Hijabs and Muhajababes
Just as there is a division within Islam between Sunni’s and Shites, a fashion divide has splintered Muslim women into three factions. On one side are those Muslim women who are true believers. Around the world -- in hijab hotspots -- these traditionalists are fighting for their right to wear head scarves as expressions of their religious piety. Caught in the middle -- sometimes in the crossfire -- are Muslim women who live in countries with issues on what constitutes national identity. On the opposite end of the spectrum are a new generation of young Muslim women known as “Muhajababes,” rebels who cover up to be cool, but hide their true selves behind their veils.
Their stories may surprise you.
In Iran this year the fashion police have stepped up their daily patrols. This special police detail scours the parking lots of Iranian malls looking for fashion offenders. An improperly dressed Muslim woman in Ahdmadinee Land is lucky if she gets away with a warning for having a bad hijab. If she is caught driving in unsuitable Islamic attire, her car can be impounded.
Things can get a little more radical in Pakistan. A woman provincial government minister was shot dead by a fellow who didn’t think her head was covered properly. He claimed the fabric of her hijab was far too transparent.
Gul, the wife of a candidate for the Presidency of Turkey, has taken a lot of
heat for wearing a proper hijab. Turkey has taken great pains to establish its
society along scrupulously secular lines, so some folks are horrified at the
thought of a First Lady with a hijab. But Mrs. Gul is adamant about being
thoroughly modern. As she said to a reporter from The Economist: “My scarf
covers my head, not my brain.” For the record, both Turkey and Tunisia have
banned women with hijabs from working in government positions.
Champs Elysees, Muslim women stroll by in both the traditional black and pastel
colored chadors (full length outer garb in addition to head coverings), but like
state students in Turkey and Tunisia, Muslim school girls in France are not
allowed to wear hijabs. While they were at it, the French also banned any other
form of religious dress or symbolic accessories, like those trendy crucifixes.
Stratton recalls the moment when, while driving around (pre-war) Beirut with a friend named Darah, they encountered two girls who were “cigarillo thin and Coco Chanel chic with small and tight black hijabs to match their outfits. Darah called them “muhajababes.”
In Arabic, “muhajabah” simply means one who veils. Stratton was soon to learn that these young women were being pulled -- more aptly positioning themselves -- between piety and secularism. They wear the veil not out of religious devotion or as a political statement, but merely because it's trendy. Stratton wrote: “The meaning of “muhajababe” was pretty obvious. These were ostensibly traditional girls, but with a surprising, sassy, modern twist.”
little deeper, she discovered just how modern Muhajababes are. One of them told
her: “Friends of ours who are veiling are doing it because a tight headscarf and
a tight outfit is a good look.”
before marriage,” said one candid Muhajababe. “I know it is haram (forbidden by
Islam) but the veiled girls . . . they are all at it.”
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