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Sunday, August 24, 2008

Saudi women against colored abayas

From Arab News:
It is eight o’clock in the evening at Sahara Mall in Riyadh and Um Abdul Aziz is distributing booklets to shoppers titled “To where are you going?” She is completely covered except for one small hole in her veil over her right eye.

“Fear God,” she whispers to women whom she attempts to give her pamphlets. “May He guide you!”

Some show interest, others just ignore her as they walk past. The booklet was written by Muhammed Alarify, an Islamic scholar, who decries the “odd phenomenon” of women wearing the hair covering of their abayas down on their shoulders, and finds it strange that women choose not to wear long black gloves that cover their hands and arms and stockings to ensure their ankles are not exposed inadvertently from the hemline of their robes.

Um Abdul Aziz, who is an Arabic language arts instructor at a girls’ secondary school in Riyadh, agrees and considers her shopping mall proselytizing important. She laments the way Saudi women dress these days.

“I seek God’s satisfaction,” she said. “Have a look around! Colored and tight abayas... today’s veil needs to be covered by another veil.”

Majeedah Al-Rashid, a mother of four girls, supports women preachers in public places and she even started to do it herself, targeting girls wearing abayas in ways she considers improper.

“The way some women look troubles me because my 16-year-old daughter is now insisting on not covering her face because this is what she sees everywhere,” she said.

She also said that some women’s appearance annoyed other women, who, as she put it, “can’t close their husband’s eyes in public.

In recent years, abayas that reveal the shape of the body has become popular among Saudi women, especially the young. They are made of thin material with colored designs. This has raised the ire of many Islamic scholars, who say that they are not the kind of abayas prescribed in the Shariah as they understand it. They believe that the Shariah dictates that an abaya should be black, wide and cover the entire body from head to toe.

Thahab Alotaibi, a translation student at King Saud University, disagrees with the way some preachers approach girls. The 21-year-old recounted an incident when a woman threw a hand-written leaflet into her trolley in a supermarket that said her face would be burned in hell because she did not cover it.

She added: “I do wear black abayas and cover my hair so I am not violating Islamic teachings. But whether my abaya has blue or white stripe is a very personal choice.”

I'm sorry for mentioning the unthinkable of Saudi women wearing abayas with a blue stripe; it is a family blog, after all....