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A Quiet Revolution: The Veil's Resurgence, from the Middle East to America

3.93 of 5 stars 3.93  ·  rating details  ·  172 ratings  ·  25 reviews
In Cairo in the 1940s, Leila Ahmed was raised by a generation of women who never dressed in the veils and headscarves their mothers and grandmothers had worn. To them, these coverings seemed irrelevant to both modern life and Islamic piety. Today, however, the majority of Muslim women throughout the Islamic world again wear the veil. Why, Ahmed asks, did this change take r ...more
Hardcover, 360 pages
Published April 29th 2011 by Yale University Press
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The Quiet American by Graham GreeneAll Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria RemarqueDon Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes SaavedraMoby-Dick; or, The Whale by Herman MelvilleQuo Vadis by Henryk Sienkiewicz
Q is for quality
100th out of 280 books — 28 voters
"Believing Women" in Islam by Asma BarlasDo Muslim Women Need Saving? by Lila Abu-LughodWomen and Gender in Islam by Leila AhmedBeyond Feminism and Islamism by Doris GrayCasting off the Veil by Sania Sharawi Lanfranchi
Gender in Islamic Cultures
15th out of 112 books — 8 voters

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Given that there are so many reviews on the content of the book, I figure that I might as well write on how this book affected me personally. Perhaps it will help someone. (Or, more likely, make me feel smart and experienced.)

I started off reading this book (given to me by my brother, apparently because of the innocuous reason that it has good ratings on Amazon, though I suspect it had more to do with my unexpected decision to de-hijab) with a determination not to like it. Having been told by n

A Quiet Revolution: the veil’s resurgence from the Middle East to America is a fascinating and frustrating book.

Leila Ahmed, currently teaching at Harvard, writes from her perspective as a Muslim women born in the 1940s in Egypt and raised during a time when it was normal for women of her family (upper middle class, educated, urban) not to wear hijab (head covering). Thus, her experience of the advocacy of many Western-educated Muslims’ advocacy of a return to a “pure” form of Islam, coupled wi
Jonna Higgins-Freese
This was quite helpful and interesting to me, as someone who spent a lot of time working with Muslim women in a non-profit organization right after 9/11. We did a solidarity event with women who covered, as Ahmed describes was common across the US as those women were the targets of prejudice from nasty remarks to violence.

I loved my friends who wore the hijab, and at the same time, I felt uncomfortable whenever I myself wore a scarf -- whether at a solidarity event or to attend mosque (and sit i
Whew! A lot to read and I'm not sure I absorbed much of it. Still, interesting and worth another read through at another time. I'm confused about the difference between Islam and Islamism and Muslims. Encouraged about trends of Islamism in US/West as they apply towards being actively engaged in social justice and standing up for minorities/speaking out against injustices, to include issues involving treatment of women in Islam. So why is there a resurgence of the veil? Yes, there's all that goin ...more
Blair Dowden
Leila Ahmed is a professor at Harvard University who was raised in Egypt during a time when few Muslim women wore head coverings in public. Her book is an investigation into how the reversal of that trend came about, and what it means. It begins with a conversation with her friend Aisha in the 1990’s, observing a group of covered Muslim women near her university campus.

“To them”, said Aisha, “we are the enemy. That’s how they see us, all of us, people like us, feminist, progressives. That’s just
Raramente un libro "imposto" e letto per dovere universitario mi è piaciuto così tanto.. L'ho letto con enorme piacere e senza ombra di dubbio lo consiglierò a destra e manca, non solo agli "arabisti" in erba come me, ma anche - e soprattutto - a chi del mondo musulmano conosce solo quello che i media riportano.
Innanzittutto ho particolarmente apprezzato il fatto che l'autrice sia una donna musulmana e dunque conosca bene e di prima mano ciò di cui sta parlando..
Poi mi è piaciuto perché oltre a
Aug 21, 2013 Melanie added it
Shelves: history
Ahmed traces how meanings have developed surrounding Muslim women covering the hair on their heads. The earliest meanings, shared to some degree by all monotheistic societies, pertained to God-given roles in society. Colonial actions of the nineteenth century added a new meaning, viewing ‘the veil’ “a sign of the inferiority of Islam and Muslim societies and peoples, as well as of Islam’s ‘degradation’ of women” (44). By the 1920s, Egyptian intelligentsia had accepted this view, as demonstrated ...more
A good update on her earlier study of Women in Egypt.
This book analyzes the role of women in Egypt in the 1970s and 80s with the rise of Islamism. In the second half she analyzes the role of Muslim American women. Obviously, the question of the role of the veil is central to the book.
In this book, Leila Ahmed traces the fall and rise of the headscarf in Muslim societies and in the west, America in particular. She comes at this from the perspective of someone who does not wear it, but I think she is rather fair in her assessment of it. She recognizes that she grew up in an era where women in Egypt were abandoning traditional dress and choosing to dress more western, while still considering themselves fully Muslim, and that this has colored her perception of the headscarf. Tho ...more
Jun 20, 2013 Asiah rated it 1 of 5 stars
Shelves: islam
This book is as much about veiling as Animal Farm was about pigs. Sure, Ahmed mentions veils and girls who wear them. But it's basically about her own views on the Islamicization of Egypt, and how she has noticed that some of those people of her Egyptian youth have shown up in different versions here in the states today. Case in point - most reviewers have pointed out that this book is "about so much more," or offers a "wider view" and was "not what was expected." Additionally, Ahmed makes it qu ...more
Apr 16, 2015 Sandy rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Lea Minniti
Shelves: the-middle-east
I'm a complete beginner to the subject, so I did learn about the history of the Islamist movement, especially in Egypt and the US. And I have a better appreciation of the varied reasons why more women in those countries are wearing the veil. The latter has been useful as I work among women wearing the veil on my campus in the US. I'm glad the author included small sketches of individual women which added a little warmth to an otherwise dry writing style.

