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Dawah and Interfaith

Why Don’t You Dress Like Us? -Ruth Nasrullah

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3virginmary_btn.jpgOn the Houston Chronicle’s Talking Tolerance blog I read this post, in which the author’s friend makes a comment along the lines of what I heard at last November’s elections. The question is, “Why don’t they just dress like us?” “They” refers to Muslim women wearing hijab.

It’s a question that reeks of ignorance, frankly, but it brings to mind another question…why can’t they dress like us?

When a nun wears a traditional habit, which is essentially the same as hijab, she is identified as a pious woman whose life is devoted to her faith. So why do non-Muslims not call for these honorable women to dress like “them“?

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The virgin Mary is nearly always depicted as wearing hijab – so why don’t Christian women who honor Mary as the epitome of gentleness and faith dress like “her“?

Women who wear hip huggers and bathing suits have to worry about their bodies being perfect for the society they’re baring them to. Muslim women only have to worry about their bodies being attractive to their husbands. So why don’t the women in skimpy clothes make their lives easier and dress like “us“?

Muslim women dress the way we do because we follow the mandates of our religion. For those of us who live in Muslim-minority societies, we’re choosing to be different from the mainstream and to identify ourselves as practitioners of a religion not everyone has a positive view of. Unquestionably, women who wear hijab in this country are demonstrating courage and sharing a message of faith.

So I ask the women who criticize hijab – why don’t you dress like us?

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38 Comments

38 Comments

  1. Tarek

    April 5, 2008 at 7:20 AM

    Oh please.

    All this talk about choice among the muslim women is totally disingenuous – it is overwhelmingly because of social pressure and patriarchal pressure.

    There are women who do it by choice, yes, but anyone living in a muslim society knows that the real reason women can’t wear a tshirt on a hot day is because they’ll be labeled as ‘loose’.

    Its fine if someone wants to wear a hijab – but its highly unacceptable if that is because of social or cultural pressures.

  2. Tarek

    April 5, 2008 at 7:22 AM

    And even muslim women living in muslim-minority societies, its the same social pressure in their minority subculture.

  3. Hassan

    April 5, 2008 at 7:57 AM

    I never knew a woman can be named Tarek as well. Sister Tarek I applaud you for talking on behalf of all woman of islam, that they wear hijaab because of pressure not because they want to.

  4. ibn insaan

    April 5, 2008 at 8:20 AM

    Dear Sister Tarek,

    Thanks for your input to this very important topic!

    But sister :) please do pause to think a bit further…why do we generally speaking accept it so openly when we are told that the average western woman who dresses the way she does, does so out of choice…why not say – as is reality – that they only dress the way they do our of being coerced by the norms of their society. And furthermore, perhaps the reason why they dress as ‘modestly’ as they do (ie have some form of ‘clothing’ on their body) because they arre legally *forced* to (which they actually are)!!

    Think about it buddy ;)

    Take care

    Ps

    And why is it, as we know it to be so – that girls actually get in trouble with their families at uni’s *for* wearing islamic attire, because their families fear that they will never be able to get married (??!?!) and that they will be seen as extremists and terrorists

  5. ibn insaan

    April 5, 2008 at 8:24 AM

    Just one other thing…even this whole thing about choice – to be fair, it is a slight digression from the main point that was being raised by the respected author, may God preserve her.

    It is a matter of morality and modesty…and it is simply relative. What you think is modest, we feel is skimpy and in fact degrading and moreover making life difficult for none other than women that ‘society’ has us believe are apparently being ‘liberated’ ?

  6. ruth nasrullah

    April 5, 2008 at 9:00 AM

    Before I get misunderstood on this as I did when I cross-posted on the Chronicle, let me say this…in this post I am not telling or demanding other women to wear hijab – it’s a “turning the tables” idea that’s somewhat tongue-in-cheek.

  7. Amad

    April 5, 2008 at 9:34 AM

    Is Tarek “the” tarek fatah, the self-annointed savior of all muslim women? Or just an impersonator ;) ?

    This fable about pressure to wear hijab may apply in certain societies just like the pressure to dress like bimbos in many western societies, but overwhelmingly muslim women wear the hijab for the fear of Allah. So, pls stop using fictional stereotypes.

