Headscarves divide Muslims too?

A woman, wearing a headscarf according to the Islamic dress code, walks next to a women dressed in a western style on a street of Dushanbe September 18, 2010. Chronic poverty and a Soviet-style crackdown on religion is fuelling the growth of radical Islam in parts of Central Asia, a secular but mainly Muslim region wedged between Russia, Iran, Afghanistan and China. Picture taken September 18, 2010. To match feature TAJIKISTAN-SECURITY/ REUTERS/Nozim Kalandarov (TAJIKISTAN - Tags: RELIGION POLITICS)

I'm certainly no fashionista. Most of my shirts are of the T variety, and I'm still rocking a lot of the clothes I acquired (second hand) in high school. So take with a grain of salt the following evaluation of a recent Los Angeles Times article about Islamic headscarves getting fashionable. The article, a Column One, focused on the "edgier" hijab designs of Marwa Atik. And this evolution of the hijab is cast as a microcosm for tension in the Muslim American community over how to assimilate.

Reporter Raja Abdulrahim writes:

The hijab has long been a palette of sorts for changing styles and designs, and shops across the Middle East are replete with colors and shapes that can vary from region to region. Some women in the Persian Gulf region wear their hair up in a bouffant with the scarf wrapped around it like a crown. Syrians are known for cotton pull-on scarves, the hijab equivalent of a T-shirt. And in Egypt veiled brides visit hijab stylists who create intricate designs and bouquets of color atop the bride's head.

But Atik's experiments with the hijab, which is meant as a symbol of modesty, are created with an eye toward being more adventuresome and risky.

To some, the trend heralds the emergence of Westernized Muslim women, who embrace both their religion and a bit of rebellion.

But to others in the Muslim community, what Atik is doing flies in the face of the head scarf's purpose. When the scarf is as on-trend as a couture gown, some wonder whether it has lost its sense of the demure.

That's a completely believable premise. And Abdulrahim backs it up with voices from the community. Sort of.

The voices in support of the more fashionable headscarves are spot on. In addition to Atik, her family and friends, Abdulrahim talks with Hijabulous blogger Alaa Ellaboudy, whose blog is all about keeping the hijab absolutely fabulous.

But when it comes to voices opposing flashier designs that treat the hijab as an expressive article of clothing and not just a religious constraint, the story is a bit thin. All we get is this:

Eiman Sidky, who teaches religious classes at King Fahd mosque in Culver City, is among those who say attempts to beautify the scarf have gone too far. In countries like Egypt, where Sidky spends part of the year, religious scholars complain that women walk down the street adorned as if they were peacocks.

"In the end they do so much with hijab, I don't think this is the hijab the way God wants it; the turquoise with the yellow with the green," she said.

Really? Maybe it is just the way Sidky is described, but she sounds like the Muslim equivalent of a Sunday school teacher. Hardly an authoritative voice. Further, as I'm sure we GetReligionistas have noted ad nauseum, world religions are really, really big streams, and you can always find a fish willing to swim against the current.

Also of significance: There is no deep discussion in this article about why Islam instructs women to wear the hijab. The article reference modesty, but it's a different type of modesty than the yarmulke. Where does the concept come from and why is is threatened, or not, by more stylish or, heaven forbid, sexy headscarves?

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