What was unsatisfying is that it took the
This book did a really great job at explaining in an accessible way how and why the way that religiousness was defined in the MENA region changed over the past half century. Especially at demystifying the divide in point of view that is quite common between people of the author's generation (or, say, diaspora that emigrated 40-plus years ago) vs today.

I was a little thrown by how the first half of the book talked exclusively about Egypt in the 1970s and 80s only for the second half to be pretty
Edward ott
I was a little apprehensive when starting this book, and while at times it seemed to get off track from the books main point, I enjoyed reading it. It was very fair in dealing with the subject matter and extremely informative.
Tess Tobin
Fascinating story of the veil in the Middle East and it's resurgence in America. Part of the book discussion programs in the NEH Muslim Journey's
The Book : An Online Review at The New Republic
AROUND THE WORLD past and present, women cover their heads before God and man. That is, they veil. A dispassionate list of veils would include nuns’ cowls, saris, lace mantillas for Mass, peasant babushkas, brides’ veils, church ladies’ Sunday hats, the wigs and headscarves of Orthodox Jews, and the headscarf my mother (middle class, Midwestern, Protestant) threw on in the 1950s when she ran across the street to the corner store. All these forms of veiling refer, religiously or secularly, to the ...more
An important work that brings together the resurgence of Islamism and changing gender norms and understandings of the veil. While many books approach the veil from an ethnographic/religious perspective, Ahmed's is grounded in a particular post-colonial historical context. The final chapters of the book discuss Islam in America and Ahmed convincingly argues that the intellectual recipients of Islamism in America have been at the forefront of issues of justice, activism and women's rights in Islam ...more
I learned that Islamists come in many flavors, that they tend to be more politically and socially active in promoting the best for the community than their secular or moderate sisters and brothers.

The veil is a political statement. I still do not agree on it being a mandatory element of modest dress, but many women wear it of their own choosing to express a variety of political and personal beliefs.
Lulu Rahman
It took a me awhile to realise this is a historical account of hijabisation so I was rather disappointed. But once I get past my disappointment, I found it pretty interesting as it brings to light the role of the various agents that led to this resurgence, especially the Muslim Brotherhood, that in turn has affected the political changes in Egypt and its neighbouring nations.
Tuscany Bernier
Excellent book! It was lost at the library for a while which caused me to take a break for several months mid-way through the book.

However, I like how informational and interesting this was. Very spot on and unbiased for the most part. I learned more about last century of hijab culture globally from this book than from my counterparts.
A fantastically well-researched book by Dr. Leila Ahmed. A good historical overview of modern trends affecting interpretations of Islam across the Arab world and America. Revealing research studies, personal anecdotes, and the voices of many women on their understanding of hijab.
This was a scholarly (read that as highly detailed and referencing) account of how the hijaab (modest dress for women which includes the burka and other clothing)came to be more widely worn around the world (including the US). Well done.
Well done. - Jessica, Adult Services

Reserve a library copy.
Kevin Diffily
Jan 02, 2012 Kevin Diffily marked it as to-read
Shelves: partially-read
Just starting this so not very much to say.
Katie marked it as to-read
Nov 24, 2015
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Darla Tenold marked it as to-read
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Leila Ahmed (Arabic: لیلى احمد) is an Egyptian American professor of Women's Studies and Religion at the Harvard Divinity School. Prior to coming to Harvard, she was professor of Women’s Studies and Near Eastern studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She earned her undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Cambridge before moving to the United States to teach and write ...more
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