Thoughts & Ideas

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Dress Codes Again - The Hijaab.

Last week the weather in Bahrain had been extremely windy with lots of dust. One morning a colleague, who I met while walking down from the car park to office, mentioned that it made sense to wear the traditional Arabic headgear (Kofiyah) as it would be useful in protecting oneself from the wind and the dust. A very sensible idea and it set me thinking on the utility of this piece of clothing and by extension also the dress codes followed by men & women living in the Gulf countries, which meant by default from Islamic societies.  

Dress codes in every society, is essentially a function of local living conditions and available material for making apparel. The dress codes for men and women which has evolved in the middle eastern countries reflect this. With loose cloaks which keep the person comfortable both in winter and summer. More important, the head covering (by both men and women) is designed to give protection against strong winds and more so against sand and grit which the wind carries. Therefore, to keep the sand and grit out of one’s skin, hair and scalp a scarf is traditionally worn by both men and women for covering their heads and face. While men-folk have the option of keeping their scalps shaved, but just think horror of horrors, having the women folk shaving their heads! Without going into the religious aspects, since I am entirely incompetent to comment on it, I feel the sheer weight of tradition and the weather is what makes both men & women from middle eastern countries wear the head scarf. Though it is funny that while the western media makes such a hullabaloo about the Hijaab it is silent about the Kofiya and guthra worn by Arab men - a head-dress similar to the Hijaab and which performs a similar function! 

For the unbelievers to my logic , I would request that they kindly ponder over to the rationale for “modern” western men wearing a tie and a jacket in hot desert and tropical climes!! Nothing but sheer tradition I would say.

Apparel, I also suppose, helps in fixing one’s identity to some preconceived notions. For example, Massey Saheb started wearing a coat and tie and going to the church to help freeze his identity as a Christian in the film by the same name. Again, we have a lot of Indian women who start wearing a frock to delineate their Christian identity. I have noticed a similar trend with muslim women who have started wearing the hijaab in India, specially South India.

Incidentally , I feel that there is little connection between the amount of clothes a women wears and her allure. A woman can quite fascinate and captivate with a single glance from behind a veil, and at the same time she could be quite prim and proper and put you in your rightful place with a single cold glance with the same eyes, while wearing much less clothes!


  • At 9:23 AM , Anonymous Vikas said...

    Sushil, I think some confusion prevails here. The hullabaloo is not about 'hijab' but about 'Niqab' or Burqa which covers the entire face. And, as you rightly pointed out 'Dress' has some relation with the climate, then imagine the fate of a woman in a Burqa in hot, humid, non-windy climes of the subcontinent. I am sure you can not miss the increasing prevalence of this.


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