Excerpt:

Pull up a chair and grab some popcorn, because there's another battle royal raging over the veil. In one corner, we have Naomi Wolf, third-wave feminist heavyweight and author of "The Beauty Myth," defending Muslim garb. In the other, we have Phyllis Chesler, second-waver and author of "The Death of Feminism," attacking both the veil and Wolf for daring to defend it.

The first shot was fired with the Sydney Morning Herald's publication of an article by Wolf headlined "Behind the veil lives a thriving Muslim sexuality." She recounts her travels in Morocco, Jordan and Egypt, and the time she spent with women in "typical Muslim households." She observes, "It is not that Islam suppresses sexuality, but that it embodies a strongly developed sense of its appropriate channelling -- toward marriage, the bonds that sustain family life, and the attachment that secures a home." There was "demureness and propriety" outside of the home, "but inside, women were as interested in allure, seduction and pleasure as women anywhere in the world."

Then, Wolf turns to the inevitable comparison with Western styles of dress. Many of the Muslim women she spoke with said that revealing get-ups cause men to stare at and objectify them. Wearing a headscarf or chador, however, leads people to "relate to me as an individual, not an object," they told her. When Wolf went to the local bazaar wearing a shalwar kameez and a headscarf, which hid her womanly curves and wild hair, she "felt a novel sense of calm and serenity" and even, "in certain ways, free."


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