book … 94 The Symbolic Gender Order as a Reflection of the Religions … 94 The Role of the Male in the Gender Order … 107 The Alphabet as Castration Machine … 115 The Relationship of Writing and the Body in the Three Religions of the Book … 121 Three Alphabetic Writing Systems … 126 The Two Sorts of Spiritual “Father” … 141
Image Worship and the Symbolic Gender Order … 149 Curtains Up: the “Sex Bomb” … 155 The Art of Exposure … 168 The Fabrication of the Beautiful Body … 173 Veil and Hymen … 184 CHAPTER IV Harem Fantasies: The Joy of Discovery and Cultural Hegemony … 192 Submission … 194 The “Naked” Truth: The Harem as Pornographic Fantasy … 203 Feminist Views of the “Other” Woman … 210 CHAPTER V Orient and Occident: Two Orders of Knowledge … 230 The Western Order of Knowledge … 242 Two Perceptions of Time … 249 The Sexualisation of the Orient as a Function of the Two Orders of Knowledge … 253 The Orient as the Place of the “Mother Tongue” … 263 The Orient as the Place of Social Renewal … 269 The Orient as the Driving Force behind Innovation in the Field of Knowledge … 271 Creative Destruction … 276 The “Mother” in the Age of her Technological Reproducibility: Orient and Occident … 278 2 .CHAPTER III Ex Occidente Looks: The Power of the Gaze and the Female Body Exposed … 149 Image Prohibition.
Gold and Gender … 366 Islam and Capitalism … 368 History of Money … 373 The Oriental Economy … 385 Body and Sign … 390 Sacred Prostitution … 396 The Transition to Profane Prostitution … 405 3 . Globalization and Gender … 333 Turkey: Background to the Development of the Secular State … 335 The Symbolism of the Female Body in the Turkish Process of Secularization … 340 Islam and Globalization … 350 Feminist Exegeses of Islam … 356 CHAPTER VIII Ex Oriente DAX: Money.CHAPTER VI The Female Body as “Portable Mother Country” … 283 The Collective Body … 285 The Female Body as Representative of the Community … 291 The Consequences of the Religious Codex for the Gender Order in Islam … 303 Female “Emancipation” in Colonialism … 309 The Veil in Post-Colonialism … 316 The “Honour Killing” – in East and West … 322 CHAPTER VII Secularization.
Money and Prostitution in the Middle Ages … 410 Money and Prostitution in the Twentieth Century … 416 Ex Oriente Nix … 423 Afterward … 429 Notes … 437 List of Illustrations … 476 4 .
Judaism and Christianity. which is today perceived as a specific characteristic of Islam. be a “distortion of historical facts”78 which hides the reciprocities and continuities among the various cultures and religions in the Middle East and Mediterranean. which is deeply rooted in the pre-Islamic Middle East. what emerges is that the veil was not invented by Islam. the Jews and the Greeks. the veiling of women was a common custom in the Christian regions of the Middle East. although the form it took varied from region to region and even today depends on which of the numerous groupings within Islam the women in question belong to. at the time of the emergence of Islam in the 7th century.76 The veiling of women.The Diversity of Veils (pp. To describe the veiling of women as a genuinely Islamic custom would thus.”77 As the historian Leila Ahmed describes in detail. The Christians had adopted it from the Syrians. but was taken on in its confrontation with the older (pre-Islamic) cultures and the two other monotheistic religions. in Byzantium and the Mediterranean area. according to Ahmed. It was only from the 9th century onwards that it became an obligatory part of the civilian (as opposed to sacred) dress of women. 54 – 75) If one considers the history of the veiling of the female body. In Islamic areas the veil was initially worn only by Mohammed’s wives and later by women from the upper classes of society.79 The veil therefore forms an inextricable part of the history of the Christian West: if we nowadays regard the veil as alien this is not because it actually is alien to western 5 . is in fact – in the words of Renate Kreile – “an outstanding element of the ‘unity of the Mediterranean’ […]. indeed was not even adopted from the outset.
