Islam and clothing

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Adherents of Islam are concerned with clothing in two contexts: clothing for everyday wear, inside and outside the house; and clothing required in specifically religious contexts.

Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty: that will make for greater purity for them: And Allah is well acquainted with all that they do. And say that the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers, their husband's fathers, their sons, their husbands' sons, their brothers or their brothers' sons, or their sisters' sons, or their women, or the slaves whom their right hands possess, or male servants free of physical needs, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex; and that they should not strike their feet in order to draw attention to their hidden ornaments. And O ye Believers! turn ye all together towards Allah, that ye may attain Bliss.

Sura 24 (An-Nur), ayat 30-31, Qur'an[1]

O Prophet! Tell thy wives and thy daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks close round them. That will be better, so that they may be recognized and not harassed. Allah is ever Forgiving, Merciful.

—Sura 33 (Al-Ahzab), ayah 59, Qur'an[2]

However, there are many different interpretations of what "modesty" requires. The Quran admonishes Muslim women to dress modestly and cover their breasts and genitals.[3] The Quran explicitly states that "O wives of the Prophet, you are not like anyone among women" (Quran 33: 32) and as such has separate rules specifically for the wives of the Prophet.[4] However, many people often mistake it for rules for all Muslim women.[5] The Quran has no requirement that women cover their faces with a veil, or cover their bodies with the full-body burqua or chador.[6] The Qur'an does not mandate or mention Hijab.[7][8]

Islamic dress in Europe[edit]

Muslim women by Islamic dress code, wearing hijab and niqab.

Islamic dress in Europe, notably the variety of headdresses worn by Muslim women, has become a prominent symbol of the presence of Islam in western Europe. In several countries the adherence to hijab (an Arabic noun meaning "to cover") has led to political controversies and proposals for a legal ban. The Netherlands government has decided to introduce a ban on face-covering clothing, popularly described as the "burqa ban", although it does not only apply to the Afghan-model burqa. Other countries, such as France are debating similar legislation, or have more limited prohibitions. Some of them apply only to face-covering clothing such as the burqa, chador, boushiya, or niqab; some apply to any clothing with an Islamic religious symbolism such as the khimar, a type of headscarf (some countries already have laws banning the wearing of masks in public, which can be applied to veils that conceal the face). The issue has different names in different countries, and "the veil" or "hijab" may be used as general terms for the debate, representing more than just the veil itself, or the concept of modesty embodied in hijab.

Although the Balkans and Eastern Europe have indigenous Muslim populations, most Muslims in western Europe are members of immigrant communities. The issue of Islamic dress is linked with issues of immigration and the position of Islam in western society. European Commissioner Franco Frattini said in November 2006, that he did not favour a ban on the burqa.[9] This is apparently the first official statement on the issue of prohibition of Islamic dress from the European Commission, the executive of the European Union. The reasons given for prohibition vary. Legal bans on face-covering clothing are often justified on security grounds, as an anti-terrorism measure.[10][11]

Ayaan Hirsi Ali sees Islam as incompatible with Western values, at least in its present form. She advocates the values of 'Enlightenment liberalism', including secularism and equality of women. For her, the burqa or chador are both a symbol of religious obscurantism and the oppression of women. Western Enlightenment values, in her view, require prohibition, regardless of whether a woman has freely chosen Islamic dress. Islamic dress is also seen as a symbol of the existence of parallel societies, and the failure of integration: in 2006 British Prime Minister Tony Blair described it as a "mark of separation".[12] Visible symbols of a non-Christian culture conflict with the national identity in European states, which assumes a shared (non-religious) culture. Proposals for a ban may be linked to other related cultural prohibitions: the Dutch politician Geert Wilders proposed a ban on hijabs, in Islamic schools, in new mosques, and in non-western immigration.

In France and Turkey, the emphasis is on the secular nature of the state, and the symbolic nature of the Islamic dress, and bans apply at state institutions (courts, civil service) and in state-funded education. These bans also cover Islamic headscarves, which in some other countries are seen as less controversial, although law court staff in the Netherlands are also forbidden to wear Islamic headscarves on grounds of 'state neutrality'. An apparently less politicised argument is that in specific professions (teaching), a ban on "veils" (niqab) is justified, since face-to-face communication and eye contact is required. This argument has featured prominently in judgements in Britain and the Netherlands, after students or teachers were banned from wearing face-covering clothing. Public and political response to such prohibition proposals is complex, since by definition they mean that the government decides on individual clothing. Some non-Muslims, who would not be affected by a ban, see it as an issue of civil liberties, as a slippery slope leading to further restrictions on private life. A public opinion poll in London showed that 75 percent of Londoners support "the right of all persons to dress in accordance with their religious beliefs".[13] In another poll in the United Kingdom by Ipsos MORI, 61 percent agreed that "Muslim women are segregating themselves" by wearing a veil, yet 77 percent thought they should have the right to wear it.[14]

Hijab by country[edit]

Female art students in Afghanistan.

The hijab has different legal and cultural statuses in various countries. There are currently four countries, including France (since 2004), which have banned the wearing of all overt religious symbols, including the hijab (a Muslim headscarf, literally Arabic "to cover"), in public schools and universities or government buildings.[15]

Tunisia since 1981,[16] and Turkey since 1997,[17] were the only Muslim countries which have banned the hijab in public schools and universities or government buildings, whilst Syria banned face veils in universities from July 2010.[18] In other Muslim states such as Morocco,[19] and Indonesia there have been some restriction or discrimination against women who wear the hijab. The hijab in these cases is seen as a sign of political Islam or fundamentalism against secular government. As of today hijab is now freely worn in Turkey since the Islamist-government removed the ban from school and in Tunisia, the ban was removed after the revolution.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Quran 24:30–31
  2. ^ Quran 33:59
  3. ^ Martin et al. (2003), Encyclopedia of Islam & the Muslim World, Macmillan Reference, ISBN 978-0028656038
  4. ^ http://somalilandpress.com/al-azhar-wearing-hijab-islamic-duty-32603
  5. ^ http://somalilandpress.com/al-azhar-wearing-hijab-islamic-duty-32603
  6. ^ http://middleeast.about.com/od/religionsectarianism/f/me080209.htm
  7. ^ http://www.irfi.org/articles/articles_351_400/quran_does_not_mandate_hijab.htm
  8. ^ http://somalilandpress.com/al-azhar-wearing-hijab-islamic-duty-32603
  9. ^ Reformatorisch dagblad: Brussel tegen boerkaverbod, 30 November 2006.
  10. ^ Dutch Consider Ban on Burqas in Public GREGORY CROUCH, New York Times (November 18, 2006)
  11. ^ Minister says burka is 'alien', prompting applause from Libs DEBBIE GUEST, JODIE MINUS, THE AUSTRALIAN, (APRIL 11, 2011)
  12. ^ Blair's concerns over face veils BBC News Online. October 17, 2006.
  13. ^ Guardian: Livingstone decries vilification of Islam, November 20, 2006.
  14. ^ Ipsos MORI Muslim Women Wearing Veils.
  15. ^ French MPs back headscarf ban BBC News (BBC). Retrieved on 13 February 2009.
  16. ^ Abdelhadi, Magdi (26 September 2006). "Tunisia attacked over headscarves". BBC News. Retrieved 6 June 2008. 
  17. ^ Turkey headscarf ruling condemned Al Jazeera English (7 June 2008). Retrieved on February 2009.
  18. ^ http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-10684359 Syria bans face veils at universities
  19. ^ Richard Hamilton (6 October 2006) Morocco moves to drop headscarf BBC News (BBC). Retrieved on 13 February 2009.

External links[edit]