And that’s where many of us would simply end the discussion.
The issue of the veil is one that raises a red flag for many; it has on innumerable occasions lead to heightened emotions that at times culminate in drastic acts of violence. Many now approach the topic as a ‘danger-zone’ of sorts; afraid that it may spiral into debate rather than discussion. But there are signs that new modes of communication and Digital Natives may be changing this.
Women’s battles for or against the veil are long-standing, but it seems that recently the battle field has been moved to the Internet, through the mediums of blogs and social networking sites (SNS). Most of these discussions have not been Muslim vs. Non-Muslim, but rather between Muslims. Bloggers like Lisam have started to create online spaces simply entitled ‘Head Coverings’ where anyone and everyone is able to freely express their views- a phenomenon which has only been brought about with the turn of this decade.
Such a multitude of Muslim women’s voices, especially of those living in the Middle East, is a genuinely new thing. And it seems the initiative, for this fight for freedom of speech, has been taken up by the younger generation, namely Digital Natives. Perhaps most surprising is the increase in males online who support the removal of the veil – a clear signal of progress in the minds of many Muslim women.
Political and social issues are often taken up by Digital Natives on social networking sites but now more and more groups on Facebook and on other sites like MySpace are being dedicated to the cause of discussing the veil. What is important to note is how this once unapproachable topic has literally unveiled itself to the world with the help of Digital Natives and the tools and mediums available on the Internet. The Internet, with its lessened degree of intimacy as opposed to face to face conversations, has allowed many to gain enough confidence to say what they really think, without the fear of being hunted down or physically attacked. Thus, the Internet has bridged the gap between Muslims, especially women, all around the world – living up to its promise of global connection and mediation.
But this young uprising has not gone unnoticed, especially in countries in the Middle East with Iran having banned high-speed Internet in 2006 so as to “cut the West’s influence” and Egypt contemplating a total ban on Facebook. Nevertheless, the voices haven’t been stifled completely.
Muslims living abroad are taking up the initiative and increasingly using blogs and social networking sites as microphones for their thoughts. With the introduction of “Fullah”– the veiled version of Barbie – have come calls for avatar based sites like Second Life to provide more options of veiled avatars.
Whether this call is attended to is yet to be seen, but what we can acknowledge is the extent to which this topic has been realised and opened up on the web; it signifies not only an improvement for society as a whole but also provides a positive notion in the midst of so many negatives that are attached to our exponentially growing digital world.
Well, now it’s no longer a question that needs to be avoided.