Clothing Diversity in the Islamic World

Figure 1.--Here is and Afar mother and child. The Afar converted to Islam (19th century). They have traditionally gone bare breasted. We are not sure just when this photograph was taken, probably the 1970s.

Although the fundamentalists want to give the idea that Islam is a "monolithic" religion, there are many differences within the Muslim umunna. These differences involve many elements, including clothing--especially women's clothing and dress code. For example, the traditional clothing of Bangladesh women is the sari. They cover their heads with an head scarf, but have the arms bare. The conservative Saudi kingdom insists on the all enveloping black abaya. The Burqa or similar garment is worn in areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan. White it covers the entire body except the hands, the treatment of the facial area can vary. And depebding on local custims, color is permitted. Perhaps the most extreme divergence from the conservative Islamic dress code is the Afar people (Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti), interestingly located very near Saudi Arabia. The Afar people were converted to Islam (10th century). The married women wear a black head scarf, but they go bare-breasted. Certainly you cannot find something similar among Arab peoples, however the women's attitude is not the same everywhere. A reader writes, "I had a layover in the international airport of Casablanca, Morocco (June 2009). There was a young Muslim mother waiting for her flight in the airport. She wore the hijab, but at once she raised her blouse and started to breast-feed her baby without any problem."


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Created: 5:51 PM 9/16/2010
Last updated: 5:51 PM 9/16/2010