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What Hijab?

Reader comment on item: Pipes' Dreams

Submitted by Mohamed (United States), Sep 12, 2002 at 06:26

Hijab is a cultural statement and not a religious statement. There is no Egyptian movie - from the 1930s till today- that Egyptian actresses wear a Hijab which differentiate Egyptian culture from Iran today. This is because Hijab is not obligatory religiously or culturally and Arab liberal countries like Egypt, Tunisia, and Lebanon consider women's emancipation as a synonym with freedom from house confinement and behind a curtain communication.

The true Hijab, to a Muslim fundamentalist, should be the way women dressed during the prophet's time. According to Muslim heritage sources, women used to cover themselves with one piece of clothing, a sheet or two, same like the customs of Habasha, or hot climate convenient clothing: covering the lower part of the body while exposing their breasts which is called "Galabia". But when they went to Hajj, both sexs, acustomly, took off all their "Galabia"s in order to be as born. It is true that the Quran asks Muslim women to cover their private parts but we need to remember that they had no underwear at all and, of course, the sheet was obligatory in order to remain decent. And because Muslims at that time had slave women or concubines, the Quran directed them to differentiated themselves from free women especially when they go for nature's call in the desert and that was by marking themselves with their headcovers. Of course, all this does not apply now - since their is no more slaves - and hence their is no need for differentiation. For example, visiting male doctors in Saudi Arabia, always complained that they a Saudi women has no problem taking off her cloth but would not take off her headcover for diagnoses.

That is how the progressive Muslim Emancipation movements understood Islam in 1919 which is the marking point of women's freedom from house confinements or Harem way of life, freedom from communicating to people from behind a curtain or Hijab, women's right for education, work, vote etc..

Hijab is only a mark for fundamentalist Muslims to mark themselves and I hope that American Muslim women would not be decieved by that.


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