Veil, Women and Islam: who decides appropriate public dress?

January 21, 2014

 

Veil, Women and Islam: who decides appropriate public dress?
Veil, Women and Islam: who decides appropriate public dress?

“What dress is most appropriate for a Muslim woman in public?”

Researchers at the Population Studies Center at the University of Michigan asked the same question to both men and women of various age groups and different religious faiths in seven countries with a Muslim majority. The real focus of the research was post- revolution Tunisia, but scholars also decided to investigate responses in Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Pakistan. Each respondent was shown images of women. The left most image showed a women who was totally covered (burqa ), decreasing the pieces of cloth covering the woman from image to image until the last drawing, which depicted the subject as completely uncovered.

The findings concluded that on average the hijab (veil that covers the hair, forehead, ears and neck) was considered the most appropriate. You could say this is a compromise between the two extreme images. Another important aspect that the research shows is the partial open-ness to different styles of dress in Saudi Arabia as opposed to a greater closure in “post-spring” Egypt.

The research also included a question that went beyond mere aesthetics. Respondents were also asked: “Should the woman decide what to wear?

And this confirms the above trend:  in Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Turkey, and Tunisia, 50% of respondents where in favor of the free choice of women, as opposed to 22% and 14% in Pakistan and Egypt, respectively.

I must say that by scrolling through the research data, I returned several times to the word used in the original question: appropriate.

What do the researchers mean by this term? Appropriate for whom? For others or for the woman? Who can decide when attire is appropriate or not?

Beyond the specific object of this analysis, veil or no veil, I am always convinced that there is only one parameter to decide how a woman should dress: personal choice. Do not take me for naive, I am aware of the incendiary debates that surround these issues, especially in our cities. In my opinion, the most appropriate clothing is what makes a woman feel free and proud to express herself regardless of expectations or fashions of the moment.

The external influences on not only clothing but also on the image of a woman’s own body, is not unique to Muslim women, but rather something that applies to all women in the world. Let me give you another example. Last year a global campaign was launched called “Dark is beautiful” with the aim to emphasize the beauty of dark skin in societies like the West where fair skin is favored. The pressures of fair skin often prompt many black women to resort to toxic products that promise to lighten skin. We must reverse this situation.

Corriere della sera: http://lacittanuova.milano.corriere.it/2014/01/21/velo-donne-islam-qual-e-labbigliamento-giusto-in-pubblico-e-chi-lo-decide/

Original report: http://mevs.org/files/tmp/Tunisia_FinalReport.pdf

 

Women and Islam: Other prejudices that come with knowledge

Rosanna Sirignano

June 3, 2013

 

Chained, reclusive, condemned lives, sufferers, slaves: these are some of the adjectives easily used in association with Muslim women. However, this is a broad stereotype and is predicated on the notion that there is one Islamic state or a holistic Islamic culture, the attempt to create some order to the question of Islamic women and offer cues for reflection from a point of view of little understanding.

 

Unfortunately for external observers it is difficult regardless of there want to examine the question objectively. The veil, an often cited example, is seen as a sign of oppression and the limits of female liberty. Many don’t know that many women probably the major part, choose to wear the veil they illustrate their devotion to God and is their own decision. Those “advocates” would now give voice to those immigrant women even though they have chosen to wear the veil these women do not think of themselves as “poor, oppressed, ignorant, terrorists” rather they might focus on a fear of not being heard or of not finding work.

 

It is sad to note, those who defend the rights of Islamic women there are people who have never read a verse of the Koran and have no knowledge of the historical development of the rights of women, and perhaps more gravely, look at Islam as a homogenous system. It is natural to distinguish between Italian Catholicism, and that of Swedish Catholicism for Islam we understand the same religion not a Tunisian, or a Yemen or an Indonesian Islam? When one speaks about Muslim women many understand them as the same, regardless of state, which have the same problems and the same conditions.