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A Quiet Revolution: The Veil’s Resurgence, from the Middle East to America Hardcover – April 29, 2011

4.3 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"Ms. Ahmed gives us a fascinating portrait of the Muslim Brotherhood, especially of its 'unsung mother,' Zainab al-Ghazali."—Mira Sethi, Wall Street Journal
(Mira Sethi Wall Street Journal)

“Leila Ahmed takes a subject that arouses great emotion, shows how the resurgence of veiling has come about, and explains with great clarity what it means. Ahmed's learned and engaging argument should make all readers examine their prejudices. This valuable and much needed introduction to major trends in the modern Muslim world leads to some novel and surprising conclusions. An important book, it should be required reading for journalists, educationalists, politicians and religious leaders.”—Karen Armstrong, Author, A History of God

(Karen Armstrong 2011-02-02)

“Leila Ahmed 's views on women, Islam  and Islamism are not only interesting but courageous and need to be read and debated. Her new book brings the critical historical perspective necessary to understand the deep and quiet revolution that is occurring among American Muslims.”—Tariq Ramadan, University of Oxford

(Tariq Ramadan 2011-02-02)

“A powerful and critically important analysis of the veil’s modern history and reemergence in our time. This is a history Leila Ahmed herself has lived through and witnessed, especially in North America. It is compelling reading for the many readers with questions about the veil and its meanings.”—Diana Eck, author of A New Religious America

(Diana Eck 2011-02-02)

“What lies behind the phenomenon of Muslim women wearing “Islamic dress”? Leila Ahmed provides an engaging tour through nationalism, socialism, Islam, and anti-imperialism in her beautifully written book, weaving together the themes of politics, dress, and women’s changing roles with her usual historical and literary skill. A fascinating read.”—Jane Smith, Harvard University

(Jane Smith 2011-02-02)

"A discerning account of feminists, veiled and unveiled, and their creation of what [Ahmed] sees as a new space within American Islam."—Christine Stansell, New Republic
(Christine Stansell New Republic Online)

"The portrait of post 9/11 Muslim America that Ahmed offers up in her book is strikingly hopeful, full of individuals, trends, and stories that make her case for this new era's promise."—Time Magazine

"A Quiet Revolution is an important book.It provides a thorough history of the resurgence of the veil both in the Muslim world and in the U.S. and adds significant nuance to the complex issues that surround the veil. Ahmed's work will no doubt continue to inspire a new generation of Muslim feminists."—Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles Times)

Selected by the ALA for the Bridging Cultures Bookshelf on Muslim Journeys project
(Bridging Cultures Bookself Selection, Muslim Journeys Project American Library Association (ALA) 2012-06-22)

 Winner of the 2013 Grawemeyer Award in Religion, given jointly by the Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary and the University of Louisville
(Grawemeyer Award in Religion Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary and the University of Louisville 2012-12-06)

“The veil may be the most evocative symbol of Islam for many non-Muslim readers, and Ahmed’s treatment of the subject is wide-ranging, discursive, and utterly fascinating.”—Library Journal, starred review
(Library Journal)

About the Author

Leila Ahmed is the Victor S. Thomas Professor of Divinity at Harvard Divinity School. She is the author of Women and Gender in Islam and A Border Passage: From Cairo to America—A Woman's Journey. She lives in Cambridge, MA.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 360 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (April 29, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300170955
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300170955
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #316,443 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I picked this up by chance at my local bookstore. While the title's subject was intriguing, the scope of the book is actually (and pleasantly) much broader. The book covers basic Egyptian history starting around the British occupation to the present, the various political and religious movements on the scene (particularly the Muslim Brotherhood), and the influence of Saudi Arabia and the West. These factors serve as context for the unveiling and veiling trends. The book also addresses women in Islam more generally, Muslim associations in America, and American Muslims that are advancing gender equality. The writing style is excellent, making the book an engrossing and easy read. While I would recommend the book as a well-argued thesis for the veil's resurgence, as Ahmed admits, individual women's reasons for wearing the veil vary. So if you are wondering why Muslim women you know are wearing the veil, I would suggest asking them!
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Format: Hardcover
This valuable book is far broader than its title suggests. I recommend it highly for anyone who is interested in women in Islam or Islamism, and is willing to read a well-written scholarly book.

