[Excerpt] By Caryle Murphy, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia:
It liberates. It represses. It is a prayer. It is a prison. It protects. It obliterates. Rarely in human history has a piece of cloth been assigned so many roles. Been embroiled in so much controversy. Been so misjudged, misunderstood, and manipulated. This bit, or in some cases bolt, of fabric is the Islamic veil.
For non-Muslims, it is perhaps the most visible, and often most controversial, symbol of Islam. From Texas to Paris, it has gained new prominence and been at the center of workplace misunderstandings, court rulings, and, in Europe, parliamentary debates about whether it should be banned.