Current Issues Dress Code
Summary of the Issues
Rosemont, Illinois. 2006. Sadaf Butt, of Alabama, adjusts her hijab in a mirror at the 43rd annual Islamic Society of North America convention. Photo Credit: M. Spencer Green/AP Images.
Restrictions in dress code placed on Muslim women are twofold. There are communities defining how women should cover up and others defining what they should take off. Both groups define what empowerment means for women and deprive them from making their own personal choices. Both types of restrictions have deep consequences on women’s rights and even impede some women’s freedom of movement and access to education and employment.
Muslim women share different views on if and how one’s body should be covered and wear a variety of different types of coverings. Cultural diversity in the Muslim world greatly impacts what Muslim women feel the Islamic dress code entails. Some cover only their hair, while others wear the burqa over their entire body. Veiling also has different meanings for Muslim women. For some feel the practice is an order from God. The Quran states: “And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what must ordinarily appear thereof ..."1 But some Muslim women wear the headscarf, hijab, as a symbol of resistance to westernization, as well as a symbol of their cultural and political identity.
Veiling is often thought to be one of the many strategies that men use to segregate women from their daily sociopolitical lives. There is a perception that it has been forced upon women. Belgium's parliament voted to ban the full-face veil in public and the French President Nicolas Sarkozy called for a bill that would do the same in the name of modernity and liberalism. 2 The exclusion of religion as a source of democratic pluralism has been a common tendency in many societies that place strong emphasis on maintaining secular values, where public and private spheres are clearly separated. Many immigrants view the European public aversion of religion as offensive. These religious and ethnic differences have sparked violence, especially in France and the Netherlands.3 The hijab has become a symbol for tensions between Muslim populations searching for religious freedom and national inclusion and Europeans looking to preserve secular liberalism. In Turkey, despite strenuous efforts to make the nation a secular state, religion still plays an important role in the public sphere. The headscarf continues to be a source of conflict between the different factions in Turkish society. Turkish human rights organizations, secular human rights advocates and many Muslims see the headscarf ban as a blatant violation of basic human rights.
However, there are also some Muslim countries that force an “Islamic dress code” on women. For example, in Indonesia, (May 2010) police caught 18 women wearing traditional headscarves, but also jeans. The women had their jeans confiscated and were given long skirts before being released.4 Other Muslim-majority countries are trying to protect women’s freedom of choice. In 2010, the Bangladeshi High Court ruled that the Ministry of Education should ensure that women who are employed in public institutions are not required to wear the veil "against their will.”5 The judges agreed that "it is a personal choice of women to wear the veil or not." They added that "forcing a woman to wear the veil against her will" is considered a "flagrant violation" of basic human rights “enshrined in the Constitution.”6
 Quran 24:31
 The Guardian: Belgium moves towards public ban on burka and niqab
 allbusiness.com: Europe's immigrant problem: integrating minority populations
 Indonesia's Aceh province enacted a strict Muslim law Thursday: A tight pants ban
 Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights:Excerpts of relevant paragraphs of 25 years mandate reporting practice (1986-2011)
 Asianews.it: Bangladesh, High Court rules veil cannot be imposed on women
Related Current Issues
Organizations Active on this Issue
Bayram, Salih. "Reporting Hijab in Turkey: Shifts in the Pro- and Anti-Ban Discourses." Turkish Studies 10.4 (2009): 511-538. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 1 July 2010.
Hussain, Naseem Akhter. "Religion and modernity: Gender and identity politics in Bangladesh." Women's Studies International Forum 33.4 (2010):325-333. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 1 July 2010.
Isa, Qazi Faez (Chief Justice, Baluchistan High Court, Pakistan). "The Veil and Islam."
Mary Ann Fay. "... and say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty": Teaching about Islam, Gender, and the Law”. Journal of Women’s History. Baltimore: Summer 2010. Vol22, Iss.2; pg.136, 6pgs
NORT, ANDREA TROCHA-VAN. "Too Sexy for a Veil?." War, Literature & the Arts: An International Journal of the Humanities 21.1/2 (2009): 341-351. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 1 July 2010
Bronwyn, Winter. “Hijab and the Republic: Uncovering French Headscarf Debate.”, Syracuse University Press, 2009.
Hamideh, Sedghi. “Women and Politics in Iran: Veiling, Unveiling, and Reveiling.” Cambridge University Press, 2007
Suad, Joseph. (ed.) & Susan Slyomovics (ed.). “Women and Power in the Middle East.” University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000.
Therese, Saliba. (ed), Carolyn, Allen. (ed), Judith, Howard. (ed). “Gender, Politics, and Islam.”, University of Chicago Press Journals, 2002.