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Wilton Tea Offers a Glimpse Behind the Veil

WILTON, Conn. – The goal for Maisah Sobaihi when she takes the stage for the International Women’s Day Tea at the Wilton Library is to share the culture of her home country, Saudi Arabia.

“The objective is always the same, to connect with people and engage with people and raise awareness about many misconceptions that are sometimes not corrected,” Sobaihi said. “I think I aim to say the truth about Saudi Arabian women that people sometimes don’t get to hear.”

Saturday is the second annual tea for the Wilton Library, but the international conversation has been going on for much longer.

This year, “I wanted very much to have a Saudi woman,” said librarian Barbara Jones, the event coordinator. “I think everyone has this image of women in Saudi Arabia as wearing veils and being in harems.” And she wanted to open the conversation for people to understand what life is like for women in Saudi Arabia.

Sobaihi is a member of the Saudi Arabian Mission to the United Nations and is also an assistant professor at King Abdul-Aziz University in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. She has a doctorate in English literature from King’s College, the University of London.

And veil are one of the many things Sobaihi thinks might come up during her talk.

“The main connotation is the immobility and that women don’t move just because they’re veiled or they're not active or they’re not productive because they’re not visible in the same way that they are in the West or in Europe,” Sobaihi said.

She explained that women, and young women especially, in the country are creating their own opportunities in business, fashion and law. “They are beyond the veil, because the veil does not hinder their productivity in anyway.”

An important point she wanted to make about the veil is that wearing it is a choice for women of all ages and occupations. She said women in fashion wear the veil, as do women working in factories.

“The point remains, what does it matter what they're wearing? It is what they are producing,” Sobaihi said. “If they’re wearing it fine; if they’re not, fine. But the question is, does it hinder them? I don’t think it does.”

The tea is at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Wilton Library’s Brubeck Room. Jones says it’s completely filled but it never hurts to go on the wait list.

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