Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Hijab Shopping 

Many Palestinians are scared and I can see why:

A senior Hamas official has said that the if his movement forms the next Palestinian government, it will make sharia, or Islamic law, a source of law in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.

Sheikh Mohammed Abu Tir, no. 2 on the Hamas list, told Canada's Globe and Mail that the government will modify the existing Palestinian education system to and institute a more Islamic curriculum, and will separate boys and girls.
Actually, as an Israeli, I should be looking forward to this "more Islamic curriculum" since Islam is the religion of peace. It will be nice when they staunch the flow of suicide bombers and death-to-the-Jew jihadis being churned out from the un-Islamic education system currently in place.

Just kidding.

But will it really be that bad for the Palestinians? Ok. So Hamas is the party that threatened Gaza's very last drinking club -- ironically UN-owned, at least until it actually was blown up -- and the party that instituted the "Vice and Virtue Squad" that murdered a 22 year old woman for the sin of being seen in public with her fiancee. But certainly Palestinians realize that the party they voted for so overwhelmingly will moderate its positions once it grabs tight the reins of power. Hamas is even coming out and reassuring there skittish new constituency:

Abu Tir clarified that alcohol would not be banned and that it would not be mandatory for women to cover their heads when outdoors.
Then again, Fatah never passed a law that citizens had to praise Yasser Arafat either -- everyone on their own just happened to think it might be a very good idea. When the government has such power, and armed gangs roam the streets, the details of what is or is not written in a book of law somewhere is not all that important to someone who wants to hold down a job or simply avoid being killed. It may well be that most Palestinians know exactly what Abu Tir is saying.

And as a dad myself, I can imagine what Palestinian fathers, Hamas and Fatah voters alike, are thinking right now. "Oy vey! Allah help me, I'm going to have to take the girls shopping for a whole new wardrobe!" This could be quite a traumatic experience, especially for the Ramallah-chic crowd who have finally nailed down the nuances of shopping for blue jeans or fancy skirts (still working on that myself):

Salesgirl: Hello, can I help you with your purchase today?
Dad: Oh, um, yes well, I'm just buying for the three girls here, and, well, these big things here... these... what are these called again?
Salesgirl: (smiling) Oh, these are burqas, very popular this week for some reason.
Dad: Yes, well, they're very nice but the girls don't like the white, something about wanting a more slimming color, but all I see is white. Do they come in any other colors?
Salesgirl: (nodding) Of course! (smiles and makes a sweeping gesture) The other half of the store is for black.
Dad: Ohhhkay, we'll take three for each girl then. Black.
Salesgirl: Great, so what size eyehole do you want?
Dad: Uh, waddya got? Tell you what, let's just play it safe and go for the smallest there is.
Girls: DAAAAAD, all the OTHER girls are showing their eyebrows.
I suppose over time, people will adjust. But for now there will be a trying period of adaptation, learning new terms, new fabrics, understanding how to measure the dimensions of an eyeslit.

But frankly, I'm a little nervous about the change, too. I realize I'm going to have to get more serious about this stuff. I can't keep crying "Burqa!" at every burlap sack I see shrouding a female form. I must confess, I really haven't got a clue about the difference between a burqa and an abaya. So to remedy that, I turned to the web to nail this down a little. I have a feeling the following information could come in handy in the coming years, so pay attention. There may be a pop quiz later.

Hijab: The word is commonly used to indicate a head scarf, but its fullest meaning refers to the general idea of modesty in dress.

Burqa: A burqa is a type of opaque veil sometimes worn in addition to a headscarf by Muslim women observing purdah. The burqa covers the wearer's entire face except for a small region about the eyes. A full burqa or Afghan burqa is a garment that conceals the entire body. The full burqa includes a "net curtain" which also hides the wearer's eyes.

Abaya: The abaya, an overgarment, is the traditional form of hijab for many countries of the Arabian peninsula. Traditional abaya are black -- although other colors are now available -- and may be either a large square of fabric draped from the shoulders or head, or a long black caftan. The abaya should cover the whole body save face, feet, and hands. It can be worn with the niqab, a face veil covering all but the eyes. Saudi Arabia requires women to wear abaya in public; the niqab is optional. Abaya-wearing is enforced by the religious police, the mutaween (similar to the "Vice and Virtue Squad").

Chador: A chador, the Iranian version of hijab, is a full length semi-circle of fabric which is open down the front. A chador has no hand openings or closures, but is held shut by the hands or teeth or by wrapping the ends around the waist. Traditionally black was eschewed for its conontations of death and funerals, and white or printed fabrics were preferred; but now, except for rural elderly women, black is the universal color for a chador. Traditionally a chador was worn with a head scarf, blouse, and skirt with optional pants. After the 1979 Iranian Revolution, a chador began to be worn over a head scarf and a long overcoat became popular for total coverage.

A very comprehensive guide to the above terms and more, including example photos can be found here.

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