About 30 UNC students cast off all personal reservations last night for an open discussion on the Islamic practice of veiling women.
The Advocates for the Empowerment of Women of All Color, a committee of the Campus Y, held a dinner discussion on the religious tradition.
Led by guest speaker Taffy Bodman, a UNC alumna and expert on Islamic culture, the discussion addressed religious, social and economic aspects of the veiling issue.
"Our initial purpose was to present the different sides," said committee
Co-chairwoman LeElaine Comer. "(Veiling) can be oppression, and at the same time it can be a form of empowerment."
Bodman began the event with an informative talk about veiling as a Muslim tradition.
Bodman said a Muslim woman wears a covering as a religious act as interpreted by the word of the Quran, the holy book of Islam.
"Muslim is monolithic - it means something different for different countries and individuals," Bodman said. "It is based on interpretation."
She described veiling as potentially liberating for women because it gives them respect and protection when they leave their homes.
"In the Middle East, men have public space while women are gated to the house," Bodman said.
"By covering herself, a woman can make her own private space and go forth into the town."
Bodman's presentation prompted discussion on the social aspects of veiling, including concerns over women's rights.
"If the Quran is interpretational, if it is a metaphor, then why is the practice directed at women?" asked
committee Co-chairwoman Emily Williams.
Other participants had related concerns about the deviation of the practice from its religious origins and its movement into the social realm.
"We are all human beings - sometimes we can't hold onto our beliefs," said sophomore Paul Kim, a journalism and philosophy major. "It can become religion being used by society and politics."
The inspiration for the night's talk came from a letter written to The Daily Tar Heel earlier this month by a student who chooses to wear a veil on campus.
"Her veiling was a form of expression for her," Comer said in reference to the letter's author. "People had to meet her and get to know her without regards to her body."
Bodman's discussion emphasized the importance of respecting and understanding different religious practices, and many interested students stayed to hear her message.
"For non-Muslims, it's a question of respect," Bodman said.
"I have knowledge and respect for their religion and am delighted to follow (their traditions)."
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