Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Muslim Head Scarf

Denmark: Danish-Muslim fashion house

"Islam in Europe", at blogspot, September 18, 2008

Read the full review and interview at the title linked above (a blog reprinting in English from a Danish article). A portion follows:

New Danish designs for Muslim women combine the traditional headscarf with modern Western designs - but also send a signal to Danish politicians as well as Muslim fundamentalists that women should be free to wear a headscarf as they want.


How in the world can somebody combine ancient and traditional head covering with the latest new fashions from the western world's catwalks? That was the question which inspired 28-year old designer and color consultant Samar Safar to develop a design concept for Muslim women who wish to wear a headscarf, but at the same time, want to look hip and modern in their clothing.

Today she runs "Islamic Moon" - an internet based design company, which as the first of its type in Denmark offers designs which can be worn either with or without a Muslim headscarf - hijab.
The website "Islamic Moon", linked above, is Danish language: after loading, find the design circle to the right labeled "Designs" and from that page, click the Nueste word link in the Kontrol circle, to see more designs worn with or without headscarf.

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Also read these short testimonies for wearing a head scarf:

Appreciating the barrier…..
September 18, 2008 by Saha, in "Yemen Journey…..and beyond" at wordpress.

My faith gives me inner peace
Sep 24 2008 by Emma Pinch, Liverpool Daily Post

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And finally, an editorial commentary from Turkey:

The liberal's dilemma with the headscarf

September 22, 2008, by ÇINAR KİPER, in the Turkish Daily News.com

If you ever feel a need to bait the Dutch, try calling them intolerant. The Netherlands is a society that prides itself on its liberal and tolerant values so much so that even its most xenophobic public figure in recent memory, the late Pim Fortuyn, argued against Muslims on the grounds that they threatened the liberal Dutch mindset.

Yet this bastion of open-mindedness recently banned the burqa. More specifically, the Education Minister Ronald Plasterk issued a directive that officially banned burqas from all primary schools, an expansion of Holland's earlier ban on burqas in government agencies and public transportation.

To be fair, the Dutch weren't the first people this summer who's actions either promoted equality or infuriated God, depending on your values. This summer was a bad season for the headscarf all around, with Denmark earning the ire of both Muslims and Danes thanks to a controversial Miss Headscarf pageant and the French State Council's denying a burqa-clad woman citizenship on grounds of "improper assimilation." The latter decision was publicly lauded by a pious female Muslim French Minister who went on to call burqas a "prison" and a "straitjacket." Even across the pond, the Democratic party nominee Obama drew criticism when his campaign refused to seat two headscarf-wearing women in the front where they would be visible to television cameras.

Yet Turkey still wins the prize for "most histrionic reaction," with the Constitutional Court, an unelected body mind you, overturning a government decision to allow headscarves in universities and then using the administration's blasé attitude toward the covering as a reason to shut down a party with nearly half the electorate's support.

In fact, back when Europe was still debating whether to feed monotheists to lions or wolves, Turkey was at the forefront of the "women covering their heads for God" debate. Letters written by Paul of Tarsus from Ephesus in Western Turkey to the Christians in the Greek city of Corinths in the first century, which later became 1 Corinthians of the bible, state, "Every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head." This lead to about 1,500 years of an elaborate European female head-covering known as the wimple, which coincidentally, was another period that European women were being denied an education. It wasn't until the 15th century that women began uncovering their heads when Italians decided to show off their elaborate braids indicating they could afford maids.

Stuck between egalitarianism and tolerance

It is no surprise that liberals, who by definition are supposed to be progressive and eschew traditional institutions, would have a complicated relationship with religion and particularly with such a prominent religious symbol. On one hand, a liberal's moral compass calls for tolerance and freedom of lifestyle, but on the other, is outraged by such a blatant symbol of inequality. In a world where we are trying to emphasize the similarities between man and woman, where we are saying "a woman can do all a man can do," to give one gender an unequal burden seems unfair.

And so it is no surprise that with Ramadan upon us, even the Turks who enjoy shots of tequila with their bacon cheeseburgers remember that they are Muslims, and try to behave with a higher degree of tolerance than the other 11 months of the year. Not that there is anything wrong with that; to take another page from the conservative playbook, the Bible, Leviticus 19:18 expressly states that we are to "love they neighbor as thyself."

But it does become difficult at times, when values and identities are crossed, when the "conservatives" demand equality and the "progressives" preach intolerance. The debate in Turkey is not really about progressivism vs. conservatism, but about modernization vs. Westernization. In 'What Went Wrong,' Bernard Lewis writes that the emancipation of women is the touchstone of differences between modernization and Westernization, "Even the most extreme and most anti-Western fundamentalists accept the need to modernize and make the fullest use of modern technology. For men to wear Western clothes is modernization; for women to wear them is Westernization."

The liberal, caught between their egalitarianism and their tolerance, are stuck in the middle of the debate. But the Dutch, French and Turks all need to remember that regardless of whether you are liberal or conservative, the important issue to remember regarding headscarves in the schoolyard is whether it is disparity of education or diversity of dress that divides a society.
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