Leila Ahmed —
Muslim Women and Other Misunderstandings

Is there such a thing as the Muslim world? Is the "veil" a sign of submission or courage? Is our Western concern about women in Islam really a concern for the well-being of women? Our guest, Egyptian-American Leila Ahmed, challenges current thought on these and other questions.

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is Victor S. Thomas Professor of Divinity at Harvard Divinity School and author of several books, including Women and Gender in Islam: Historical Roots of a Modern Debate and A Border Passage.

Pertinent Posts

“When we watch you, you make us proud to be Egyptian.” A working-class television chef has become a celebrity by building national pride with affordable regional recipes that applaud the new post-revolutionary Egyptian cultural identity.

SoundSeen (our multimedia stories)

The Veil as Resistance: Muslim Women and Social Change in Egypt

Listen to photojournalist Diana Matar describe her exquisite series of images portraying a new generation of Muslim women in Cairo. These women are reclaiming and redefining the veil as a symbol of political dissent, piety, and fashion in contemporary Egypt. Or view the images without the audio by clicking the thumbnails below.

Selected Readings

The Discourse of the Veil

Read a fascinating chapter from Leila Ahmed's ground-breaking work, Women and Gender in Islam: Historial Roots of a Modern Debate. Here she explores the long story of westerners' inclination to interpret the veil as a proof of an innate backwardness in Islam.

Selected Audio

Unheard Cuts

Arab Identity and British Colonialism
(RealAudio, 10:24)
In this clip not included in the final broadcast, listen to Leila Ahmed discuss the creation of Arab identity as a legacy of British colonialism, and the similarities with the perception of Muslim identity in our age.

About the Image

An Iraqi woman wears a headscarf, the hijab.

Photo by Ghaith Abdul-Ahad/Getty Images

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Hello, I am reaching out to your Center in hopes you could assist me. I am a student at San Jose State University School of Library and Information Science. I am taking a class in Grants and trying to procur a grant for the Pasadena Public Library. It is called Bridging Cultures: Muslim Journeys Bookshelf. I am seeking a knowledgeable person who could speak at an event next Fall 2013 on the Muslim culture to introduce the books and films we will be receiving. One of the books will be A Quiet Revolution by Leila Ahmed.