even when the nuns in question work in such culturally sensitive institutions as schools or hospitals. Yet the fact that we are no longer willing to admit the religious and sexual implications of the latter does not mean that these do not exert a cultural influence. Eventually. the question itself is an expression of repression. The historical perspective shows that it is not primarily the veiling of women that calls for explanation. Nor do we view the habit worn by nuns with the mistrust we show towards the Muslim veil. 6 .80 If we notice such scarves at all. fashion designers even succeeded in lending the headscarf a certain sex appeal. we must take a look at the long history of the veiling of women.culture but because we have “made it alien” to ourselves. proved only too willing to be photographed in headscarves. There are few symbols more ambiguous. Even today women in the rural areas of South Germany wear headscarves. To grasp this influence. institutions where children and patients are as much “at the mercy” of the people who work there as primary school pupils are of headscarf-wearing teachers. When haute couture made the headscarf socially acceptable in the 1950s (first and foremost as travel attire). contradictory and changeable than the veil. we consider them part of the traditional rural dress. but rather their unveiling.81 Our perception of the “Muslim” veil clearly takes place within the context of our non-perception of the western headscarf. Brigitte Bardot and Jeanne Moreau. While the European languages suggest that the various forms of hiding the female body can be subsumed under the concept “veil” (German Schleier. not symbols of “dangerous” rustic backwardness or pre-modern misogyny. film stars such as Grace Kelly. and even crowned heads such as Elizabeth II or Queen Fabiola. What is the meaning conveyed by the veil? Put like this. Connected to this repression of the veil from our cultural memory is also the fact that forms of female headgear that differ scarcely if at all from the “Muslim” headscarf or veil are not perceived as veils.
French voile). present and future. guard an inner realm protected by curtains and hidden from the sight of normal mortals. by contrast. Arabic lacks any such general term. no mortal has yet lifted my veil.) stipulates that married women should cover their head whenever they appear in public: “Married women and widows must veil the head when they tarry in open places. 1450-1250 B. for example.”82 The statue of the Egyptian Isis is said to have borne the inscription: “I am the universe. the veil is used by a wife to show her association with a man (her 7 . the veil is part of the attire worn by married women from the upper classes. In Babylonian texts. Brides likewise wear a veil over their face as a sign of their pudency – a custom practised both by the Jews and the Greeks and later adopted by the Romans. and later on Demeter and Vesta) are often portrayed as veiled. In Hebrew the literal meaning of the word for bride (kallatu) is “the veiled one. the past.”84 A legal document from Assur (ca. where the various forms of the mother goddess (Ishtar. “night is invoked as the veiled goddess.86 The veil as an attribute of the goddess symbolizes her independence as well as the essential unavailability of what is sacred: the unmarried priestesses of the Roman Vesta. The earliest evidence comes from Mesopotamia and the Mediterranean. That the unambiguousness and historical constancy implied by the word “veil” is historically untenable is shown by just a brief review of the most important meanings. The veil (over the female body) first assumes a historically tangible form both as an attribute of the goddess and as a garment worn by mortal woman.87 In the secular sphere.C. according to Alfred Jeremias.”85 In ancient Greece too.”83 Homer reports that the Eleusinian mysteries venerate Demeter as the “Lady of the Shining Veil. where they perform their rituals unseen.” By lifting the bride’s veil the bridegroom symbolically exposes her pudenda. Isis. and by “knowing” her he symbolically performs the sexual act.
to cite one final paradox. Common to these distinct meanings of the veil is the fact that they mark the wearer as a sexual being. as well as the sexual act with her lover. the veil can mark the woman’s body as absent and mysterious – the veiled Muslim woman is invisible to man’s eyes on account of the veil – and it can symbolize that invisible “secret of virginity” hidden within the female body. the shepherd Dumuzi. surround yourself with the rampart of modesty […] For wedded you are to Christ. the veil came to symbolize the invisible hymen of the virgin. who was forbidden from donning the veil under threat of severe punishment: “the whore’s head is to be free under threat of strict punishment. yet without thereby suppressing the other meanings entirely. though a virgin. the veil signalled the renunciation of sexuality and reproduction. In the cult of Ishtar.”89 Finally. by contrast. In his treatise De virginibus velandis. coloured and black 8 . she will give birth to a son. cover your head with the veil! Take up the weapon of chaste discipline. There are transparent and non-transparent. Portrayals of the Annunciation since the 5th century have thus shown Mary busy at work spinning and weaving when the angel announces that. her sexuality was considered sacred and had its place in the temple. Corresponding to the veil’s diverse and conflicting meanings is the richness of its forms and colours.88 The goddess herself frequently appears as the incarnation of female sexuality and eroticism. ritual chants describe the beauty of her breasts and her vulva. Virgin.” runs the above-cited legal document from Assur.respectability) and thereby distinguish herself from the prostitute.90 Following the “invention” of the maidenhead in the 11th century. written around AD 216. to Him you have surrendered your body. Even the mother goddess was envisioned as sexually active. In Christianity. the Christian author Tertullian thus exhorts unmarried virgins to protect their chastity with the veil: “I ask you.
