Second-class, but Oh! So Chic!

Sara Buys, the fashion editor at “The Independent”, has an enlightening piece about Muslim Women: Behind the Veil. It’s a hard-hitting expose’ about Muslim women, the oppression they face, the inequality in their society and how their place in society is relegated to less than that of men by wearing the hijab.

Well, a man can wish, can’t he?

There is a tendency, in the Western world, to assume that if a Muslim woman is observant of her faith – and covering her body, with varying degrees of extremism, is symbolic of that observance – that she is automatically excluded from being fashionable; she is, in some way, “outside” of fashion. There is also is a tendency to lump traditional Muslim dress into one dull generic pile of black cloth and to assume that one size fits all.

“Outside of fashion”. That’s not the first thing that pops into my mind. Especially when they are walking behind their men, covered head to toe to be “modest”.

So how do we begin to make sartorial sense of £500 cotton floral tops buried beneath layers of floor-length black robes? Why wear it, let alone pay for it, if no one sees it? “What you have to understand about the female Muslim culture is that everything happens indoors,” says Christina Estrada Juffali, the former American model who is married to royal Saudi sheik Walid Juffali. “The Western world can’t seem to get its head around the idea that affluent Middle Easterners are both modest, pious and mass consumers. Though the women might wear full hijab, when they get together behind closed doors and throw women-only parties, that’s when they get to show off.” As Estrada Juffali points out, women who are very respectful of the veil and come from the more closed communities, never “got their kicks” – as it were – from walking down the street and getting male attention. “It’s not even on their horizon,” she says.

So Muslim women are all about the bling– behind the scenes. Fine. It’s a form of modesty, right? Wear your diamonds at home so as not to flaunt your wealth.

Well, that’s hard to do when the Rolls drops you off at Harrods and you trot out in your hijab.

What’s worse is the stroking of the Muslim practice here as acceptable, as it’s the acceptance of fashion by the hoi-palloi of the Arab world. As for those who are brutalized when they wear no face covering, or those who are raped by men, then executed for dressing so provocatively that they prompted the men to act in such a way? Please.

Having spent a lot of her youth in Saudi Arabia, where her father has an office, Elbagir has witnessed, first hand, the Middle Eastern Muslim’s woman’s passion for fashion; and the irony – that it’s the more conservative female Muslims who really go to town when it comes to style – is not lost on her. “The girls I know from Saudi have an incredible love of fashion,” she says. “It’s precisely because they wear abayas that they can be so outlandish underneath. Because it all goes on beneath the veil and behind closed doors, they don’t feel inhibited. Sequins, miniskirts, pink hot pants – the more garish the better.”

This piece sounds like advice to the modern British female. “When sharia law comes, don’t worry. You can still wear your high-fashion outfits underneath the burqa! Your man will appreciate it, plus you can show his other wives just how to dress indoors!”

“What you need to understand about the hijab,” she continues, “is that it’s a personal thing between you and God – it’s about modesty of the soul and discretion and hiding your form so as not to tempt men but that doesn’t mean the symbols of those meanings can’t be interpreted in a personal way. My friend wears a full hijab and she is the most stylish person I know. When she comes to London, she’ll wear some Victoria Beckham VB jeans; a long-sleeved Dolce and Gabbana shirt that she’ll often buy two sizes too big so its not tight-fitting; and then she’ll tie a funky headscarf over her head. That’s hijab to her. Why does it have to be black and boring? As long as it does the job it’s meant to do, who cares what colour it is?”

I have to ask– doesn’t God see all? If you’re wearing $8,000 of designer clothes & perfume under your hajib, are you really being modest? Are you really a beacon of humility? Not to mention when you get back with your friends and you’re flaunting your designer wear, is that what God wants? I guess jealousy is a foreign concept to traditional Muslims.

Elbagir agrees. She also says that she finds it strange that Jack Straw should be concerned about what he has referred to as “a growing trend in the wearing of the full veil”. “It’s a trend among a tiny minority,” argues Elbagir. “Only about 3,000 Muslim women in Britain wear the full veil. How can that be a significant trend?” According to her, the future and the present is this: Muslim women, certainly in Britain, are increasingly adapting hijab and making it work for them. “Islamic dress is being appropriated so that it works within fashion’s perimeters,” says Elbagir. “Not against or outside it. It’s about individual expression – we are not choosing to demarcate our ‘otherness’, but rather we are choosing to express out individuality.” An Alexander McQueen skull-print niqab it is then.

So, remember– accepting the burqa is a perfectly OK. And the number of people who wear the full outfit are so small (but growing), there’s no concern there! Unless that number grows and grows, so that the MP representation in Parliament grows and grows. But you won’t notice, because of fluff pieces like this which rationalize the hijab as high fashion. What’s next? An article on how women really weren’t using all those rights Western nations were granting them? That only being considered half a man is liberating and women should be appreciative? What other articles will we read to help pave the way of dhimmitude?


2 Responses to “Second-class, but Oh! So Chic!”

  1. 1 RS
    October 21, 2008 at 11:28 am

    🙂 Sara have to make other analyses about muslims women in any other part of this world who wears hijab. Arab culture and their behavior, i must say, do not represent muslims on earth. Interesting article…very close to what i ve heard about it. 🙂

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My name is Doc. Welcome to my blog. If you're visiting from another blog, add me to your blogroll (and I'll happily reciprocate). I have a Ph.D. in Chemistry and live in Wisconsin. If you have any questions, feel free to email me. My email is docattheautopsy at gmail. (No linking to deflate the incredible spam monsters).



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