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28 October 2014

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You are in: London > London Local > Tower Hamlets > Spare Time > Veiled but not oppressed

Photo by Fokrul

Rabina Khan

Veiled but not oppressed

Women choose to wear veils for a myriad of reasons – at an arts festival in east London, they explain why it should be no barrier to success in British society

Increasing numbers of young British women are choosing to wear a headscarf, niqab or jilbab.

Society’s perceptions of those who make that choice vary – some believe that it is a sign of male oppression, while others think it is an indication of religious conservatism or Islamist politics.

In truth, women choose to wear, or not wear, the veil for a myriad of reasons.

At 'The Elegance of the Veil', an event at Rich Mix arts centre organised as part of the Split-Lit festival for women writers, young women performed poetry, plays and music.

They said that the stereotypes associated with Asian and black women are unjustified, whether they wear a veil or not.

Author Rabina Khan explained: "Martin Luther King said that a person should be judged on the content of their character and I think society needs to wake up to that fact."

Photo by Fokrul

Soomaiya Saeda

A 'very British phenomenon'

A third of the population of Tower Hamlets is Bangladeshi, of whom many young women are opting to wear a headscarf. However, in Bangladesh, relatively few women wear one.

Baroness Paula Uddin, who grew up there and now lives in Tower Hamlets, told BBC London: "This is a very British phenomenon, and a very Western phenomenon. We’ve got to support whatever choices women make."

Girl band La Rouge performed their songs for the visitors. Lead singer, Soomaiya Saeda, explained why she has chosen not to wear a veil: "If I wore one I feel like everything would change. People would see me in a different way."

Meanwhile another visitor said that she felt her headscarf empowered her and helped her to express her faith.

Missed the 'Elegance of the Veil' event? Catch the highlights in Angela's report, by clicking on the link at the top right of this page.

last updated: 01/01/2008 at 18:38
created: 13/03/2007

You are in: London > London Local > Tower Hamlets > Spare Time > Veiled but not oppressed

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