Sunday, October 20, 2013

Why do Muslim women cover up?

I am not gonna lie. When I first came to the UAE, one of the things that I had great difficulty with was seeing women all covered up. I remember I’d look around and think: this is just so cruel, unjust and sad. I felt sorry for them. After all, in my mind, there was only one logical or possible reason for them to cover up: they were forced to do so.

Throughout the past six years though, I’ve had the pleasure to meet and work with many intelligent, funny and interesting local women, who showed me my initial perception was not quite true - or at least not the only truth.

Sure, I’ve heard many women say that they cover up because they must do whatever is required of them by their fathers, brothers or husbands. But, I’ve also heard different stories. Stories of women who opted to cover up for various different reasons, in no way related to oppression. 

So, when I heard about this new documentary entitled ‘I wasn’t always dressed like this’ by Betty Martins, Brazilian filmmaker and founder of D-AEP.ORG, I was very excited. I haven’t had a chance to see it yet (it will be screened in the UK this month and also in Brazil and Chile), but I am hoping the on-camera reflexions of Muslim women on their choices for covering up will help people look beyond the veils and burkas and past pre-conceived notions. 

Now, just to make it clear: I am not saying we all need to agree with such practice. I am not saying all women should cover up. I am not saying this is the only way to move forward. 

All I am saying - and this is my own personal opinion - is that ignorance can be a true menace. It leaves space for falsehoods, errors, misconceptions and generalizations. What better than a little information and knowledge to broaden our horizons?

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