The Role of Hijab and Modesty in

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					  The Role of Hijab and Modesty in the Prevention
               of Crime and Social Disprders
By Zehara Zianb Ababor
BA in Sociology and Social Administration, MSc. in Information
Sciences Head, Department of Research and Publications, Admas
University College, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Abstract

 This paper investigates the relationship between Hijab and crime
and the prevalence of social disorders. The question of how Hijab
prevents crimes and antisocial behaviors such as rape, divorce,
adultery, and teenage pregnancy is dealt with here. Hijab is also
discussed from family and personal points of view. This paper also
touches on the causal relationship between Hijab and AIDS

 Islam is a code of life, a force affecting every aspect of human
existence. Islam is a comprehensive way of life and morality is one
of the cornerstones of Islam. Morality is one of the fundamental
sources of a nation‟s strength, just as immorality is one of the main
causes of a nation‟s decline (, 2007). Thus, whatever
leads to the welfare of the individual or the society is morally good
in Islam, and whatever is harmful is morally bad. Given its
importance in a healthy society, Islam supports morality and stands
in the way of corruption and matters that lead to it (ibid.).
 One way to preserve morality in the society is modesty. Thus,
Islam has mandated certain legislations which induce this sense of
modesty within people. Modesty can therefore be seen as the means
by which ethics are maintained and pursued. Islamic scholars
consider modesty to be a quality that distinguishes human beings
from animals (, 2006).       Animals follow their
instincts without feeling any shame or a sense of right or wrong.
Hence, the less modesty a person has, the more he resembles
animals. The more modesty then, the closer he is to „human‟.
 It is therefore in the interest of the society that men and women
observe their modesty as instructed by the Almighty Allah.
 “Say to the believing men that they cast down their looks and
guard their private parts: that is purer for them; surely Allah is
Aware of what they do. And say to the believing women that they
cast down their looks and guard their private parts and do not
display their ornaments except what appears thereof, and let them
wear their head coverings over their bosoms and not display their
ornaments except to their husbands, or their fathers, or the fathers
of their husbands, or their sons, or the sons of their husbands, or
their brothers, or their brothers‟ sons, or their sisters‟ sons, or
women, or those whom their right hands possess, or the male
servants not having need (of women), or the children who have not
yet attained knowledge of what is hidden of women [awrat]; and let
them not strike their feet so that what they hide of their ornaments
may be known; and turn to Allah all of you, O believers! So that you
may reach salvation.” (24:31)
 The Holy Qur‟an links the tradition of women covering their bodies
in public to the virtue of modesty. It constructs the Hijab or modest
dress reaching beyond the head covering, as a means of protecting
the modesty, privacy, and sanctity of the female body from the
desire of the public, and gazes which reduce her to an erotic entity.
The Hijab can be seen as a divinely-recommended means of
preserving self-worth for Muslim women and the morality of society
(Tucker, 2007).
 Observing this Qur‟anic responsibility brings benefits to society
and protects the society from evil. The objective of this paper is to
list those benefits which are believed to follow observation of Hijab
and modesty. In other words this paper explores the role of modesty
in protecting society from disorder and decrease of crime.

Solidifying the Roots of the Family
 Hijab limits sexual enjoyment to the marital environment within
the bounds of marriage so that society is only a place for work and
activity (Mutahhari, 1988). According to Mutahhari, Islam believes
that limiting sexual desires to the marital environment and legal
wives helps maintain the mental health of the society. It
strengthens the relationships between the members of the family
and fosters the development of a harmony between a husband and
wife. Anything which confirms the roots of the family and increases
the perception of marital relations is good for the family. Mutahhari
said that the greatest efforts must be made to have this happen. The
opposite is also true. Anything which causes the relationship
between a husband and wife to grow cold must be struggled
against. According to Mutahhari, finding the fulfillment of sexual
desires within the framework of a legal marriage will strengthen the
relationship between a husband and wife causing their union to
become more stable.
  The philosophy of the modest dress and the control of sexual
desires other than with a legal wife, from the point of view of the
family, is so that one legal partner will be the cause for the
wellbeing of the other, whereas in the system of free sexual
relationships, one‟s legal partner is psychologically considered as a
competitor, someone who gets in the way of that person‟s „fun‟ like
a prison guard. As a result, the basis for the family becomes enmity
and hatred (Mutahhari).
 If all women observed the regulation of Islamic Hijab, then all
women could rest assured that their husbands, when not at home,
would not encounter a lewd woman who might draw their attention
away from the family.
Dignity to Women
 Hijab is a sign of purity and dignity. It highlights the Muslim
woman as a pure, chaste woman and sets her apart from the
immoral behavior associated with women who dress immodestly.
Hijab allows a Muslim woman to preserve her dignity by acting as a
sort of “screen” between the chaste Muslim woman and the evil that
exists in the world. When a woman has Hijab, she is less likely to be
harassed by men with lusty motives; she is less likely to be exploited
for her beauty.

