Muslim Women’s Dress: Symbol of Oppression? Not Really!

May 14, 2014


In March I commented on the dress of women in the Middle East. women

I pointed out that from a western point of view the Hijaab worn by religious Muslim women is seen as a form of oppression. Furthermore, I also noted that from my travels in some of the Middle East countries I have observed that religious Jewish, Christian and Muslim women are all modestly dressed including their head coverings.

The comments on that piece of writing were encouraging. Many people wanted me to fill in the gaps – that is from a historical, cultural or religious perspective.

Here is a little bit of all three.

Historical perspective: Until the end of World War II women all over the world wore long dresses to the ankle with long sleeves. Their heads were covered by hats, scarves, orhni, hijaab, or other named coverings.

Before WWII very few women worked outside the home.

The loss of millions of men turned women into heads of household and bread winners. Women started to seek education, the cumbersome ankle length dress with long sleeves disappeared, and by the 1960s the women’s revolution and the feminist movements changed the world.KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Cultural perspective: Another aspect of the female dress code is cultural. European women wore aprons over their long dresses all day long. Indian women wore saris. Pakistani women wore Shalwar Kamis. African women wore brightly coloured dresses. South American women wore colourful garments also. Middle Eastern women wore long dresses with head covering to survive the sand storms. And so the women of all countries dressed from their cultural perspectives.

Religious perspective: The idea that only Muslim women covered up themselves because of religion is untrue, unreal, and bizarre and is rooted in western propaganda.birds

All religious women dress modestly. Whether we are looking at Jewish women in Brooklyn or Jerusalem, Christian women in Italy or the Convents, or Muslim women in Turkey or Kenya; they are all covered so as not to show too much skin. Dressing modestly does not necessarily mean one is a religious fanatic. It means one is decent and respect ones self.

So the dress of Muslim women has very little to do with religion and more to do with culture, tradition, history and perhaps modesty.

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