I saw a report a few weeks ago on SBS news about young Muslim women making blogs surrounding their niche fashion world inspired by Islamic Fashion Week.
Now, just from the comments, it doesn't take a genius to see there's definitely been a lot of controversy in the last 10 years or so on the topic of the headscarf and burqa - Do they repress women? Should we make them conform in our country? Is it a security issue? What is the value in one's freedom to wear what they want? Should we not push for secularism in schools in the name of equality?
Personally, I probably come down on the side of the individual's right to choose how they dress. But then again, I'm not an expert on the topic, and actually I have a few friends who are strongly against letting what they feel to be an oppression of women continue. But I've never actually got to ask a Muslim woman what they think of the matter. So I would say that my opinion isn't exactly valid once it's totally formed.
I don't like the idea of uneducated women in third world countries doing exactly what they're told because showing their hair and neck may be an excuse for being raped. But I think the idea that educated Muslim women are still choosing the modesty and cultural traditions of their people and putting a spin on it by seeking out the latest fashion trends to almost bring out the subculture and make it a valid way of dressing in the view of the fashion world, sends a strong message that these women are not feeling repressed, or forced to do these things. I had an acquaintance in France who once told me she wore the headscarf simply because she said she'd feel naked without it. And my thoughts were, well, I'm glad you didn't grow up in France because that may have meant a choice between you going to school feeling naked or having to pay a lot of money for a special school.
I also had a Moroccan friend who said that his sisters and many of the young women in Morocco now just choose not to wear the headscarf at all - they don't feel the pressure to. Perhaps some of the superficial parts of the Islamic religion have relaxed in Morocco as opposed to some other parts of the continent. In the same way that some of the "rules" of Catholicism and Christianity have relaxed just to fit into the modern world.
And similarly on the other hand, I imagine the older generations of Islamic women would feel confronted by the nature of this "commercialisation" of their religious dress.
A polemic issue, to say the least. And I can only come at it from the point of view of an atheist. But I thought it was interesting, what it says about clothes in general and how you get used to wearing something so much that you feel naked without it, regardless of the reasons you began to wear it and if you even continue to agree with those reasons. I know if I'm missing one of the rings I usually wear or I go out without a handbag or even with bare legs at the beginning of summer, I get a similar sort of sensation. Nothing of course, that can make me understand this huge issue, but maybe the next time I see a young lady in a headscarf, I'll ask.
Here are some blogs on the topic I've been following:
Muslim Street Fashion
Hijabi and the City
We Love Hijab
And lastly some images from Hijab House, a Sydney based store with desgins inspired by the online Islamic community.
[All images sourced from the Hijab House website]