Rhetorical Analysis of Veiled Intentions

Veiled Intentions: Don’t Judge a Muslim Girl by Her Covering by Maysan Haydar is a personal account written explaining how it feels to live behind the Muslim veil. She is writing to inform those unfamiliar with Muslim culture that Muslim women are not oppressed by their clothing and religious practices, but rather are free from the many social pressures and influences of the Western world. Haydar discusses several stereotypes connected with the female Muslim lifestyle and explains how she realized her ambitions in spite of what others thought of her. Haydar uses logos, pathos, and ethos appeals to persuade people to consider the pain and suffering they may inflict upon someone by applying an incorrect stereotype. She shares many personal experiences and effectively uses this knowledge to confirm her authority on the subject and appeal to the emotions of her audience.

Haydar (2005) introduces herself in the text as a young Muslim woman: “I’ve been covering my hair, as prescribed for Muslim women, since I was twelve years old” (pp. 125). Haydar then relates some of the challenges she faced as a teen and young adult dressed in traditional Muslim clothing. After finishing college, Haydar moved to New York City and worked for several magazines (pp. 127). She writes that she is married to a white man who was raised Catholic, she loves heavy metal music, has a feminist bent, and sports a few well-disguised piercings (pp. 126). Throughout the essay she relates different situations in which she found herself while wearing Muslim clothing. When describing the game Girl Talk she enjoyed as a girl, Haydar states: “My favorite cards hooked me up with the class president, the football captain or a hunky lifeguard…” (pp. 126). This and other illustrations give logical credibility to her statements and help her develop her argument that Muslims are unfairly stereotyped. Haydar’s essay is remarkable because she writes candidly about how she felt in different situations.

The audience that Haydar is addressing is everyone from Western culture, but mainly those who perceive Muslims as oppressed and unhappy people. Especially since September 11, 2001, many Americans have viewed traditionally dressed Muslims with suspicion and mistrust. The author attempts to allay any fear or misunderstanding of Muslims that anyone might have by sharing her vivid life experiences in plain and simple language. Haydar’s essay is interesting and thought provoking for a wide audience.

The language style the author uses throughout the essay is informal and easy to understand. Haydar explains some of the issues she faced in high school and illustrates how she dealt with being thought of by others as a person who was in bondage. She states that by “…talking about my interests, which included skateboarding and karate, I grew to enjoy their disbelief and shock” (Haydar, 2005, pp. 127). The essay lists numerous accounts where Haydar comments on specific stereotypical remarks and actions she observed that were directed at her because of her clothing choices. Haydar explores her emotions and experiences of being mistrusted and misunderstood and effectively uses these observations to bind the author, purpose and audience together in her essay.

Haydar (2005) begins her essay with a logos appeal by quoting several verses from the Quran that command women to dress modestly and safely:

And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty: that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what ordinarily appears thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty… —The Quran, Chapter 24, Verse 30-31 (pp. 125). *

The author uses these verses to explain the basis of dress norms in the Muslim culture. Throughout the text, the author explains other parts of Muslim culture relating to the head covering and tells experiences she had while wearing the customary Muslim dress. These instances of logos appeals reinforce the credibility of the author by lending supporting details and evidence to her argument for equality.

The most common rhetorical appeal the author uses in the text is pathos. Part of the title, Don’t Judge a Muslim Girl by Her Covering,*
*leads the audience to develop a preliminary compassion toward her story. Haydar tells an experience she had when she was merely twelve years old—when Haydar (2005) knew that she “desperately wanted Girl Talk” (pp. 126). Through this and similar statements Haydar impresses upon her audience that she has similar feelings and emotions as girls who do not wear the traditional Muslim dress. Writing about these simple and common life experiences lends a personal feel to her essay. Haydar displays her personality to make an appeal to everyone’s emotional thinking. She is establishing rapport with the audience because she wants to convince them of the validity of her topic. By persuasive use of pathos appeals she was able to effectively convey her message to the audience.

Haydar also appeals to her audience using ethos. The varied experiences she shares happened over many years; this indicates that she has been aware of this topic for some time already and enforces her authority on the subject. She also references a book written on the topic of Arab homes. By bringing another author into her essay, Haydar (2005) enforces her veracity of writing about Muslim stereotypes and Western priorities:

Feminist author Geraldine Brooks, in her book Nine Parts of Desire, quotes women across the Middle East who extol the virtues of prettying up for their loved ones. To me, this demonstrates that Western priorities are out of line: American women spend hours getting ready for strangers to see them but don’t give the same effort to those who see them in intimate settings (pp. 128).

In addition, Haydar uses numerous references to verses from the Quran when they help explain the basis of certain Muslim traditions and lifestyles. These references give her credibility as an author and help to simplify the text by clarifying the sources Haydar used in researching her topic.

In summary, Haydar effectively presents her argument against applying a stereotype to individuals on the basis of clothing and she uses all three rhetorical appeals to craft an informative and inspiring essay. The many personal observations Haydar shares in this essay effect a connection between the audience and the personality of the author. Haydar uses simple words and brevity to further engage her audience. The overall effect is an interesting and persuasive essay that emphasizes an important issue.


Haydar, M. (2005). Veiled intentions: Don’t judge a muslim girl by her covering. In S. G. et al. (Eds), Composing identity through language culture technology and the environment (pp. 125-129). Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt.

Note: This was last week’s English assignment; this week I am working on a Wikipedia article. These kind of assignments make a brain feel mushy…