Lately, there seems to be a fascination with women's Islamic fashion! Images of modern Muslim women engaging in everyday activities while wearing anything from the very conservative burqa, to a simple head scarf, to burkini, have been getting a lot of media coverage.
For instance, the recent image of armed officers on a beach in Nice, France asking a woman to remove her burkini drew heated debates on social media. Many expressed that women should have the right to wear what they want. But unfortunately, people who make such claims, albeit with good intentions, are often unaware of the history and reasons behind these Islamic garments and coverings.
Policies revolving women's Islamic clothing date back to 627 CE and have been so intricately interwoven with social and political issues. But if its history is long and complicated, the reasons behind it are quite simple: in Islam, women's hair and bodies are considered provocative and therefore need to be subjects to control and censorship through modest apparels.
Men, on the other hand, are free from such strict obligations. This disparity, very simply and clearly, makes modest-wearing practices gender-biased. The intention is to have jurisdiction over women’s bodies.
Unfortunately, the Islamic fashion industry has been booming in the recent years. Hence, the birth of burkini and other modest workout clothes by numerous fashion companies around the world.
But doing daily activities and exercising while wearing such modest apparels cannot be as comfortable as wearing regular clothes. Such apparels cover most parts of the body, limiting movements and causing discomfort.
No doubt women who choose to wear such apparel, prioritize their faith over their comfort. And, although there’s something applauding about grasping to beliefs despite physical discomfort, it’s more crucial to question the reasons they do so. Are the reasons behind their obedience truly their own, or are they blindingly following religion, tradition, and/or doing what they were told?
Because it’s very unlikely that a woman who has not been ‘brain washed’ or influenced by religion and tradition to abide with such biased and uncomfortable practices.
To be fair, it must be tough for women who grow up with Islamic influences, pressuring them from a young age that proper women ought to dress modestly, to question the status quo. But that’s exactly what they need to do.
Of course, conveying such messages to those who put their faith and traditions above logic and reasoning is difficult. After all, faith and logic could be contradictory. And breaking the chain of one’s beliefs is hard. But then again, perhaps every woman has the freedom to live in chains.