In the following section.91 The semantic richness of the veil. others that also conceal the nape of the neck and the shoulders. wide trousers or of a loose tent-like gown that is pulled over the head and leaves just a small lattice-like slit for the eyes. therefore. The Veil in Christianity and Islam Although the veiling of women in Christianity has a long tradition. there are those that cover just the hair of the head. is so great that only a vague idea of it can be given here. consisting either of a cloak with long. The Greek word for revelation is apokalypsis. it seems to us to be important to take a more detailed look at the different meanings of the veil in Christianity and Islam. the Revelation to John. and the prefix apo ( = away from. Then there are those that conceal mouth and nose but not the head. as well as at their points of contact and the influences they have exerted upon one another. literally “unveiling. and those that hide the whole body from view.” which is composed of kalypta. off). There are veils made of finest silk and others made from coarse cotton. and yet others that come down over the face as well. others are brightly patterned.veils. The Latin concept of revelatio also 9 . we shall not so much be providing an overview divided according to religion as presenting the most important aspects of the veil in a direct comparison. referring to a sort of veil-like shawl. covering either one eye or both. in other words. however. One cannot help but thus conceive of the history of the veil as the common history of Christianity and Islam. as recorded in the last book of the New Testament. Some are all one colour. For Islam the veil has played a major part in its confrontation with Christianity. For the current debate concerning the headscarf. at its heart Christian doctrine proclaims a message of unveiling.
for he was afraid to look upon God” (2 Moses.92 In two surahs of the Koran he is explicitly addressed as “O Veiled One” (73.” Indeed.1). he called out: “Wrap me up. The caricatures thus triggered fierce criticism and led to violent protests in the Islamic states of the Middle East: embassies and cultural institutions of European countries were set on fire. for example as a bearded sabre-rattler and pimp or as a pig or pig-eater (pigs being considered impure in Islam as in Judaism). since they are founded upon the revealed Word of God. in Islamic tradition Mohammed is also known as “the Veil Man” (d– lhimar). flags publicly burned.93 If he is portrayed in an image (which is seldom the case). Both Judaism and Islam are based upon a hidden God who must not be represented in images – who thus remains veiled – and with whom the believer cannot come into direct contact: he must therefore veil himself in confronting him.denotes a symbolic act of unveiling (velum = veil or curtain). and the West denounced wholesale as an enemy of Islam. The caricatures of Mohammed published in the Danish newspaper Jyllands Posten in September 2005 – and subsequently reprinted in certain German and French papers in February 2006 – which depict the Prophet in degrading postures.6). though precisely in the matter of the accessibility of the divine this does not exist. For this reason. Christianity and Islam.1) and “O Covered One” (74. In the Hebrew Bible it is said that on the Mountain of God Moses “hid his face. when both Moses and Mohammed received the revealed Word it was necessary for their head to be veiled. This violence and the concomitant rhetoric of violence are to be 10 . The German term Offenbarung (offen = open) here suggests common ground between Judaism. It might be objected that all three monotheistic religions of the book are religions of revelation. while in the case of Mohammed tradition has it that prior to his abduction. were a conscious infringement of this religious taboo and an intentional disparagement of Islam. 3. then it is usually with his face veiled or left blank. as he felt the approach of God.
forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman [must because she] is the glory of the man. the secret of God.7f. but the woman of the man” (1 Corinthians. 11. a belief nurtured both by the polytheistic religions with their veiled goddesses and by Judaism with its God who must neither be invoked by name nor captured in images. eye to eye as it were.e. Paul not only warned the Christian women of Corinth. This represents a turning away from the belief in the fundamental inaccessibility of what is sacred. 11. The attitude of Christianity and of Christian societies towards the veiling of women can only be understood if this redeeming import of unveiling is taken into account. The woman by contrast is a creation and copy of the man and for this reason must wear a veil in church. Christianity obeys a different logic. unconcealed. As only the man is regarded as the image of God. who contrary to the Jewish customs with which he was familiar appeared in public without veils. i. As a religion of unveiling. The notion of unveiling implies being able to see and comprehend the Truth of Christ. For the man is not of the woman. The assumption that the divine can be confronted unveiled adds new meanings to the veiling of women also practised in Christianity. only he is permitted to face Him unveiled. which was countered not entirely surprisingly with fundamentalist measures.).condemned. 11 . Accordingly. Yet they show that the caricatures – precisely because they were directed at the foundations of the Islamic faith – were interpreted as an attack by the West on Islam and on Muslims. that they should veil themselves in church – “every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head” (1 Corinthians.5) – but also provided the reasons for this veiling of women and only women: “For a man indeed ought not to cover his head.