  8. Irum Sarfaraz

    April 5, 2008 at 10:29 AM

    ‘Its fine if someone wants to wear a hijab – but its highly unacceptable if that is because of social or cultural pressures’

    Tarek, it not FINE not or or not to wear a hijab. There is NO question of ACCEPTABLE or UNACCEPTABLE here because of SOCIAL or CULTURAL pressures. This is all part of the progressive and liberated crap that has been fed into the minds of Muslim women by the modern notions of women’s lib. The liberation of women has backfired upon the very women who were its most vehement proponents 30-40 years ago. Seems like you want to take the same path yourself instead of listening to the ones who have already been down it. Islam shows us clearly what lies at the end of every path we decide to take in life. If I had been wrong we would not been witnessing so many American women reverts as we are at present. We don’t need any new ‘ideas’ or ‘fatwas’ on hijab because the rules were defined and laid down in very clear terms 1400 years ago. Please take your Liberation of the Muslim Woman from Hijab’ rhetoric where it will be met with more jubilation.

  9. Siraaj Muhammad

    April 5, 2008 at 11:34 AM

    “All this talk about choice among the muslim women is totally disingenuous – it is overwhelmingly because of social pressure and patriarchal pressure.”

    The irony is that American women are pressured to slut themselves out precisely because the barometer upon which their social value is judged is based on their body’s attractiveness rather than any sort of intrinisic worth as a human being.

    I knew a lawyer many years ago who looked at male-dominated government, media, and corporations and the trends they set and concluded the brainwashing that takes place through various outlets was akin to giving a woman a date-rape drug so that you could do with her as you pleased, even though by her nature, she does not want to caricature herself out to be every man’s fantasy.

    Siraaj

  10. aarij

    April 5, 2008 at 12:11 PM

    “Its fine if someone wants to wear a hijab – but its highly unacceptable if that is because of social or cultural pressures.”

    Care to apply the same line of reasoning to the other facets of the Western lifestyle? Like drinking, drugs, baring it all, etc. etc.? Or is that all kosher in the name of freedom and having a good time?

  11. fatimah

    April 5, 2008 at 12:13 PM

    Just a thought, why do i wear hijab? liberation yeah thats part of it, but really it’s my relationship with Allah, no-one makes me wear it.

    I wear it because Allah commanded me to be modest, why? because he knows what is ultimately good for us and whats ultimately bad. I think people forget we only wear hijab infront of non mahram men, and strange men, i dont have to wear hijab infront of mahrams (blood relatives and husband)

    Personally i dont like these double standards, just because i’m muslim theres a problem that i wear more clothes than others, come on…what do you want us to do wear less clothes, no hijab? That would make us more acceptable in your eyes. SubhanAllah the logic is amazing.

    That was a tangent, my contribution…

  12. Shirien

    April 5, 2008 at 1:22 PM

    funny you should post this now.

    I asked them the same thing in my column this week..only I took it a step further.. I challenged the girls on my campus to wear Hijab for a day at LSU

    I’ve gotten some responses already… i’m interested to see how it goes :P

    here’s the column.

  13. True Virtues

    April 5, 2008 at 1:31 PM

    ^ Pwnage by Siraaj.

    As for the article, MashAllah, well put. It’s something that I’m sure many of us have thought about many times…

    We had Hijab Day at our university in Ontario as well, and I remember that the participants had mostly positive feedback. I think we need to have more ‘hijab days’ to get the spotlight on the issue.

    • John Howard

      August 24, 2015 at 2:51 AM

      Tell me when is the opposite going to happen when muslim wear western style clothing for a day and see what that is like. Demands by muslims that westerners try their way of doing things should also be reciprocated. Somehow I doubt very much that will ever happen. I suspect as with most muslims it has to be your way or else.

  14. Sara

    April 5, 2008 at 2:45 PM

    @ Shirien
    That is a very interesting idea. I wonder how women will respond… you should let us know

  15. fatimah

    April 5, 2008 at 3:42 PM

    oops..i realised i sounded angry on the above post…i weren’t

  16. SaqibSaab

    April 6, 2008 at 1:00 AM

    Interesting how the fruit of conversation was set off by the first comment more than the article itself. :)

  17. Kashmiri Nomad

    April 6, 2008 at 11:47 AM

    Muslim Matters on the issue of Muslim women wearing hijab.

    http://kashmiri-nomad.blogspot.com/2008/04/islam-and-west-accelerated-links-for.html

  18. Shirien

    April 6, 2008 at 8:24 PM

    Jazakum Allahu khairun for those people who posted under my column. as you can see i have a lot of haters lol but i’m used to it :) alhamdulillah. It really does bother me sometimes and gets to affect my mood,then you remember that your reward is with Allah, and while they think columns about sex, drugs, and pop culture are “superior” to mine, in the end you realize superiority matters most under the Eyes of Allah.

