I found this link today on Muslim beards, stereotyping, and proper hijab. For those of you who don’t know (as I didn’t), hijab is the term used from dress and hair codes that help a Muslim maintain standards of modesty. In the article, the author debates whether there is a standard for hijab and whether that standard is dictated by Allah or by a human agenda.
In our culture, we have been trained to believe one of two extremes. The first is that all Muslims would just as soon slit our throats as look at us, that all they want is to force the whole world to be Muslim. The other is that all Muslims are peace-loving people, and they just want to fit in and be left alone.
What I found interesting in the article is that devout Muslims suffer from the same problems as those of other devout believers in other faiths. Whenever the fallible human injects his (or her) own agenda into the study of sacred writings, it is inevitable that divisions and contradictions will arise. Religion becomes more about rules and less about motivation, which causes a whole host of misunderstanding.
In the Christian Bible, St. Paul tells us that women should have their heads covered in the church assembly, because “a woman’s hair is her glory.” It took me years to understand what was actually being said by Paul. But, what it boils down to is modesty. A woman should not dress in a way that distracts attention from the worship.
I read a good article by a woman who felt very self-conscious as a teen because her family took this very seriously and imposed a rather strict dress code. The upshot for her was that is caused her to feel ashamed of her body, and she found herself becoming anti-social. All the pressure was put on her not to entice boys to lust after her. In her article, she makes the valid point that, after a certain point, the lust of men is the issue of the men. She concluded that modesty didn’t mean removing her femininity, it meant no sticking out in a way that would draw attention.
I assume that St. Paul didn’t tell men to cover their heads because they are not the cornerstone of male attractiveness. I also assume that this is the reason that the Bible did say that it’s detestable for a man to have hair like a woman–because it would draw undo attention and distract people. So, modesty is the issue.
The point is this: it’s easy to take pot shots at people for how they dress or act without really understanding why they are doing it. It’s also easy to look at rules and guidelines of religious codes and misunderstand the message that they convey. With the inevitable collision of Muslim and Christian cultures around the world with the ever-growing ignorance of both cultures in the mainstream, we are bound to see an escalation of misunderstanding, mistrust and hatred. Seems to me that the first step to solving our clashes is to at least understand something about which we talk.
- Muslim students have different views on hijab (easterneronline.com)
- The Hijabi Chronicles (ijaytalk.wordpress.com)
- Hijab allows for expression of religion (therunneronline.com)
- Hijab: Between Faith and Fashion (thejakartaglobe.com)
- Definition of Hijab (daranayubeyukoipa2.wordpress.com)