who had snakes for hair. therefore. if a man have long hair.The reason for the veiling of women in the face of the divine. Yet the view that women’s hair was the seat of female sexuality was widespread in antiquity. Weib is cognate with the English wife. is their supposed function as a copy. Whereas the man is viewed as a creator. according to Paul. it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering” (1 Corinthians. but instead regarded the custom as an expression of the “natural” concealment of woman. which was symbolically duplicated by the veil and thereby acknowledged as such. 11. What is noteworthy about Paul’s interpretation of women’s hair is that he seems not to ascribe it any magical sexual powers that have to be brought under control by the veil. “Covering the hair of married women was so much a custom that the New High German term ‘Weib’∗ is even attributed to it: Wiba – ‘the veiled one’ – initially denoted the headgear of the married woman. the woman is merely something reproduced. did not wear veils because the hair of their head was “by nature” short: “Doth not even nature itself teach you. 12 . finding expression for example in the myth of the terrifying Gorgon Medusa. emphasizing the sexual aspect.95 The ancient Germanic peoples tamed the magical power they saw as emanating from women’s hair by plaiting it or covering it with a net or scarf. was considered seductive and dangerous – an ambivalence later present in Islam as well – and was thus subject in all cultures to special rituals.”96 The reason that these “precautions” were generally directed at married women is that the magical power ∗ Translator’s note: the modern German term Weib means a woman or female. Women may only meet the Pope with the hair of their head covered. Long hair symbolized sexual magic and fertility. that. Paul found the model for this function of the veil in “nature.14f.94 The Vatican has upheld this command to this day. it is a shame unto him? But if a woman have long hair.). Frau is the more general term. Men by contrast.” The fact that the women of the time let their hair grow long he interpreted not as an expression of cultural ideas of femininity.
For indeed this holy and heavenly profession is nowhere established but among us Christians. who were not perceived as sexual beings.”97 The veil of the Christian virgin is a sign of her withdrawal from the world.”99 This high regard for sexuality does not mean that it is “free. which is why virgins. which can in general be described as measures for maintaining the separation of the sexes and are directed at both sexes. but not the only one. sexuality in Islam is subject to a host of regulations. this new notion of virginity compels the “heathen who see them [to] express their admiration of them as the temples of the Word. The veiling of women in public space is one such measure. “It can even be said. As mentioned above. In this point too. […] Sexual pleasures are a foretaste of Paradise. virgins too were supposed to veil their head and face in order to demonstrate their renunciation of sexuality. usually went unveiled.” according to the sociologist Nilüfer Göle. The choice of sexual asceticism and lifelong virginity made the chaste woman the “bride of Christ. “that in the Islamic system there are a lot more prohibitions on men and women being 13 . This custom followed the pre-Christian tradition of the bridal veil. the Prophet of Islam is extolled as someone who enjoys not only the company of women. Sexuality is regarded basically in a positive light: “Unlike the virgin Jesus. yet now provided it with a Christian meaning.”98 Islam rejects both celibate communities of women (and men) and the Christian hostility towards sex.” As in all cultures. and it is a very strong argument that with us is to be found the genuine and true religion.of women’s hair was associated with the sexually active woman. Christianity introduced an innovation. therefore.” as shown by Tertullian’s above-cited admonition to the virgins. According to the Church Father Athanasius of Alexandria in a letter dating from 356. but also the pleasures of sexuality. symbolizing the overcoming of sexuality and turning the woman’s body into a “sacred vessel dedicated to the Lord.
