Qāsim Amīn (1863-1908), author of a famous 1899 treatise on the „liberation of the woman‟ (tahrīr al-marʾa) argues that the issue of seduction which is so prevalent in the Islamic culture doesn’t emanate from the woman’s body but from the way she walks. Against this backdrop, Amīn reaches the astonishing conclusion that both the niqāb and the burqaʿ rather than suppressing the woman’s seduction they are conveying it!

In his mind, they are the strongest agents of a woman to evoke desire precisely because niqāb and burqaʿ hide a woman’s identity. Only if her face was visible it would become clear to which family she belongs so that she will be careful not to do harm to her reputation.[note]Qāsim Amīn: taḥrīr al-marʾa. [Cairo 1899] Damascus 2007, p. 78.[/note]

What sounds like an orientalist fantasy is in fact written by the most popular and most influential advocate of the woman’s liberation in the Arab World of the modern era.


 

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