Apparently, Sheikh Mustapha Mohamed Rashedat, a PhD student at Egypt's Al Azhar University (the main center for Sunni Islamic teachings and Arabic literature), wrote a thesis proving that the hijab is not an "Islamic duty" after all. In fact, he claims it's not even mentioned in the Quran, but that
“Nonetheless, a bunch of scholars insisted vehemently that the veil is both an Islamic duty and one of the most important pillars of Islam." “They deviated from the purposes of the Islamic law and “Sahih Atafsir” or the true interpretation. They rejected reasoning and relied only on literal text.”
Rashed believes that Islamic scholars have incorrectly interpreted the Quran either through ignorance or for their own agenda.
...these scholars de-contextualized the verses of the Quran and interpreted them in their very own liking, following some ancient scholars, as if what they said is sacred and is no subject to Ijtihad.
Ijtihad is a technical term, which literally means “exertion” in a jurisprudential sense; it is the exertion of mental energy by a Muslim jurist to deduce legal rulings from Islam’s sacred texts.
The researcher continued that the scholars, who claim that Hijab is an important pillar of Islam, departed from “Al Minhaj Assahih,” or the true path, of interpretation and reasoning, which interprets the verses according to their historical context and the causes of revelation. These scholars “interpreted the verses in their general sense, overlooking the causes of their revelation, intentionally or due to their limited intellectual capacity resulted in psychological scourge.” Worse yet, they approached hundreds of important issues in the same way.”
“The supporters of Hijab as an Islamic duty base their arguments on inconsistent and wrong evidence. They would ascribe various meanings to the veil, from Hijab to Khimar to Jalabib, a fact which shows that they digressed from the true meaning they intended to address, the cover of the head,” he added. The researcher attempted to deconstruct the three claims that are derived from interpretations of the sacred texts.
Literally, Hijab means “a veil,” “curtain,” “partition” or “separation.” The verse in which it is mentioned is specifically addressed to the wives of the prophet; there is no dispute among scholars about that at all. The verse states as follow,
“And when you ask [his wives] for something, ask them from behind a partition ( hijab). That is purer for your hearts and their hearts. And it is not [conceivable or lawful] for you to harm the Messenger of Allah or to marry his wives after him, ever. Indeed, that would be in the sight of Allah an enormity.“( Quran 33: 53)
The term hijab then is meant to have a partition between the wives of the prophet and his companions. It is not addressed to the Muslim women, otherwise it would have been stated, says Mohamed Rashed.
Read the rest here, it's quite fascinating.
Of course, he's probably been classified a heretic, and no-one seems to know how the thesis was received, but good for him. At least there are some enlightened males in that religion.