Elise Bellin, Librarian of the Islamic Resource Center, wrote this book review as part of an ongoing series that focuses on a range of books within the IRC collection as a service to the community.

A Quiet Revolution: The Veil’s Resurgence From the Middle East to America

A Quiet Revolution: The Veil’s Resurgence From the Middle East to America by Leila Ahmed © 2010 – ISBN: 9780300170955

These days, everyone seems to have an opinion on Islamic veiling, whether it applies to themselves or not. But how many westerners really understand all of the politics, theology and ethics wrapped up into those headscarves? What does the hijab really represent? Who is right and who has the right to determine its meaning? To get a better idea about what is really going on, what has gone on, and perhaps what will go on with veiling, a little research can go a long way.

In her book, A Quiet Revolution, Leila Ahmed, university professor of theology, looks at the history of the veil and attempts to explain these concepts. From the geo-political debates in 1950s Egypt to France’s headscarf ban in the ‘90s and Turkey’s choice to ban facial veiling in school on through to the resurgence of the veil.  The overturning of many of these one-sided rulings and an increase in professional women wearing this very visible mark of their religion whether to the office, the parliament or beyond, we are given a very thorough look at the often complicated world of veil politics.

Looking at her own life, delving deep into her personal experiences, as well as a deep dive into Egyptian history and politics, the veil’s near turn towards obsolescence in the 1950s and ‘60s as many Muslim countries were indoctrinated with European colonialist values, as well as a look at the resurgence of the veil, particularly in the US after 9/11, we get a clear grasp on the history involved. We are shown how in urban cities, it came to near eradication as it was beginning to be seen by the more Westernized view of oppression and we are then shown a glimpse into how the educated feminine elites of the Muslim world began to reclaim their veiling heritage and rebrand it again as a positive element of their faith.

Founded in 2010, the Islamic Resource Center (IRC) is the first Islamic public lending library in Wisconsin. The IRC aims to provide resources to educators, students, health professionals, interfaith groups, and any members of the Milwaukee community that want an accurate understanding of the Islamic faith, its practices, and its people.