Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Convoluted Islamic dresscodes

The Quran instructs Muslims to "dress modestly, so as to not attract attention to the body". A very reasonable instruction. From this you get the flowing, loose dress common in Muslim countries -- such as the shalwar in Pakistan and the dish dash in Arabia. An added bonus is that these garments are also much better to stay cool in than the shorts and t-shirts westerners wear when they travel to hot climates.

However, wearing a hijab in a region where hijabs are very rare (say, McLean VA) is not "dressing modestly, so as to not attract attention to the body". In fact, I can't think of a better way to draw attention to one's body than by dressing in something deeply unusual and parading around. So while the form of dress may remain the same, the instruction is no longer being obeyed. Muslims would do better by dressing in modest version of local attire so they blend in and do not call attention to themselves, or their bodies.

People like to dress up though. This article on hijab chic details how traditional muslim dress, in bright colors and logos, is being made for fashionable muslim women. A clear case of obeying the letter of the law, and not the spirit, but obeying both would have you dressed in a long skirt and long sleeve shirt -- which Nordstrom also stocks. The clerics unhappy with this turn of events should note that their recommendation is not modest either, in that it draws attention and stands out.


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