    So again, Jazakum Allahu khairun! :)

  19. Eliza

    April 6, 2008 at 9:51 PM

    Mary is represented dressed in ancient Jewish style because she was an ancient Jewish woman.

    There were early Christian attempts to make converts conform to Jewish custom. Paul did do a rant and rave about women praying bareheaded, but then said “judge for yourselves”.

    Islamic/Arab dress looks sexually ambiguous. A man or boy could easily hide in women’s clothes.

  20. mkhalifa

    April 7, 2008 at 5:39 AM

    “Islamic/Arab dress looks sexually ambiguous. A man or boy could easily hide in women’s clothes.”

    There are plenty of men/boys hiding in women’s clothing in the West……they’re called transvestites. :P

  21. ibn insaan

    April 7, 2008 at 7:52 AM

    “Islamic/Arab dress looks sexually ambiguous. A man or boy could easily hide in women’s clothes.”

    ..thus would be correct to conclude that you prefer sexually explicit..?

    “……they’re called transvestites.”

    Unfortunately it’s not even restricted to them anymore!

  22. Eliza

    April 7, 2008 at 9:02 AM

    Yes, Islamic clothing has a transvestite, boudoir look.

    Yes, I would say Western clothing has traditionally defined a woman as such.

    Nuns have taken special vows. Some of the orders are very old and their clothes are impractical.

    Am glad to be living where women’s necks, hair and arms are not an issue.

    Seems to me you could approximate your look without getting all arabic.

  23. Umm Muadh As-Soomaalee

    April 7, 2008 at 10:42 PM

    Incidently, looks like Jewish women are going undercover too!

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/middle_east/article3499122.ece

  24. mcpagal

    April 8, 2008 at 5:02 PM

    I like the post, but I think the problem is often something different – alot of muslim women (and men) try to dress as ‘different’ from the norm as possible and end up looking, well, different. Maybe it’s out of piety – I know I’ve met a lot of people who equate difficult to rewarding, no matter what. Behaviour has a lot to do with it too. If someone is noticably Muslim they’ll be judged more harshly than someone less conspicuous, even if they’re just acting neutrally not in a hostile way.

    Phew. I guess what I’m saying is… if you stand out, you gotta spread the love! :P

  25. Boy Youth

    April 8, 2008 at 9:07 PM

    Is everyone in this post forgetting the fact that the whole purpose of wearing the Hijab, which includes the modesty of the womens whole body and not just neck up, is done to Please Allah (swt)!?
    Therefore, does it truely matter what a society thinks, secular or religious? Those who wear hijab are women who do it with a sincerity in there heart.
    OOO PRESSURES OF SOCIETY…like the boogey man (media) is trying to taunt the Ummah and our knees shake in fear…pathetic!
    And let us not forget hijab exists for men as well, but I guess most would think thats another topic! i.e. sister tarek

  26. Meena

    April 9, 2008 at 9:49 PM

    “And let us not forget hijab exists for men as well, but I guess most would think thats another topic! ” that I would be interested in reading, we always seem to forget about men but it’s just as important!

  27. Asiah

    April 10, 2008 at 12:44 PM

    I think the pressure to wear hijab in Muslim societies, subcultures or main cultures definitely exists. Just a look at my MSA back in the day, most of the nonhijabis felt that us hijabis judged them or didn’t want to hang out with them, so they avoided meetings and sisters’ functions. I’ve talked to many of them personally, heard it from other sources, and experienced myself when i didn’t wear hijab.

    I think hijab is important, but by creating a pressure to either get under or get out, we are creating a compulsion. And there is no compulsion in religion.

    When a woman chooses to wear hijab, free of all laws mandating her to do so, free of her family’s pressure to or to not wear it, free of society’s pressure to or to not wear it, then she is blessed for it. Then again, when she rises against all that and makes a decision for herself, there is also barakat in that as well, inshallah.

    my 2 cents.

  28. Umm Layth

    April 10, 2008 at 1:06 PM

    as salamu ‘alaykum

    Right on!

  29. Muslimah1

    April 12, 2008 at 10:48 AM

    All this talk about choice among the muslim women is totally disingenuous – it is overwhelmingly because of social pressure and patriarchal pressure.