’”103 The unveiling thus demands a specific form of internalized self-discipline new to Islamic cultures. they should let their headscarves fall to cover their necklines” (24:31). is not condemned. her sexual “energy” has to be tamed in other ways: for example. and not flaunt their charms beyond what it is acceptable to reveal. If a woman appears unveiled in public.102 The fact that the veiling of women in public space did not entail the overcoming or suppression of their sexuality but rather indicated a specific way of dealing with it is substantiated by comments from Turkish women whose veils were removed with the foundation of the Republic in 1923: they felt this measure to be a neutralization of their sexual identity comparable to that of unveiled western woman.”100 On the veiling of women the Koran says: “And tell believing women that they should … guard their private parts. Because female sexuality. but woman as an embodiment of destruction and symbol of chaos. “is fear of their sexual power: perhaps an atavism of the cultural memory. non-Christian functions of the veil as protection for man from woman’s dangerous (because “impure”) sexuality and fertility. This represents a return to older.” “In other words. but instead she has ‘veiled’ her sexuality.”101 According to Fatima Mernissi. a recollection of the female deities who have been destroyed by the triumphant one and only God. the Kemalist woman may have removed her facial veil and shawl. what is attacked and disparaged is not sexuality in general. which envelops the body like a 14 . by a perception of her as an “emancipated” woman with equal rights and thus as “asexual. though viewed as threatening.” writes the Islam scholar Malise Ruthven. “The reason given for the segregation of women. the obligation to wear a veil only applies to women old enough to be capable of reproduction. made herself ‘untouchable.together than curtailments of women’s rights.’ ‘unattainable. publicly armoured herself. which is nonetheless necessary for survival.
Not revelation (revelatio) but separation is here to the fore. but there were too many tourists.”105 Historically and etymologically. but was granted permission to do so. invisible and therefore seemingly “natural” skin: a tissue of cultural disciplinary techniques that might also be described as a “super-ego” that covers the skin (but is at the same time internalized).”104 The veiling of women in Islam refers to the realm of the divine. inwardly. “are closely bound up with conceptions of sacredness. Her original intention was to meditate. therefore.”106 Only at a later date ḥiğâb was then transposed to the veiling of the female body in public. Corresponding to this is the verb hağğaba in the sense of ‘to hamper entry. One small episode recounted by the Munich psychologist and psychoanalyst Doris Laufenberg (who deals primarily with Muslim immigrants) provides a concrete example. She was not wearing a veil. but denotes a curtain at the entrance to a house. derived from the root HGB. When she left the Mosque afterwards one of the attendants told her he had been watching her and seen that she had not been praying. Catherine’s Monastery on Mount Sinai. During one of her trips to the Middle East she visited St. appears only rarely in pre-Islamic texts. so she went to an empty Mosque nearby and asked the two attendants if she might pray there. She replied that she always prayed “in secret. The Islam scholar Ludwig Ammann writes: “The noun ḥiğâb. 15 .” The young man nodded and said. you wear your veil within. ̣ḥiğâb refers to partition curtains and screens. the veil worn by women is derived from the curtain that protects the private from the public.’ In Koran usage. “I understand. “Restrictions for women. It is not one of the concepts that are used for veils or shawls covering the face and body.second.” according to Ruthven.
”108 As the representative of the hidden aspects of divinity and the power of reproduction. which plays such a major role in the western imaginary. the mashrabiyya grants a view that is not itself seen. its primary social function was to prevent the women of the family from being seen by strangers. “Traditionally used on both the outer and inner walls of the houses in the past. or into the courtyard.Similar considerations also apply to the harem. forbidden. Here it becomes clear that the harem was not originally the place of sexual dissipation conjured up time and again in the western imagination. This is a usually wooden ornamental partition – sometimes even several partitions forming a bay – that lets air and light through but divides the women’s chambers off from those of the men. the woman must be covered up when she is outside the protected realm of the harem. its function is to mediate rather than to shut off. The Arabic word for harem (ḥarîm) goes back to the same root as the word for sacred (ḥarâm). a “sacred taboo sphere of vital social functions. and conversely the veil is a wearable. the female pudenda – was equated. What is protected by the veil is the woman’s fertility and child-bearing capacity. “In Arabic the ḥRM derivatives cover the semantic field of what is sacred. As it can be seen through. The mashrabiyya can be interpreted as an architectural form of veil.”109 16 . by providing a screen that would allow them to look down into the street below. The harem is derived from this religious significance and denotes a secluded realm inaccessible to the view of strangers. whose actions in public were always visible. inviolable. but a private realm to which the male head of the family. A distinctive architectural feature of Islamic women’s chambers is what is known as the mashrabiyya. bearing the harem with her in the form of the veil. awe-inspiring. Like the veil.”107 It was with precisely this inaccessible space that the female body – or rather. textile form of mashrabiyya. or qa’a from the floor above without being seen. could withdraw.
