Islam and the Veil
22 Dec 2011 06:16 GMT
One of the main women's issues in Islam is the veil. The dress code in general, be it the hijab, the burka, the veil, or simply dressing modestly and what it means. The requirement in the Qur'an for Muslims to dress modestly applies to both men and women. It doesn't only apply to garments, but also to many aspects of a Muslim's behavior. The interpretation of hijab varies greatly from country to country and community to community. In countries like Saudi Arabia women are expected to cover themselves completely from head to toe while in other countries that are majorly Muslim (like Turkey, for example) even a simple headscarf is not allowed in government offices. The hijab is not only a controversial issue for Westerners, it is a controversial issue for Muslims as well, and there are staunch defenders as well as detractors for both sides.

Many Muslim women are openly against the hijab and actually support some legislation in Western Europe banning the veil in public buildings. While these bans tend to be in place because of a general feeling of Islamophobia, for these women it is a very real reminder of the subjugation of women in many Islamic societies. On the other hand, many women support it as a part of cultural tradition and a way of expressing their identity as Muslims. The fact is that the Qur'an says nothing about the veil, much less burkas or other such pieces of clothing. These are all a product of tradition, of a medieval attitude that originally was not put into place by women, but by men.

While the Qur'an says that Muslims of both sexes should dress modestly, it has absolutely no mention of either veils, burkas, hijabs, or any other such garments. What it does mention are cloaks and shawls, garments that do not necessarily cover the hands, or feet – much less the face! In fact, for the first three hundred years of Islam's existence, women would attend the mosque without a veil or any similar garment. The pretext to enact laws forcing women to wear the veil came from an extremely conservative interpretation of the customs of the prophet Muhammad's inner circle and of his sayings. While these are hotly debated issues between different sects of Islam, it is clear that any ruling on the veil does not come directly from the Qur'an and that in reality, it can be quite flexible.

What is clearly in the Qur'an is that there should absolutely be no compulsion in regards to matters of faith and religion. That means that any person trying to force a woman to cover her face, hair, or any part of her body on the pretext of it being against Islam is blatantly going against the very words of the Qur'an.

-- Al Arabiya Digital