    There are women who do it by choice, yes, but anyone living in a muslim society knows that the real reason women can’t wear a tshirt on a hot day is because they’ll be labeled as ‘loose’.

    Its fine if someone wants to wear a hijab – but its highly unacceptable if that is because of social or cultural pressures.?????????

    Well brother Tarek of course if a muslimah wears a “t-shirt on a hot day” she is loose!!what’s up with that??? The Prophet swa said “there will come a time when the women of my ummah will be dressed yet naked…AND he said CURSE THEM BECAUSE THEY ARE CURSED they will be dwellers of the hell fire, so if the prophet swa said to curse them and Allah subhaa wa ta Allah said that on the day of judgment he wont even look at the dayous (thats the father,brother,son…)who left his women flock go out in public without their hijab proplerly covered, flaunting themselves outside, the least to say is who cares about what you think or what people think concerning “social pressure and patriarchal blablablabla ITS HIS DUTY as a father to make shure that his women wear the HIJAB THAT ALLAH COMMANDED in the Qu’ran so basically you are talking RRRRRUBBBBBISHHHHH. And of course the west wants us to remove our hijab they have been trying to remove it from our back for the past hundreds of years they succeded i have to say quite a lot with colonisation, they first made the women remove their nikab in places like Egypt,algeria.Morroco,Tunisia Asia and not known of the public East Europe in places such as albania,chechnya….

  30. Bystander

    April 12, 2008 at 4:25 PM

    Why is everyone being so harsh on sister Tarek. Perhaps she’s speaking from personal experience… ;)

  31. DrM

    April 17, 2008 at 2:38 AM

    I would urge that Admin delete “eliza’s” comments. She’s anti-Muslim troll from Umar Lee’s blog. Trying to skirt around the issue by claiming its perfectly ok for others to dress their own way because of “jewish dress” or that Nuns takes “vows,” while denigrating Muslim woman. Besides being a hypocritical and disingenuous liar, the troglodyte isn’t remotely intelligent. A typical reflection of a bigoted and paranoid failed culture.

  32. nisha

    April 18, 2008 at 5:41 PM

    The other day I guy asked me why do I wear hijab .I didn’t have answer because I didn’t find any right answer or explanation to tell him .I do wear hijab but I don’t know why I wear it .How could hair make a girl/ woman sexy ? Hair is hair .I thought it is the body that makes a man attrated to a woman , not hair .So it makes me confused sometimes too .

  33. Gohar

    April 18, 2008 at 10:14 PM

    it seems to me that any popularly/publically endorsed morality, not just dress code, has the potential to cause certain individuals to fell pressured into hypocritically playing along with it. Take offical silences in memory of certain tragedies which force morons to keep quiet or else risking the wrath of their friends and media, or anything else you care to think of. If those who use this potential to argue against hijab, then they should have the honestry to also apply it to all other publically expected moral codes.

  34. BUTTERFLY

    January 4, 2009 at 4:02 PM

    I THINK WOMEN IN ISLAM ARE TREATED LIKE THEY ARE NOT WORTH A COIN, IM SURE ONE DAY THERE WILL BE A JOAN OF ARK IN THE ISLAM, AND MUSLIM MEN WILL STOP THINKING THEY HAVE A MORE IMPORTANT ROLE IN LIFE JUST BECAUSE THEY ARE MEN. WHY ARE MOST OF COUNTRIES OF ALAH IN WAR? DOES ALLAH LIKE DEATH? WHY ARE THESE WOMEN FORCED TO CARRY A LIFESTYLE THAT MANY OF THEM DONT LIKE? IS THAT WHAT GOD WANTS? WHY COUNTRIES OF ISLAM ARE BEHIND ALL OF THE OTHERS COUNTRIES TECHNOLOGICALLY? WHY DONT THEY ACCEPT OTHER CULTURES WHEN OTHER CULTURES ACCEPT THEM? ITS A VERY SELFISH RELIGION. AND IM SO SO SORRY FOR THEIR WOMEN. MANY OF THEM ARE EVEN FORCED TO MARRY THE PERSON THEY DONT WANT TO, BUT WHAT THEIR FAMILIES WANT. MANY OF THEM CRY BECAUSE OF THE ABUSE FROM THEIR HUSBAND. AND THEY HAVE TO PUT UP WITH 45 DEGREES HOT WITH A LOT OF CLOTHING.
    THATS ALL I HAVE TO SAY. I RESPECT ISLAM, BUT THEY QUESTION IS: DOES ISLAM RESPECT THE REST OF THE WORLD? NO!!! THATS WHY THE KILL EUROPEAN PEOPLE WHO GOES THERE TO HEEEEELP THEEM,, AND EVEN TOUGH THEY ARE HELPING THESE COUNTRIES , THEY KILL THEM! WHY IS THAT?