Defining Muslim Identity
 Clothing plays a vital role in displaying one‟s identity to others
(Arthur in Droogsma, 2007). Droogsma also adds that while Hijab
clearly symbolizes a woman‟s religious affiliation, it also shapes
Muslim women‟s independent identities, often acting as an element
of resistance to patriarchal norms and standards. A woman who
covers her head is making a statement implying that she is a
member of the Muslim community and that she follows a particular
code of moral conduct. Droogsma argues that Hijab functions first
and foremost as a visible marker of one‟s identity as a Muslim. In
fact, Muslim women know that when it comes to the veil, despite
the diversity that exists among them, the „Muslim Woman‟ image
overrides all others to constitute these women‟s primary identity
(Cooke in Droogsma, 2007). „The Muslim Woman‟ image may
constitute their primary identity to others, but the women align
themselves primarily as Muslim women and, thus, appreciate the
association. The Hijab, then, may function as an impetus for self-
definition within a framework that allows women to be both Muslim
and independent.
 According to Tucker (2007), the choice to wear Hijab essentially
constitutes a daily, public „shahadah‟, or declaration of faith. Hijab
helps Muslim women to become “representatives and symbols of
their faith” (Tucker) and “to assert their Muslim identity publicly and
with pride” (Bullock, 2004). Muslim women wear Hijab with pride,
conviction and happiness. With Hijab, every public moment becomes
dawah since people use their clothes to send a message, to label
who they are as individuals, and to demonstrate what groups they
belong to (Imam Khomeini). The Hijab manifests them as women
belonging   to   the    class   of   modest   chaste   women,   so   that
transgressors and sensual men may recognize them as such and
dare not tease them out of mischief.
 Wearing Hijab, also bonds Muslim women to other Muslims and
helps them to be recognized immediately as a Muslim by those
around them (Droogsma). This immediate bond through Hijab may
act to emphasize one‟s membership in the Muslim community and
strengthen a sense of Islamic unity.          Thus, Hijab serves as an
identifier both of one‟s membership and of one‟s commitment as a
Muslim society (Droogsma).

Behavior Check
 Wearing Hijab is not just a matter of simply putting a piece of
cloth on the head; it is an attitude, a way of thinking and behaving,
and accepting oneself for who and what she is. Basically it
constitutes an Islamic way of life; it is a statement which indeed
portrays a certain attitude. A woman may indeed wear a long skirt
and a scarf, but if she flirts (constantly), then she cannot be really
described as wearing the Hijab. The whole idea involves conducting
oneself with dignity at all times. As previously mentioned, the Hijab
implies a statement, and that is something one should be
continually aware of. It identifies woman as a Muslim, and that is a
heavy responsibility.
 Hijab also functions as a reminder to the women to take care of
their behavior so that their lives please Allah (Droogsma). Hijab
allows women to control their behavior so that they feel good about
the example they set, Muslim women, through their everyday
actions. Hijab, then, helps women harmonize their behavior with
their religious values. Moreover, Hijab shapes interactions with the
opposite sex reminding young people not to become sexually
involved illicitly (Droogsma).
 Tucker also agrees with this role of Hijab saying that “While
wearing the veil serves at first as a means to tutor oneself in the
attribute of shyness, it is simultaneously integral to the practice of
shyness”. Tucker explains that “shyness” is not equal to, but rather
is seen as a stepping-stone towards, the virtue of modesty.

Resisting Objectification/ Sexual Exploitation
 Another benefit of wearing Hijab is that it assists women to resist
being objectified and sexually exploited by men. Hijab functions as a
protection against unwanted attention and, thus, wearing it
provides women with greater power over their bodies (Droogsma).
 Muslims believe that when women display their beauty to
everybody, they degrade themselves by becoming objects of sexual
desire and become vulnerable humans, who are looked at for
gratification for the sexual urge. Hijab solves the problem of sexual
harassment and unwanted sexual advances, which is so demeaning
for women, when men receive signals and might believe that
women want their advances by the way they reveal their bodies
(Chopra, 2005).
 The western ideology of, „if you have it, you should flash it!‟ is
quite opposite to the Islamic principle, where the purpose is not to
bring attention to one, but to be modest. Women in so many
societies are just treated as sex symbols and nothing more than
mere bodies who “display themselves to attract attention”(Chopra).
A good example is advertisements, where a woman‟s body is used to
encourage buying products. Women are constantly degraded, and
subjected to reveal more and more of themselves. According to
Droogsma, “in the Western society, masculine cultural norms often
dictate „„acceptable‟‟ fashion for women, such as tight clothing and
high heels, which physically confines women”.
 By observing Islamic Hijab, unlawful flirting looks would cease
and help in lessening the amount of rows, strengthening the family
roots. Contrary to common belief, the covering of the Muslim woman
is not oppression but liberation from the shackles of male scrutiny
and the standards of attractiveness. In Islam, a woman is free to be
who she is getting immuned from being portrayed as a sex symbol.
From an Islamic perspective, to view a woman as a sex symbol is to
denigrate her. Islam believes that a woman is to be judged by her
[virtuous] character and actions rather than by her looks or physical
features (Chopra).
 The Muslim woman does not feel the pressure to be beautiful or
attractive, which is so apparent and prevalent in the Western and
Eastern cultures. She does not have to live up to expectations of
what is desirable and what is not. Superficial beauty is not the
Muslim woman‟s concern; her main goal is inner spiritual beauty.
She does not have to use her body and charms to get recognition or
acceptance in society. It is very different from the „cruel ways‟ that
other societies use to evaluate women, in that their worth is always
judged by their physical appearance.

