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Voices in the Veil

Date: 3/13/2012

Muslim women in America: veils are inspiration, not oppression

By: Carly Glasmyre

As the make-up of society continues to become increasingly diverse, interest in gaining a deeper understanding of different faiths and cultures has also grown. That’s been especially true of the Muslim faith and community — both abroad and here in America. 

One of the most misunderstood aspects of the Muslim faith tradition is the veil worn by some Muslim women. Veils range from the hijab, which covers the hair, to the burqua, which cloaks the entire face and body. Some wonder if these veils oppress Muslim women, while others ponder why they continue to “cover” in the United States. 

Dr. Tiffenia Archie, a director in the Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity, Advocacy and Leadership at Temple University, says the choice to wear a veil in the Muslim community is exactly that: a choice. Parents and husbands may encourage a woman to cover, but it is ultimately a decision made between that woman and God. 

Archie and her mother Karima were part of a “Voices in the Veil” panel discussion at Alvernia on March 12, sponsored by the Office of Multicultural Initiatives. Students and community members packed Bernardine Lecture Hall to hear their views and ask compelling questions. Many walked away with a new understanding of Muslim culture.

"It's so interesting that for Muslim women, the veil is more than a piece of cloth, it's a state of mind," said Alvernia senior Allison Pierce.

Archie explained that in ancient times, only women of high status were allowed to cover, and that the veil was symbol of faith that protected them from molestation. 

Some researchers actually argue that Muslims adapted the practice of veiling from Christians. Today, the veil still symbolizes their religion, but it inspires more than it protects. The veil constantly reminds women to be true Muslims and to extend the goodness of Islam in all they do. 

Dr. Archie emphasized that she never feels subjugated because of her choice to cover. “Women are oppressed — veil or not — for a variety of reasons, and we have so many more important issues to address than what women are wearing,” she said.  

PH: veils

Pictured above, Dr. Tiffenia Archie and her sister Johnethia "Jameelah" Archie wear hijab veils. Dr. Archie and her mother, Karima Archie, came to Alvernia University by the Office of Multicultural Initiatives to encourage intercultural dialogue and promote a deeper understanding of their faith.

  • History: Established as a private four-year liberal arts college in 1958, Alvernia celebrated its 50th year by being awarded university status in 2008.
  • Heritage: Founded by the Bernardine Sisters, a Catholic religious order, the university embraces the Franciscan core values of service, humility, collegiality, contemplation and peacemaking.
  • Motto: “To Learn, To Love, To Serve”
  • Campus: The main campus in Reading is 121 acres, with two satellite campuses in Philadelphia and Pottsville (Schuylkill County).
  • Location: Our residential campus is situated three miles from center-city Reading, in the scenic Blue Mountain area of Eastern Pennsylvania.
  • Enrollment: 3,000 students attend Alvernia including 1,500 traditional undergraduates, 600 continuing education students, and 780 graduate students. Over 77% of first-year students live on campus.
  • Faculty: Our professors are accomplished scholars, experts in their fields, and supportive mentors. The student-to-faculty ratio is 14:1. Most classes are 20 students or fewer.
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