Back into a predominately Muslim Malaysia and staying at a common vacation spot, Langkawi, i am once again fascinated by the Islamic female attire. Yesterday i met a lovely Saudi couple on their honeymoon, common here. She adorned the full head to toe black covering with only her dazzling eyes showing. i erroneously called it a Burqa in a facebook post. The "why" question haunted me too so a leap into Wikipedia and i am now better informed. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burqa and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_types_of_sartorial_hijab
The garment she wore is actually a Abaya, it does not cover the eyes, it is common in Arab countries, the actual veil over the head is a Niqab, which is the head covering. It does allow for the eyes to be seen, and oh they are. When only a woman's eyes are seen they tell a lot. This young lady was clearly in love, strong and protective. I approached the husband, thought it was the right thing to do, but the lady intervened stating she spoke English, (and she did perfectly). i asked if they were on their honeymoon--it was obvious, She said yes in a blush that glowed through her black veil. I invited them to come to the boat, and to have their picture taken on the boat. Those that follow the blog know i regularly invite couples aboard for wedding pictures, about a dozen have done so. After a bit of explanation to the husband, who looked confused, she graciously declined as she was very tired and thanked me profusely. i wished them the best and off they went.
in a world where we are constantly told to fear Muslims i found them far more apprehensive of me than I of them. Understandable as i am an old white guy in a bright pink flowered shirt aggressively seeking friendship, might scare me too. As soon as they realized i was really trying to be friendly they relaxed and were puzzled but happy, i hope i am part of their honeymoon memories.
So back to the attire, the Burqa is the rarely seen garment that actually covers the face, more common in Afghanistan and Persian countries than Arab. There is great confusion and fear over these garments. Australia tried to ban the Burqa as simply being "not Australian". Other countries have also tried to legislate attire. Many modern feminists have concern as to women being forced to wear the covers, and rightly so in some places but not most.
By and large it appears Muslim women choose to wear garments that reflect their faith. When given the choice they chose the coverings. It also identifies and units them with other of their faith, much like wearing a cross.
The non PC comic in me sees the practical side, imagine ladies, if all you had to do was put on eye makeup (and oh they do!) and paint your fingernails.. and off you go! Add a few pounds, no problem, forget to do laundry and wear ruffled clothes, no one knows. Forgot to pack sunscreen, who cares! But seriously who is the more oppressed, the western woman who toils endlessly over superficial appearance, starves themselves, waxes (primeval torture) binds into push up bras and spends a fortune on hair color or the fully covered Islamic girl? the girl can only be judged by her actions. Ok that and of course those eyes.
As with the Christian Bible, the Qur'an has been used to mandate activities it does not include. There is no requirement in the Qur'an for full cover, the two passages that refer to attire are:
The Qur'an has been translated as stating:
"O Prophet! Say to your wives and your daughters and the women of the faithful to draw their outergarments close around themselves; that is better that they will be recognized and not annoyed. And God is ever Forgiving, Gentle." Qur'an
, Surah 33 (Al-Ahzab
), Verse 59
Another verse in the Qur'an is translated as:
"And say to the faithful women to lower their gazes, and to guard their private parts, and not to display their beauty except what is apparent of it, and to extend their headcoverings (khimars) to cover their bosoms (jaybs), and not to display their beauty except to their husbands, or their fathers, or their husband's fathers, or their sons, or their husband's sons, or their brothers, or their brothers' sons, or their sisters' sons, or their womenfolk, or what their right hands rule (slaves), or the followers from the men who do not feel sexual desire, or the small children to whom the nakedness of women is not apparent, and not to strike their feet (on the ground) so as to make known what they hide of their adornments. And turn in repentance to Allah together, O you the faithful, in order that you are successful" Qur'an
, Surah 24 (An-Nur
), Verse 31
It is also interesting that some Jewish women choose to wear a similar garment.
Most common in Malaysia is the head covering, the Tudung or Kerudung. They are often adorned with sequence and jewels and color coordinated with other clothing. Usually long pants, although often tight western jeans, and long sleeves are worn with the Tudung. i find the Tudung alluring, and quite fashionable.
So i know have a better understanding of a simple piece of cloth that brings such a fearful reaction to many. We often put such power in symbols and things we do not understand when a little bit of learning and compassion can diminish that power so greatly. Hey maybe the bride in this story is blogging about her bewilderment of old white guys in pink flowered shirts?