There has been much debate, especially in countries foreign to Muslim practices, about the head scarves and body coverings of Muslim women. Although the practice of women dressing to cover much of their bodies while in public, except for the hands, feet, and face, is a widespread practice in the Middle East and in other countries where Muslim women live, there is a small percent of Muslim women who not cover themselves.
The covering of the woman’s body in public is seen by Muslims as an act of modesty and something prescribed by the religion of Islam in the Koran. Although many Muslim women believe that they are mandated by God to dress modestly in public and cover almost all of their skin, there is a group of Muslim women across the globe who reject the idea of body covering as logical or morally correct. There are also many women across the world who are not Muslim, and many of them do not practice the behavior of full body covering.
In fact, in some areas of the world, women would love to shed as much of their clothing as possible, either in public or at home (Moore, 237). In a recent article in National Geographic News, Cutraro notes that Tayyibah Taylor, editor in chief of a magazine geared toward Muslim American women, states that the Koran requires women to cover everything, except their faces, hands, and feet. Taylor says that “the idea is that your modesty in dress and behavior is a passport to public space.
It makes the statement that a Muslim woman’s body is not a part of the public conversation. ” Cutraro goes on to describe a new line of sports clothing which is tailored to meet the needs of traditional Muslim women in Somalia. The clothing line was designed through collaboration between Nike and the United Nations, and the uniforms allow orthodox religious women athletes to engage in sports while covering their bodies and heads in ways that are considered faithful to Muslim practice.
Other business owners who are trying to cater to Muslim women in Australia and Europe have designed lightweight hoods for women to wear, in place of the wrapped scarves which can be very weighty. Cutraro notes that although sportswear for Muslim women is being marketed in some areas and some stores, there is still a limited amount of full body sportswear available for Muslim women to purchase, especially in regions where the women are a part of the religious minority.
A woman from the Los Angeles Muslim Women’s League says that many women exercise in long sleeved shirts and sweatpants or work out at home or in all female gyms, so as not to suffer heat exhaustion. The practical sportswear for many Muslim women is simply often not available. A high school student in New York says that the stereotypical clothing of the cultural majority is a huge turn off for Muslim girls who want to be competitively athletic, and a college student in Canada says that there is a need for Muslim sportswear even beyond the Muslim communities.
Women who are not Muslim, yet striving for modesty, or people who are overweight or self conscious, may desire to cover themselves more when engaging in sports. There is a trend to wear T shirts in the swimming pools, which can be noted as a desire for more coverage, not only by Muslim women. A clothing company from Turkey produces modest yet fashionable swimwear for women, men, and girls, and that’s welcome news to the high school student from New York.
She says that “if there was a way that I could do swimming without baring myself as much as I’m required to, then I’d definitely take up swimming more often. ” Although Cutraro covers a great deal in her article about the lives of traditional Muslim women and how their lives are hampered by the lack of available and appropriate sportswear for the orthodox Muslim, it is interesting that she does not challenge the belief that a woman’s body should be covered in public during athletics and exercise or at any other time.
With the struggles of many women from differing cultures in aiming to shrug off the shame associated with nudity and being bare skinned, the Muslim call to more modesty may indeed be interpreted as a call to more shame in the ears of non-Muslim or non-traditional Muslim women. Can a news article in today’s modern world truly claim to cover all of the facts or beliefs surrounding an issue when the opposing beliefs are left out of the picture? Perhaps it would have been more honest for Cutraro to have elaborated more on the conflicting interests of Muslim women who reside in non-Muslim majority areas.
The lack of availability of full body covering sportswear may indeed be related to the resistance of the majority culture to engage in marketing a line of clothing which conflicts with their belief system. If there is a lack of available sportswear which covers the Muslim woman in non-Muslim majority regions, then the reasoning can be something other than an undiscovered market of Muslim women. There simply may be resistance in the business world to engaging in the belief that people must cover themselves completely, especially while engaging in athletics.
The resistance to engaging in business related to traditional Muslim body covering may be a valid perspective. So many women have fought for so long throughout human history, struggled to simply to be respected, to be considered people, to engage in voting and employment rights and opportunities, to be cared for, loved, and not used as a commodity or as a servant. Perhaps the idea that women want to be able to be bare skinned or naked in public is the desire to simply be accepted for who and what they are…
without being chastised, ogled, or molested by others. Would it be more personally satisfying for a woman to walk around nude and not suffer the maltreatment of an ogling or harassing person, or more satisfying to cover oneself to avoid the potentially ogling or harassing person? For many women, perhaps it would be best for members of society to change the way that they treat women, so that women do not have to worry about protecting themselves through how they dress.
Genuinely progressive news articles will cover all sides to a story and contribute all beliefs surrounding a particular issue, and, in that way, a fuller picture of cultural actualities and differences can be painted.
Works Cited Cutraro, J. (2006). Muslim Athletic Wear Covers Skin Without Cramping Style. National Geographic News. Retrieved from http://news. nationalgeographic. com/news/2006/04/0427_060424_muslim_sports. html. Moore, K. (2007). Visible through the Veil: The Regulation of Islam in American Law. Sociology of Religion 68(3), 237-251.
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Topic: Muslim Women and Their Coverings
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