Saturday, April 05, 2008

Muslim women and the hijab

One of the blogs I read frequently is called Muslim Matters. Today’s post was an article by Ruth Nasrullah who responds to the question, “Why don’t they dress like us? In other words, why don’t American Muslim women dress like other women in America?

Ms. Nasrullah says the question “reeks of ignorance.” Actually, I think it is a very good question, as was her answer (in spite of her defensiveness).

Ms. Nasrullah makes four main points. 1) Nuns wear head coverings which are basically like a hijab (Muslim head covering) but we don’t look down on them. 2) The virgin Mary is nearly always depicted as wearing a head covering so why don’t Christian women honor her by dressing like her. 3) Western women who dress immodestly in public have to worry about what society thinks. Muslim women only have to worry about what their husbands think. 4) Muslim women dress like they do because they are following the mandates of their religion, which takes real courage in Muslim-minority societies.

Ms. Nusrullah could have strengthened her case by mentioning that the Apostle Paul commands modesty and tells women to wear head coverings (at least while praying).

Frankly, as a Christian, I respect Muslim women in America who wear the hijab. They always dress modestly and have the courage of their convictions.

On the other hand, from a Christian perspective, I suspect that Paul’s commands about head coverings are cultural rather than universal (Mennonite and Amish women would disagree).

And I think Paul’s commands about modesty apply to both men and women, but those commands don’t require one particular type of clothing. It is possible to dress modestly and still wear contemporary, fashionable clothing (some Muslim-American women would agree).

Unfortunately, the immodest dress exhibited by many Christians shows that they are much more influenced by modern pop culture than they are by the Bible. Would that Christians (men and women) had the same courage of convictions that most Muslim women do.

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