“Sometimes, a scarf is just a scarf, it's not a symbol for a country,” says Laila Lalami , recounting a reading she recently did of her book, Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits , at one of Morocco's more conservative universities  in Kenitra .
While discussing the characters with the audience, the author found that their interpretations were a bit lacking: “During the Q&A, a student raised his hand and asked why the father character in “The Fanatic” tries to stop his daughter from covering her hair. “This is strange, ” he said, “because most of the time the fathers do want their daughters to cover.” I wasn't sure exactly what he based this statement on, particularly since he was a man and did not really know what a daughter's experience is like. I pointed out that, in the amphitheatre where we sat, there were many women who covered, and many who did not. I said that no one, least of all my father, had ever asked me to cover. It's a woman's choice, I said. A bearded young man behind the questioner interrupted me, “Actually, it's not a choice.” A few people laughed at his temerity, and then I explained that, above and beyond the debate over the veil, the story dealt with a very specific father, a very specific daughter, certainly not people who represent every gamut of experience in Moroccan society.