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Friday, May 13, 2011

Hijab is not just for women

I work at an Islamic school in which the dress code for all the teachers as well as the female students from grade 4th and up is the wearing of the abaya and a head scarf. The abaya is an Arab form of modest dress which is basically like a long dress or overcoat that is very loose and hides the shape of the body. For the men and boys, there is no such dress requirement. The male students wear short sleeve polo shirts with cotton pants and the male teachers wear the regular business casual attire, pants and button down shirt. I have never in my life worn an abaya, since it is not part of my culture (I'm not Arab). When I go to the mosque I usually wear loose pants with a tunic that covers my arms and bottom and then a long scarf covering my head, neck, and chest. I had to get an abaya when I started working there. I was told that I could not wear the Indian type dress (loose pants and tunic  that I normally wear and which is considered modest by requirements of Islam). In the meetings some of the teachers have asked to be allowed to wear skirts and long shirt or other forms of dress that is not the abaya. However this idea was not taken because there is a concern that the women will start wearing tight skirts and tight shirts and the abaya which is basically a thin shapeless overcoat covers all that. What irks me about all of this is that the abaya or thobe (long dress like robe worn by Arab men) is not a requirement for the men at the school. One male teacher comes dressed in a tight short sleeve button down shirt that fails in covering his behind and he's usually wearing tight pants. I'm sure if he was to bend down his shirt would go up and his buttocks would stick out. However he like most Muslim men can get away with this even though that is an immodest form of dress. If the abaya is forced on the women then the thobe should be forced on the men. Even the Imam wears office attire with a tie and that is okay. This double standard on rules of Islamic dress for men and women is very frustrating. In the conversations within Muslims, the idea of hijab is all about women. The Imam always reminds the "sisters" to cover more and that hijab is obligatory on believing women. What I never understood is why there is a one-sided analysis of the "hijab"?  According to the dictates of Islam, believing men and women are both enjoined to lower their gaze and to guard their private parts (ie sexual acts outside of marriage) and to dress modestly. All Muslims, men and women have restrictions on the dress, the nakedness should be covered, this extends from the navel to the knees and for the women it is also the chest. However while this is strictly enforced by Muslims for the women, it is rather lax in general for the men. This is seen in the school where I teach and is seen in the society also. Muslim boys are allowed to wear short shorts when competing in sports in school even though it goes against the rules for covering for all Muslims, however this point is never brought up or is even an issue. Boys are allowed to wear shorts that barely reach their knees at times. However for many Muslim girls they have to give up partaking in sports all together because they will have to wear outfits that show off their arms or are bit too tight. Imams never remind the men to dress more modestly. There is never any lecture that says men, you should stop wearing muscle shirts and tight jeans or shorts that reveal the thigh. I've seen many young men coming out of the mosque dressed in this very manner. When will the discussion about hijab including all believing people, men and women. When will the discussion of hijab also include that it is not just physical covering but also covering of the heart and inner soul from the evil around us? I want to have a discussion about that. 


  1. totally agree. guys with their tiny v-necks and skinny jeans are still super revealing. that probably turns on more people than a girl wearing a skirt falling below her knees. madness i say. also, i noticed this post has a tag "stupidity in the muslim world". man there's a lot of that haha

  2. hehe, yeah it had to be said, but yeah, pass this stuff on man, the more people think about it the better.

  3. i agree Irfana when 'modesty' was asked to be practised it was for both men n women..dats wat we shud call 'double standards' whats happening nowadays...