” tantamount to “copulation with the eyes. The great Islamic jurist and theologian al-Ghazali (died ca.110 though from an Islamic perspective the conflict always originates with the woman. Her sexuality is seen as causing chaos (fitna) and threatening the man in his social identity. In his treatise De virginibus velandis he calls upon virgins not actively to look. writes Mernissi. Rather.”113 In the Christian context the veil thus symbolizes the lowering of the woman’s eyes. but to lower their eyes beneath the veil: with the veil.” Yet here the veiling of women is not matched by a prohibition on the man’s gaze. At this point a further important difference comes to light with respect to the function of the veil for Christian virgins. but the man must not look at her either. “rear a rampart for your sex. the man’s sexuality (and freedom of movement) is also subject to religious restrictions in Islam.111 Of course. 1111) describes the gaze of a man at a strange woman as a “sinful act. which must neither allow your own eyes egress nor ingress to other people’s. Fatima Mernissi has described the spatial separation of the sexes as a strategy for conflict-avoidance. loyalty to Allah and social standing. he urges them.According to Muslim logic. part of the reason that men and women must be separated is that both are perceived as sexual beings. Not only must the woman not be seen by the man. For the man. everything is at stake in this encounter: peace of mind. This. the veil also serves to impose a prohibition on the woman’s gaze. was how Tertullian would have it.”112 The woman’s veil thus helps the man to be blind to the charms that emanate from the female body. Corresponding to the veiling of women in public space is the prohibition of looking by men. at least. Their veil too was to protect them from the eyes of men and in this way help preserve their “innocence. which lacks a counterpart in any comparable 17 . particularly the hair. along with its function of putting up a barrier to man’s dissipative gaze. selfdetermination.
cameras). was to become a broad feature of respectable femininity. Even today. Islam has not been closed to western influences. the active gaze is perceived as “male. this prohibition on the woman’s gaze. These have simply had different effects from in the Christian cultural sphere. microscopes. In a nutshell one might say that the invisible gaze tolerates no veiling. In this context it can scarcely be regarded as a coincidence that the public veiling of women in West Europe lost its symbolic value at the very time when with the central perspective a visual medium became available that gave rise to a unilateral. Yet the power of the gaze in itself is equated with masculinity.115 Of course. In the course of the Middle Ages. encoded in the veil. depersonalized gaze and a homogeneous. “The public realm.” 18 . Since the 16th century the veiling of women – whether virgin. With the help of optical aids (binoculars. These connections are to be dealt with in detail in the following chapter. wife or widow in mourning – has grown meaningless to the extent that the gaze from a central perspective has become significant for the control of public space. prompting even women who wore no veil to lower their eyes in the presence of a man. For the time being let it be pointed out that the absence of women in public space. together with the prohibition on gazing at women that is imposed upon men in Islamic societies. women too are coming to acquire this gaze. has prevented the formation in these societies of the panoptic control of the individual in public described by Michel Foucault114 and the accompanying internalization of this gaze in the course of the European “civilizing process” traced by Norbert Elias. universally observable space.” even if it is no longer reserved exclusively for men. for it is geared to controlling the woman’s body (and increasingly the man’s as well): before it the woman must cast down her eyes.restriction on the man’s gaze. in its presence she is to show herself.
here the private is regarded as the primary. quasi-neutral realm in which private interests must take second place.”116 Precisely because public space does not demand the visual accessibility of the female body. but rather their starting-point is the private – with the private sphere not considered a relatively insignificant remainder category. According to the women’s own accounts. not as a separate entity requiring legal protection. and not the other way round. but as an extension of the private into the public. which appear to western eyes to be merely “coffee mornings. homogeneous. an istiqbā1 (reception day) or an ğam‛īya (savings association). Friederike Stolleis shows that these gatherings. but fulfil public functions in a society segregated by gender. is “conceived of as the sum of its private components. This public realm is thus […] clearly separated from the private realm and its specific activities. for a few hours a sphere of action comes into being in which free and equal people verbally resolve their own affairs – which is what for Hannah Arendt constitutes the public realm.” are not in the western sense private in character.”117 Ludwig Ammann points out that “in defining the difference between ‘public’ and ‘private’ many non-western societies do not start from the public sphere that means so much to our political and legal discourse about citizens and their rights and responsibilities.”118 The consequence of this is that public space is not conceived as a uniform. and children too are left at home if possible. the domestic realm is consciously left behind and excluded from the conversations. In her analysis of socially institutionalized meetings of women in Damascus.according to Ruthven. To this extent it is only “natural” that “prohibitions on viewing” must also hold in public space. public life can also take place in “private” spaces. The Arabic word for nakedness (aura) comes close to 19 . and women in Islamic countries are not automatically excluded from it. […] In other words. “When women in Damascus meet for a ṣub ḥīya (breakfast meeting).
