This website is no longer actively maintained
Some material and features may be unavailable

October 22, 2008
Egyptian women choose the veil

Though some in the Western world view the veil as a symbol of oppression, for many women in Egypt the hijab takes on different meanings.

Worldfocus contributing correspondent Hoda Osman speaks with women from different walks of life in Egypt, each with surprising revelations about why she has taken the veil.

Below the video, read what bloggers — including an Egyptian woman living in Baton Rouge, Louisiana — are saying about the veil, and its varying perceptions.


Bloggers in Egypt and elsewhere have taken up the debate about the veil.

Blogger “Manisha” writes from Cairo that women wear the hijab for reasons other than religious mandate — including safety and economics.

The “Egyptian Gumbo” blog, written by an Egyptian now living in Louisiana, writes about differing reactions to her hijab and her sister’s niqab in Baton Rouge.

Hijabi Fashionista” is a blog providing fashion advice to women wearing the hijab. After receiving a critical comment from a man regarding her blogging, the blogger responds that fashion and Islam can go hand in hand.

Oct. 29 is “Global Pink Hijab Day,” in which Muslim women in the U.S. and abroad don pink hijabs to raise awareness of breast cancer and promote openness about the hijab to dispel misconceptions.




I have been to Egypt, and count myself fortunate to have many wonderful Egyptian friends. All of my female Egyptian women wear the veil. Here are my comments:

1. It is very windy and dusty in Egypt. I sincerely believe that there are practical reasons for wearing a veil based on this.
2. It is true that society does pressure young women there to be veiled. Many of my male friends indicated to me that they wouldn’t mind if their future wife was not veiled. But ultimately no one is forced to do it.
3. I was not treated badly as an American woman who was not veiled. If anything, I was given the utmost respect and formality when I visited. The Egyptian people are truly the most hospitable people I have ever known…and I am an American southerner, so that’s saying something.
4. Egyptian women are saving the most private, intimate parts of themselves for their husbands when they veil themselves. I think that is sweet and quite special.


[…] try to take my agency away by assuming I must be brainwashed.” And she is only one of many Muslim women speaking out against anti-head covering […]


thanks for everybody cares about that and for everybody trying to add his own idea and his own beliefs to this topic but i just want to say something but i think not too many of you guys will like it .but at the same time it will help you guys alot and will make it easy for you to understand why are the egyption ladies are covering their hair most of them are doing that because of the tradition and most of are doing because of the religion and if you think that they are stupid for doing that i’ll be sorry to tell u that you are fool and nobody can use his own standards to judge on the others. and i challenge anybody can understand what that religion want the people and the humanity to be and he will follow it even if he doesn’t like to have rules in his life .


Surely a girl or lady look 10 times dignified and pious when she put on hijab. Like a hoor in this earthly world. zia


people should be able to wear what ever they want, without being judged….. there that was simple.


Thank you for your wonderful and informative series on Egypt. I have had an intense interest in this ancient and mysterious land since I was a child and have been fortunate enough to visit three times.
I have fallen in love with the Egyptian people and their culture. I found them to be a hospitable, kind and generous people even though many of them have little themselves.
Ms. Osman’s reports were a fascinating look at their modern day lives and their feelings about Americans. For instance, I had no idea how constrained freedom of the press is in Egypt.
I hope we can expect more from this talented, young journalist.

Cynthia Braun



Thank you for your words on the subject. I wish more pople felt as you do.

The “choice” to wear the head cover is the point. It is a choice in Egypt but the problem is that in some places, or in some circles it is not a choice and that is where the trouble lies. The women interviewed in this piece have the freedom to make this decision for now – but if more fundamentalist beliefs take hold of power in their country that may no longer be. As we have seen in the destabilization of Iraq, and many other areas in the region, wearing a head cover no longer is a symbol of personal choice, but of religious mandate.

Personally, I do not look down upon the item of clothing, I look down upon the oppression it represents.


I am a moslem by birth, 61 year old Egyptian woman who has left Egypt 30 years ago. Now that I am retired I have sometimes entertained the idea of going back to Egypt to stay for some extended periods among my friends and family. The main reason why I won’t is because of the veil. I grew up wearing western clothes and without head cover, so did my mother who was born in 1910, so did my grandmother. There was only one girl at the University back then in the 60’s wearing a scarf, and she was considered an oddity. Western uniforms worn by schoolgirls in cities as well as in rural areas have been replaced by austere tunics and fitting head covers reminiscent of the garb worn by moslems in Indonesia and Malaysia. I even saw ten-year-old schoolgirls wearing the full face cover.
Those ladies who suddenly developed a herd mentality and decided to cover themselves for religious reasons are no better moslems than the uncovered ones from previous generations. The real reasons in my view for this mass transformation is the influence brought by egyptian workers returning from Arab countries and bringing along the traditions of these countries, as well as the rise of fundamentalism and poverty among the poor. Other reasons also can range from feeling the pressure to conform, to the fear of girls not being viewed as “good girls” and thus not finding a suitor, to the realization by older women that they need to prepare for their place in heaven, etc.
I was surprised and annoyed by the fact that the veil issue (or the head cover, to be more accurate) was always trumping most other issues and dominating every conversation in social gatherings. There is a constant tug of war between those who wear it and the minority who is choosing not to wear it nowadays.
I also find it paradoxical that it is the predominant aspect of religiosity, but at the same time a lot of those wearing it are walking around with very fitting jeans showing off their bodies, or walking alone hand in hand with their boyfriends, or sitting in cafes smoking hookas – things that are in contradiction with the principles of Islam.
The scarf does not make us more virteous. Tolerance, honesty, generosity,love of family and fellow man does.


Kurt, thanks for the kind words. We’ll look into the music issue. Since we have no commerciasl we use the musical and visual break to pace the show and allow a short break between topics.


World Focus is an excellent replacement for BBC World News. BUT! That piece of music(?) that separates the segments is much too LOUD! Please attenuate it, perhaps replace it with a less smarmy selection. PLEASE!


hey peter, i completely agree with you! you should read what I wrote on the link posted above (thanks for the link guys!)– i’m the “Egyptian Gumbo” blog.

It’d definitely a commandment from Allah. whether people chose to wear it for that reason or not.


It angers me each time I hear stories or reports on the Hijabi. So many facts are left out.
1. This veil garment is thousands of years old
2. It is well rooted in respect and also biblical and environmental
3. For thousands of years it remained common for all religions and societies around the world.
4. It sought to respect GOD, and a wife’s husband and or family so as not to be seen as promiscuous.
you get my point. Somebody needs to tell the whole truth!
I’ve lived and worked in the middle east. The Arab world is ancient and among the warmest people on the planet.

Peter D

Facebook Twitter YouTube

Produced by Creative News Group LLC     ©2021 WNET.ORG     All rights reserved

Distributed by American Public Television