Ahmed grew up in Egypt and now teaches at the Harvard Divinity School, and she started with the question of why more women are wearing hijab now than a generation ago, in the United States and around the world. Answering this question led her not only to exploring the multiple reasons individual women offer for wearing and not wearing different forms of veils, but also to writing an extremely helpful history of Islamism in Egypt, where the Islamic Brotherhood was founded in the 1920s, and the United States, where Islamism-influenced women are now at the forefront of challenging gender hierarchies and misogyny. Islamism, according to Ahmed, defines the quest for social justice as near the core of Islam and Muslim practice. Traditional forms of Islam, in contrast, tend to have a more personal, spiritual, and ethical focus. Because Islamism urges its members towards organization and activism, and because of financial support from Saudi Arabia, Islamism has grown rapidly and is increasingly able to define itself as "true" Islam. Islamism has changed the symbolic meaning of hijab, and for many Islamist women, wearing hijab now signifies their commitment to social justice. In the 1970s the leadership of the Islamic Brotherhood repudiated violence as a means for achieving their goals, but not all Islamists agreed with them and some broke away to create militant groups, which are a small minority but more likely to make the news than the peaceful Islamist mainstream. Most American Muslim institutions have Islamist roots, but most American Muslims are not Islamist.
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Format: Paperback
I was really pleasantly surprised by Dr. Ahmed's book, "A Quiet Revolution." It really is much more than a history of hijab's resurgence in Egypt (as well as the Muslim community at large). It gives an extremely detailed and accurate history of the Muslim Brotherhood, which to my surprise, is often as it was characterized to me by my Egyptian husband--a mainly charitable organization which did renounce violence years ago. (It's the splinter groups which tend to be responsible for the violence.) Really important reading with the upcoming elections in Egypt.

It's important to note that the Muslim Brotherhood is also a group whose leaders were exiled...and who often went to Saudi and the other Gulf countries where they were influenced by the more strict Wahabi-brand of Islam which they then brought back to Egypt (and as well as the US).

The first part of the book was truly fascinating. The US actually supported the MB and increased religious-focus of Egyptians because they didn't want Egypt to "go the other way" and become Socialist/Communist. The Muslim Brotherhood had a long term goal in mind...looking at 13 year increments...and they never wanted to impose anything on society. Rather, their goal was to gradually educate society so that they would see things the way the Muslim Brotherhood did--and follow their Brand of Islam. Their focus was often on charity projects--hospitals, schools, day cares--providing services that were better than could be had from the government/private sector. Brilliant.

That's something which disturbs many Muslims as it has become the dominant form of Islam practiced/preached--mainly due to Saudi money.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I thought this book was going to concentrate more on the hijab subject, but what it mainly talks about is the history of Egypt's colonization and the Muslim brotherhood. I feel that it barely talks about the hijab revolution as it says. I am happy to be able to understand more about Egypts developement, but don't think this book has the correct name.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The focus of this book is on modern Egypt and then America. That makes it very timely. In some ways the modern history of Egypt overwhelms the focus on the veil, but that is appropriate. The veil should not be the primary focus, since it is a sign and representation of a larger political context. that is the point.
In the latter part of the book the focus shifts to America. Here again the veil is put in the context of a much larger development of Muslim society in America - if one can speak of "a" Muslim society.
My one concern with this book is that she refers to the leadership of the largest Muslim organizations in America, generically, as Muslim Brotherhood. I see the point that she is making. The form of Islam that has become normative in the Islamic Society of North America has an intentional piety that might be associated with the Muslim brotherhood in Egypt. I question how accurate it is to carry that description over to America, as if somehow various American Muslim organizations are extensions of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. They are not, even if some of the practices look similar.
This book is rigorous in its research but at the same time personal and sensitive.
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