CAIRO - A female Muslim professor will be granted a prestigious American award for her book into the growing tendency among Muslim women to wear the hijab (Islamic headscarf).
Leila Ahmed, a Harvard Divinity School professor, will be awarded the University of Louisville's Grawemeyer Award in religion, The Washington Post reported.
The prize will be given to the Muslim professor for her 2011 book A Quiet Revolution: The Veil's Resurgence, from the Middle East to America, in which she explores the reasons behind the growing tendency among Muslim women to wear the hijab.
I thought this was going to be connected with fundamentalist Islam, or patriarchal Islam, she said.
Ahmed, 72, found out that some Muslim women opt to don the hijab to assert their identity and as symbol of activism.
They wanted a way of saying, 'I'm proud to be Muslim and I want to show you, you shouldn't have prejudices against Muslims.'
The Egyptian-born professor found that other women used their hijab to trigger a debate in their societies about their styles of dress as well as social justice and service.
But the majority of women wear the hijab because it is an obligation under their religion.
Many women wear the hijab because they believe that God requires them to, Ahmed said.
Islam sees hijab as an obligatory code of dress, not a religious symbol displaying one's affiliations.
The headscarf came under world spotlight after France banned it in public places in 2004. Several European countries followed suit.
Ahmed wrote several books about women and Islam.
In her 1992 book Women and Gender in Islam, she argues that the oppressive practices of women in the Middle East are due to patriarchal interpretation of Islam rather than the religious itself.
The Grawemeyer Awards are five awards given annually by the University of Louisville.
The prizes are presented to individuals in the fields of education, ideas improving world order, music composition, religion, and psychology.
The religion award is presented jointly by the University of Louisville and the Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary.
The first Muslim to win the award was Eboo Patel, founder and director of the Interfaith Youth Core in Chicago, in 2010.The United States is home to a Muslim minority of six to eight million.