the derivation of the public sphere from the private in Islamic cities also brings to light the invisible regulation of public life in western societies. in cinemas. women in western countries were happy to be influenced by the headgear of Oriental women. These were often decorated with goldwork embroidery and intended to indicate not so much the religiousness as the social standing of the women in question. when the foundation of the Republic led to the abolition of the veil for women. From the Crusades onwards. One law after another was passed.119 thus describing a state in which something can be seen that is only meant for “initiates. and even political measures were taken. in other words before the female body was uncovered.121 The authorities in turn attempted to combat this “clothing 20 . hats or bonnets (which became increasingly fashionable from the 15th century on) made from precious fabrics such as velvet. theatres. however. married women from prosperous families in the German-speaking countries to the north of the Alps adorned their head with veils. Conversely. “The more the women emerged from their isolated private life. the public space had to be reorganized. above all through the improvements in trade relations with the textile centres in Bursa. Damascus and Baghdad in the course of the Middle Ages.“openness” or “gap” in English. the more the state found itself called upon to organize the now public life of women. bars.”120 Before the shaping of the public sphere in accordance with the rules of the panoptic gaze imposed itself in the Occident. In Turkey. though this is perfectly recognizable to Muslims.” The precedence of the private over the public may be the reason that municipal space in Islamic countries often seems to West Europeans to be alien and lacking in structure. […] On municipal public transport. damask and brocade. and even on the trams newly introduced to Istanbul separate compartments were introduced for women.
the more precious the material became. Between the 15th and 17th centuries. Yet the predilection for headgear may also be interpreted as a self-protective measure against the increasing power of the gaze in public space. which on occasion exceeded the limits of the wearer’s social standing. “The rain-cloth or Schurtzhembd. A decree issued by the town council of Regensburg in the 15th century and headed “Ban on women and maidens covering their head either with Schuerzhembden or anything else” ran: “After an abuse and disorder hath come to pass among the female sex here in this commendable town. implying a sense of uneasiness in western women about uncovering themselves in public. and thus make themselves unrecognizable. the town council of Nuremberg repeatedly tried to standardize its appearance and size.”123 As the wording of the decree makes plain. that an end be put to this abuse.”122 What was objected to was not only the luxurious decoration of the cloth. […] The more distinguished the wearer. was at first a simple linen or woollen cover. in praise of God Almighty and the Virgin Mary and also for the protection and honour of the entire female sex. as it was initially called. the less the cloth could be used as protection against the rain. table-cloths and other cloths ill according with customary headwear.luxury” with rules of dress that put a curb on the “dissipated” headgear of married women. which is that both day and night on open streets they cover their head and face with Schuerzhembden. the rain-cloth defies the right to visibility of an anonymous (fictitious) observer 21 . it is an honourable counsel. however. The more precious the material. but also the fact that beneath the cloth the women’s identity was “hidden” and an outside observer could not tell what was going on. among other reasons because its use was being governed less and less by its original function. One example of this is the “Nuremberg rain-cloth” – so called because women originally placed it round their head and body as protection against the rain.
the rain-cloth defends its wearer from the tutelage of this gaze.who controls public space. It is remarkable that in the current debate on the headscarf no importance has been attached to this protective measure to which western women resorted. 22 . Conversely.