Affords More Respect
 The Hijab sanctifies Muslim women and forces society to hold
them in high esteem. Far from humiliating the woman, Hijab
actually grants the woman an aura of respect, and bestows upon her
a separate and unique identity (Chopra). It enables the women to
receive more respect from both Muslim and non-Muslim men
because people naturally respect those who respect themselves
Prevents Rape
 Researches provide evidence that how a woman dresses may be
interpreted as a hint to her character, vulnerability, willingness to
have sex, and provocation of a male‟s behavior. In one study, 449
university students were surveyed about sex, dating, and date rape;
57% agreed or strongly agreed with the statement, “You can pretty
well tell a girl‟s character by how she dresses,” implying that dress
is related to likelihood of occurrence of date rape (Dull & Giacopassi,
 Unfortunately, how a woman dresses does affect her level of
likeliness to be chosen. The subsequent reaction to this latest
opportunity to get angry about something is the real lesson here.
 Many researchers including Buddie and Miller (2001), Workman
and Freeburg (1999), and Lewis and Johnson (1989), agree that
women who dress immodestly run the risk of being adversely
perceived by others and become rape targets. Subjects attributed
more responsibility for the rape to victims appearing in the most
provocative dress than those victims appearing in less provocative
 Thus wearing Hijab protects women from being sexually assaulted
and raped.

Minimizes Divorce
 When a man marries a woman, he wishes all his wife‟s beauty and
affection to be reserved for him. He wishes to be the only one who
benefits from her charm, affection, coquettishness, beauty, sense of
humor, etc. Man is by nature very ardent and intolerant of another
man either looking at his wife or having any kind of relationship
with her. He would regard a close relationship between his wife and
other men to be a violation of his lawful right. He expects his wife to
observe Islamic Hijab (statutory Islamic dress for women) adapting
herself   to   Islamic   behavior   and   ethics   cooperating   in   the
maintaining of his lawful rights.
 Any faithful man would have such a wish. A woman‟s social
behavior, which is based on Islamic ethics, would set her husband‟s
mind at rest; he would then work enthusiastically to provide for his
family. Such a man would not be attracted to other women. On the
contrary, a man whose wife is not concerned with Islamic Hijab and
displays her beauty to other men would seriously become upset. He
would regard his wife as responsible for trampling over his rights.
Such a husband would always suffer from distress and pessimism
and his love for his family may gradually fade away.
 By wearing Hijab, women can prove both their faith and love for
their husbands more effectively and thus help create and maintain a
warm family atmosphere while preventing ill-feelings and family
rows. In short, they can win their husband‟s hearts and establish
themselves in their families.
 If all women observe the regulation of Islamic Hijab, then they
could rest assured that their husbands, when not at home would not
encounter a lewd woman who might draw his attention away from
the family.
 Therefore, Hijab prevents divorce in two ways. One is through
keeping the relationship between husband and wife as warm. It
does this by limiting the husband‟s feelings to home. The second is
through preventing extramarital relation which is the main cause of
divorce (Axinn and Thornton, 1992; Amato and Rogers, 1997; wiki).
 Islamic Hijab of women would also help prevent young unmarried
men, from deviating from the right path, thus forestalling harm to
the young men, which would also benefit the women in the society.
Evidence also linked premarital cohabitation to high rates of divorce
(Axinn and Thornton, 1992).
Teenage Pregnancy
 A young woman wearing Hijab will not engage in any type of affair
before marriage since the Hijab, as mentioned many times above,
would serve as a protective shield. As a result, a society or a
community where Hijab is practiced will experience less teenage

 “A lot of men believe we have a lot of HIV because women dress
indecently” (Boston Globe, 2003). If women dress modestly, i.e.,
wear Hijab, it means that HIV transmission will be greatly reduced.
Reduction in HIV transmission is very important in all countries
especially Sub Saharan countries like Ethiopia. This emphasis is due
to a high prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Ethiopia, a country where the
writer of the paper lives. Here about 50% of the overall population
are Muslims. Ethiopia is one of those sub Saharan African countries
where HIV and AIDS have been taking their toll in many respects.
According to the Ministry of Health (MOH, 2006), the infection level
of urban areas is five times more than that of rural areas. The
prevalence in urban areas is 10.5% while that of rural areas was
1.9%. In this country women in rural areas dress more modestly
than that of their urban counterparts. For a poor country like
Ethiopia, 10.5% HIV/AIDS prevalence among many urban youth is
devastating. This is due to the fact that AIDS would have a large
social, psychological, demographic, and economic impact on both
the individual and the society at large (MOH, 2006).
 The society, hence, should encourage the wearing of modest dress
to be saved from such a catastrophe.

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