  35. Nur el Masih Ben Haq

    January 17, 2009 at 7:27 PM

    In response to BUTTERFLY,

    Being a Christian like you (or are you a pagan?), let me correct you: The truth is that the Muslims dress in more respectable, responsible and Godly ways than the average modern Christian. The so-called Islamic dresses are actually modes of dress prescribes by the Holy Bible as well. Therefore to say ‘Islamic’ dress is primitive is to say (original) Christianity is primitive; to say modesty in women (and men) clothing is backwardness is to associate Christianity with backwardness. Please Mr. BUTTERFLY don’t confuse Christianity with Westianity. Have you ever observed that there are more sexual promiscuities in typical Christian community than in a typical Muslim community? Have you ever noticed that there are more HIV/AIDS victims among the Christians than among the Muslims? This is a price of Western lustful liberties. One of the ways Muslims impress me is their ability to dress the way God wants as against our (Christians) rebellion against God with regards to dressing.

    In terms of morality in dress and attitude, we the Christians need correction rather than Muslims. We are too ‘natural’ about our dress and attitude towards opposite sex. Science and technology have jointly made us much less moral than Muslims in dress and attitude opposite sex. In many cases we are essentially nominal believers in God and religion as against our Muslim counterparts.

    Western Church has drifted far away from Christ/Apostles’ original teachings and practices and the lustful and prurient West is exporting the ‘modern’ Christianity to us here. Such is the case that we are in a chaotic situation; vulnerable irrationalism is trying to replace the unifying and intelligent Biblical teachings, making us objects of ridicule/insult by even the gentiles.

    Church, originally meant for prayer/edification, is turning into a place for hypocritical-spiritualism, joke-music and ladies’ sexy shows. In fact, even men not having exemplary families are allowed to be or continue as Pastors of Churches. This has made dirty things like gays to think that they too have the rights to be Clergies even though the Holy Bible is obviously against sodomy and gays.

    Male many Christian males are alcoholic, our ladies degrade our faith by giving the gentiles impression that it (Christianity) is an indiscipline religion; due to their (our ladies) sexy dresses and lustful attitude towards men (both Christians and gentiles).

    The problem is not infrequency of the teaching but the concepts; especially that of the ‘Grace’ –how it is ‘helenistically’ and ‘Romanly’ interpreted, which makes Church teachings generally silly and spiritually ineffectual. For instance, while it takes a Muslim very small efforts to win a Christian lady who is sufficiently exposed to (modern) Church teachings, it is extremely difficult for a Christian to win a Muslim lady, who is normally not well exposed to Mosque or Islamic teaching; the little a Muslim lady knows of Islam makes her more glued to her faith than Churchy Christian counterpart. All these are as a result of the lustful liberty given women and youths in the West. We must emulate Muslims in these regards.

  36. Alina

    February 19, 2009 at 3:18 PM

    I think its hilarious how people get so fired up about Hijab because of what THEY think is right.
    When in fact their opinions mean nothing compared to Allahs commands.
    According to Islam HIJAB is FARD.
    there is a choice….this is true, but the choice is basically “do u want to go to hell or go to heaven?”
    Social pressure?
    please.
    If ur not strong enough to wear Hijab you need to take a good look at your Iman.

    • Umma

      May 16, 2009 at 1:07 PM

      This article is true about ‘flipping’ it around let people around us conform to us (Islam) rather than the other way around.
      Imagine a society that:
      :: didn’t drink: no DUI accidents
      :: No interest- businesses would florish because those with the money would help/be involved in making those businesses they invested in make money.
      :: wear hijjab- no promiscuity, no bulimia, no name calling, no longer looking just at the ‘cover’,
      :: no promiscuity on tv – no teen pregnancy
      :: no gossipping- positive thinking
      I could go on and on…

      Also after reading the comments I think the last comment here is right on the dot. Hijjab is Fard and the choice is heaven or hell. Religion is a choice. This ability to make choices is what’s determines our life in the hereafter.

      Also we need to remember that Islam isn’t just located in Arabia- south east Asia has the largest Muslim population of Muslims in the world : 250million. And they are not at war.

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