Interfaith NYers defend use of headscarf

Interfaith women at a New York forum have found common ground on the issue of headscarves. Muslims, Christians, and Jews came together to talk about the role that head coverings play in their religions, and why head-dress is a polarizing symbol in countries like France, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Iran. Hajer Naili writes in a commentary for Women’s e News that women should have the right to choose to wear or not to wear a headscarf.

The motives for wearing some form of head cover can be scriptural, cultural or a matter of personal identification.

One panelist, Sister Chala Marie Hill, is a Roman Catholic of the convent of the Franciscan Handmaids of Mary in Harlem, N.Y. Since she dedicated her life to God, Sister Hill has worn a gray-and-white habit and a veil that covers her hair. She says it identifies who she is to the world.

Sarah Sayeed, another panelist from the Interfaith Center of New York, said wearing a veil was a reminder of her Muslim identity and her relationship to God.

Panelist Bronya Shaffer, a member of, a Jewish group, wears a wig. She said Jewish law requires a married woman to cover her hair but that her way of doing that was her own choice.

Traditionally, in Christianity, women were enjoined to cover their heads in church, just as it is customary for men to remove their hat as a sign of respect.

Islam and Judaism, by contrast, have prescribed veiling at more times. For Muslim women it starts in adolescence, or the age of procreation. For Jewish women it starts after marriage, when they go outside or are not around family members.


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