First published on January 15, 2016.
NOTE: I consider myself to be a fairly well educated expert on the history of fashion in the Western world. Along with working on a book that contains about 2100 historic photos which have never been published, I have several hundred books on fashion and the history of fashion. There is almost nothing in them about Islamic ‘fashion’. It does not exist. The dress codes required today basically are something entirely new. Yes, there were traditional costumes, but they were localized almost tribal. Many of the things which were worn as ‘tribal’ evolved from items worn by the ancient Greeks, Romans, and localized fashions. There is absolutely no such thing as Islamic fashion.
Have you ever seen a photo of a woman who looks happy when wearing the repressive fashions of radical Islam? Please show me one. Do you know the difference between a head scarf worn as a symbol of religious oppression and one that is a symbol of high fashion?
Did you know, in Afghanistan, in the 1950s and 1960s, women had the option of wearing the traditional burka (which is not like what they wear today) or dress like modern women of the world. In 1963 Duke Ellington played Kabul. Ike made a visit in the late 1950s. Afghan women were becoming modern. Once upon a time, before hard-line Islam took over, women in Afghanistan were among the most progressive of the region. They had opportunities. They could travel abroad, were educated, and could even go to concerts. They wore mini-skirts and did not wear burkas, or head-scarves. Today, the world is different.
The worst part of it is that feminists in the US and in Europe think we must be culturally sensitive and respect the hijab and burka. Afghan women were allowed to legally vote a year before women in the US were. Then, thanks to the rise of the Taliban, and the fact that President Bill Clinton did nothing about it, never saying a word about what they were doing to women, forget it. In 2011 women in Afghanistan were considered the most endangered in the world. This is due to the rise of hard-line Islam. Yet, if you listen to someone on the left, we are to respect that religion and that culture.
“…’As a girl, I remember my mother wearing miniskirts and taking us to the cinema. My aunt went to university in Kabul.'” Horia
We are repeatedly told to respect the woman who chooses to be ‘covered’ due to her religious devotion. Yet, this demand for women to be covered, to be completely cloaked, not just to hide the fact that she is a woman, but to demand she limit her activities is fairly recent. It has nothing to do with cultural sensitivity, and everything to do with ruining her life as a woman. Today’s Islamic woman who demands she be allowed to be ‘covered’ is not a feminist, and is bowing to the demands of a repressive society.
“...Until the conflict of the 1970s, the 20th Century had seen relatively steady progression for women’s rights in the country. Afghan women were first eligible to vote in 1919 – only a year after women in the UK were given voting rights, and a year before the women in the United States were allowed to vote. In the 1950s purdah (gendered separation) was abolished; in the 1960s a new constitution brought equality to many areas of life, including political participation….”
Liberal women are, today, bending over backwards to be culturally sensitive and respect the burka and hijab. Some are going to far as to wear them to show how much they respect the women who have the courage to wear a hijab. It isn’t courage. It is fear. The story of the hijab is that women began wearing them, in Africa, in the 1980s, when they started working in cities.
There are those who say that the hijab is basically a way for a person to prove how religious they are. No one was wearing it, until the 1970s, when the ultra religious scholars began enforcing traditional Islamic values, as they saw them. It is about modesty, and protecting the woman from a man’s lustful glare and attention. A perfect example of what has happened to women is in Sudan.
“…The supposedly “Islamic” nature of the strictures on women is highly controversial. It is argued by progressive Muslims that the Prophet Mohamed was responsible for advancing the status of women at a time when unwanted girl children were disposed of by being buried alive. However, the male clerical interpretation of Islamic law after his death, with its emphasis on the letter of the law rather than its spirit, halted or petrified the process. In this way the Quranic injunction that both men and women should dress and behave modestly became a mechanistic requirement for women to cover their bodies. Similarly, the Prophet’s admonition of a midwife about to circumcise a young girl, that she might “reduce, but not destroy”, which amounted to criticism of the already established practice of female genital mutilation (FGM), has been treated in reactionary circles as an endorsement rather than a condemnation of the practice. The National Islamic Front’s claims that Islam is incompatible with female economic activity outside the home is equally unwarranted. These attitudes have more to do with tradition, nationality and class than with religion.
The 1990s began with alarming developments in the treatment of women, including imprisonment, torture, intimidation and harassment; and interference with the rights of movement, association, employment and dress. In the name of protecting morality, the energies of law enforcement bodies have been directed towards the persecution of women in public. Young women, particularly, are primary targets for quasi-religious propaganda in the name of chastity, obedience and domesticity, voiced repeatedly through government-controlled media. Persistently made to feel ashamed of their bodies, they may be stopped on the street at the whim of any member of the police and security organisations. Reasons given for this include being inadequately covered, not having an escort, being seen with a man not properly accredited as an escort, or simply walking in a “provocative” manner.
While women in government offices were immediately forced to adhere to the dress code, the response of the majority of women has been a mixture of defiance, passive resistance and practicality. For some young women in the 1980s, the “hijab” combination of headscarf and long-sleeved blouse was more practical – and much cheaper – than the unwieldy “tobe” traditionally worn outside the home by northern Sudanese. It became fashionable outside the narrow circles of the NIF who introduced it. However, the attempt to impose an Iranian-style “chador”, after one merchant imported the garment in bulk, was unsuccessful…”
Christian women were once required to cover their hair, and then be modest. This is rather fascinating since in early Christianity, women did not dress like ‘Christians’ but wore traditional Roman attire. Everyone covered their head, primarily as a way to protect against sun and dust, and keep the head clean. It had NOTHING to do with modesty. Today’s version of Christian modesty is hurting women. Today’s ‘godly’ religions leaders like to point to the second and third century demands for modesty, ignoring the fact that the men who wrote the ‘book’ on ‘modesty’, truly disliked women, considering them horrible creatures. Gone was the love Christ had for women. It was replaced by pure hatred and terror of women.
