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'ReOrienting the Veil' conference focuses on in?uence of Muslim veil

Dr. Banu Gökarıksel presents at the ReOrienting the Veil conference that took place February 22-23rd in the FedEx Global Center.
Dr. Banu Gökarıksel presents at the ReOrienting the Veil conference that took place February 22-23rd in the FedEx Global Center.

Professors from colleges nationwide spoke this weekend about the Muslim veil’s far-reaching influences on religion, art and fashion.

Seven featured speakers spoke to about 200 people at the FedEx Global Education Center Friday and Saturday. The conference, called “ReOrienting the Veil,” was put on by the 2013 Duke-UNC Consortium for Middle East Studies.

Sahar Amer, an Asian studies professor and lead organizer of the event, said an exhibition that shows how Muslim women choose to portray themselves will be held at the Ackland Art Museum for the remainder of the semester.

“Art is a unique way to give voice to aspects not usually discussed,” she said.

Banu Gokariksel, a geography professor, was a co-organizer and speaker at the event.

She said she was excited to bring an interdisciplinary group of scholars together for this conference to examine the cultural, political and religious meanings of the veil.

“For many women, the materiality of the headscarf is actually significant for cultivating piety, and therefore, it is an integral part of religious practice,” she said.

Gokariksel said the veil, or the hijab, is a relevant topic.

“The veil is particularly important today because of its geopolitical scripting in the post-9/11 world as a symbol of Islam and Muslims,” she said.

Juliane Hammer, a religious studies professor and a co-organizer of the event, said it was important to continually discuss the aspects of the veil.

“The continuing interest in this topic combined with widespread misconceptions and simplifications of the topic explains why more should and can always be done in discussing the topic,” she said.

Amer, who wore a veil for one year while attending college, said she believes the conference provided an enlightening experience.

“I hope people have a new perspective on veiling — that a lot of women are choosing to veil — and match religious reality with socioeconomic reality,” Amer said. “Muslim women’s values are not heard in relation to fashion.”

Amer said she is always amazed at how much interest the topic of veiling generates from people who were drawn to it because of its ties to fashion and art.

Gokariksel said the topics covered in the conference have wider international importance.

“The rise of a fashion industry with a focus on modest dress for Muslim women is a significant global phenomenon,” she said.

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