Queen Rania of Jordan: “We shouldn’t judge people through the prism of our own stereotypes.”

Human rights activist and advocate for early childhood education, Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan joined Fareed Zakaria for an interview aired on CNN in October. You can watch the interview on YouTube or scroll down to see part one and two later in this post. The queen brings up a lot of interesting issues about Islam in the Arab world, but one of her most pointed arguments concerns the cultural aspects of extremism and conservatism that are often represented as part of the religion itself.

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Muslim Women and the Veil

The debate about Islamic dress such as hijab and head scarfs has fascinated political and fashion publications alike. Popular culture and political magazine Slate published a piece called “Hijab Chic” by Asra Nomani.* Nomani writes about American interpretations of hijab fashion (as does videoblogger Baba Ali and Tariq Ramadan). Her experience at a retail store for so-called “conservative religious women” reveals retailers as reinterpreting the veil to mean an important commercial opportunity. In presenting the view from a non-religious setting (at a fashion show) Nomani points out that in understanding the veil, what is revealed is insight into the people doing the interpreting.

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