Today’s so-called ‘godly’ scholar likes to point to the fashions of the latter part of the Roman Empire, and the Fall or Rome, or as I like to refer to it, La Morte d’Arthur. They completely forget or are abjectly ignorant of the fact that some sort of global catastrophe made the climate far colder than it was during the time of Christ. Add to it the rantings and ravings of Tertullian of Carthage, who was basically a heretic and we have a perfect storm of ignorance.
The reason Christian women adopted more modest clothing was quite simple. IT WAS COLD! The climate changed. During the time of Christ, the average temperature of the ‘classical’ world was a good two degrees warmer than it is now. It did not get cold. People wore sandals for a reason. They did not need shoes. If it turned cold, briefly, they threw a cape or shawl over their near naked bodies and waited for it to warm up during the day. Something happened around 535AD or so, that changed the way the world lived. David Keys theorizes that it was a major volcanic eruption. Due to the collapse of society in Arabia, Islam was born, and no, it was not a divine revelation from God, rather a disparate attempt for people to understand the fact that their world was falling apart.
“…The book’s thesis is that a global climatic catastrophe in AD 535 to 536 –– a massive volcanic eruption sundering Java from Sumatra –– was the decisive factor that transformed the Ancient World into the Medieval Era . Ancient chroniclers recorded a disaster in that year that blotted out the Sun for months (possibly years) causing famine, droughts, floods, storms and an epidemic of bubonic plague. Keys uses tree-ring samples, analysis of lake deposits and ice cores, as well as contemporaneous documents to bolster his speculative thesis. In his scenario, the ensuing disasters precipitated the disintegration of the Byzantine Empire, beset by Avar, Slav, Mongol, and Persian invaders propelled from their disrupted homelands. The 6th-century collapse of Arabian civilization under pressure from floods and crop failure created a religiously apocalyptic atmosphere which set the stage for the emergence of Islam. In Mexico, the cataclysm supposedly triggered the collapse of Teotihuacán, while in China the ensuing half-century of political and social chaos led to a reunified nation…”
The hijab and extreme coverings required by early Islamic teachings and by he-man-woman-hating post-Roman Christian writers was NOT about modesty. It was a coping mechanism designed to protect the wearer from the extremes of climate change the likes of which the ‘modern’ world had never seen and has yet to experience. Unfortunately, today, we are entering into what will be remembered as the Age of Extremism. It has superseded the Age of Enlightenment when educated men and women prided themselves on knowledge. Today, the opposite appears to be true. People almost tend to pride themselves on their various forms of ignorance.
The demands placed on women by the ignorant within Islam and by the ignorant within the progressive world are barbaric. Try playing around with the theme on Twitter. See what happens. It is brutal. I’ve been referred to as a bigot. I am culturally insensitive. I am ignorant. I don’t respect other cultures. It’s true, I don’t respect cultures where women are treated like dirt. I don’t respect modern women who pretend to be feminists and allow it.
I guess what truly bothers me is that the apologists for the way women are treated don’t quite understand the history of fashion. The head scarf was once a staple of fashion. There are some who say it’s on the way back, not because of modesty or the hijab, but because it protects the hair from the ravages of the weather, moisture, and fog. Anyone who looks at this photo and says it is about modesty is a fool. There is NOTHING modest or submissive about the woman wearing it. (FYI: I have the same scarf!)
We don’t excuse barbarian cultures. There is nothing wrong with respecting a culture, and trying to be respectful of it – when possible. But, when that culture is doing things like mutilating the genitals of young woman, stoning women to death, or mass rape of women who are modern, that is barbaric. I don’t excuse it.
There is a difference between wearing a head scarf for fashion, and wearing a hijab. If you can’t figure it out, then you have a problem.
There is a difference between wearing a head scarf for fashion and wearing one due to oppression.
“...The governor of Luxor province where the incident occurred called the teacher’s actions “shameful” and said she had been transferred to another school. But rights groups say that some Islamic conservatives have been emboldened by the success of groups like Muslim Brotherhood and the ultraconservative Salafi trend in parliamentary and presidential elections and have been increasingly brazen about forcing their standards on other Egyptians.
The incident follows a surge in legal cases against Egyptians, mostly Christians, who allegedly showed contempt for religion. The trial of one, Alber Saber, opened Wednesday but was postponed.
It also comes amid a fierce debate over how the role of religion will be defined in the country’s new constitution. The preponderance of Islamists on the panel drafting the document has alarmed liberals and religious minorities.
In the village of Qurna in Luxor province, 500 kilometers (300 miles) south of Cairo, father Berbesh Khairi El-Rawi said the teacher forced the two girls to stand with their hands above their heads for two hours and then cut their hair in their school.
He told The Associated Press that he filed a complaint after the Oct. 10 incident with the prosecutor’s office in Luxor. He had no further comment.
The prosecutor’s office declined to comment on the case. Provincial governor Ezzat Saad confirmed the teacher had been transferred for a “shameful” act but did not otherwise comment.
The teacher, Eman Abu Bakar, could not be reached. She told the Egyptian semi-official newspaper al-Ahram that the amount of hair she cut off of the girls’ heads “did not exceed two centimeters” (one inch).
Abu Bakar was quoted as saying she only resorted to cutting her students’ hair after warning them repeatedly to cover their heads. After these repeated warnings, a student handed her a scissors from his bag, and that he and other students asked her to “implement” her threats….”
There is a difference between oppression and freedom.