Munich. pp. Eine kulturelle Anatomie. 108 Ibid. p. “Der Schleier. “Der Schleier. Stuttgart.. Das Geheimnis in den Bildvorstellungen der Spätantike. 90 Jeremias. Geheimnis und Offenbarung. Eine Interpretation zum Heiligtum der Vesta bei Ovid. Der Islam. 375. here pp. 5.” p. Veiling. Feminist Postcolonial Theory. 1995. 91.). 489-501. 80 An account of the rich regional traditions is provided by Meral Akkent and Gaby Franger in Das Kopftuch. 138f. 2001. 2003. 99 Ruthven. see also Inge Stephan. 102 Fatima Mernissi. 15. 2000. 9. Geschichte der Verschleierung. 113 Quoted in Akkent and Franger. 88 Volkert Haas. 89 Quoted in Akkent and Franger. 92 Jeremias. 103 Göle. p.). Bielefeld.” p. 91 Claudia Knieps. 69-117. in Zeitschrift für KulturAustausch. 65. here p. p. 84 Ibid. 39. 86f. 36. 31 (1931). 85. Die muslimische Frau in der Moderne. p. Schleier und Schwelle II. “Der Schleier. Der Schleier. p. Das Kopftuch. 101 Ruthven. Das Kopftuch. Das Kopftuch. p. Das Topftuch. 1994.. Veil. Körperteile. Verschlingens und der Rettung. Babylonischer Liebesgarten. Berlin.). Würzburg. Islam in Sicht. p. Motiv des Begehrens. 109 David Bailey and Gilane Tawadros (eds. 33ff. 111 Ibid. 1997.” in Aleida Assmann and Jan Assmann (eds. 496. 181-204.. p. 97 Quoted in Peter Brown. 100 Nilüfer Göle. “Der Schleier von Sumer bis Heute. “Spatial Boundaries. p. 70-73. 85 Quoted in Akkent and Franger. see also Moshe Barasch. 94 In Islam the wearing of a beard was imposed on men in order for them to distinguish themselves from the men of other religions. 110 Mernissi. Der Islam. pp. 1999. 96 Akkent and Franger.. 70. here p. 83 Jeremias. pp. Verbindendes Kulturphänomen?. Munich. p. 81 See the pictures in Akkent and Franger. p. Ein Stückchen Stoff in Geschichte und Gegenwart. “Privatsphäre und Öffentlichkeit in der muslimischen Zivilisation. Republik und Schleier. 1987. p.” p. Boston.). 1998. London. “The Meaning of Spatial Boundaries. New Haven. 23 . pp. 1993. 86 See Jeremias. 77 Renate Kreile. Das Kopftuch. 2004. 1988.).” in Aleida Assmann and Jan Assmann (eds. Republik und Schleier. p. 82 Alfred Jeremias. Historical Roots of a Modern Debate. The Body and Society. 98 Ibid. Munich. 70. 95 On the significance of hair in conceptions of femininity in cultural history. “Das Haar der Frau. Geheimnis und Öffentlichkeit.” in Der Alte Orient. 114 Michel Foucault. Eine kurze Einführung. Die Geburt des Gefängnisses. 65.” p.76 For a detailed account see Leila Ahmed. Erotik und Sexualität im Alten Orient. 87 Hildegard Cancik-Lindemaier. p. 141. 163-78. See Malise Ruthven. “Arcana Aedes. London.” pp. 23.” in Nilüfer Göle and Ludwig Ammann (eds. p. Geçmiste ve Günümüdzde Bir Parça Kumas. 48-52. 112 Quoted in ibid. 91. personal communication. 79 Ibid. 99.. Frankfurt-am-Main. pp. Der Islam. Schleier und Schwelle I. 106 Ludwig Ammann. Representation and Contemporary Art. “Privatsphäre und Öffentlichkeit.” in Claudia Benthien and Christoph Wulf (eds. 494. 107 Ammann. Basörtu. “Der Schleier. 79. 27-48. pp. 105 Ruthven. “Der Schleier. Reinbek. 3 (1996). Der Auftritt von Muslimen im öffentlichen Raum. 127. 498. p. 104 Doris Laufenberg. p. p. p. 492.” in Lewis and Mills. 93 Knieps. Der Islam. 141.” p. 78 Ahmed. On the religious symbolism of the veil. Geschichte der Verschleierung der Frau im Islam. Women and Gender. pp. Woman and Gender in Islam. 259. 70. 89. Überwachen und Strafen. Frankfurt-am-Main. 60. p. pp.
Muslimische Frauen in Damaskus.Norbert Elias. Frankfurt-am-Main. “Die sichtbare Präsenz des Islam und die Grenzen der Öffentlichkeit. p. 2 vols.. The concept of civilization contains cultural presuppositions and implies among other things the superiority of the West over the “Orient. Der Islam. Über den Prozeβ der Zivilisation. Würzburg. 87. 121 See also the examples given in Akkent and Franger. Das Kopftuch. 123 Quoted in ibid. 62. 119 Ibid. 2004. p. pp. 115 24 . 122 Ibid. Islam in Sicht.” See also Nilüfer Göle. 88-91. 1976. Soziogenetische und psychogenetische Untersuchungen. 141.” p. 116 Ruthven. pp. p. pp. 139f. “Privatsphäre und Öffentlichkeit. 123.. 118 Ammann. 78. p. 167. 120 Göle. 11-44.. 117 Friederike Stolleis.” in Göle and Ammann.. Republik und Schleier. Öffentliches Leben in privaten Räumen. p.
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