Cultural Modesty Standards

This entry is from the Live Journal community Modest Style and is reprinted with permission from the LJ user “hotcoffeems.” (Thanks again!)

This entry and the comments were facinating. This was one of those modesty issues that had never occured to me. What if I went somewhere in the world and my way of dressing was the same as a group with an opposing political or religious view to my own? Would I change?

Minimal editing has been done for context. Comments do not have usernames attached as their permission was not saught.

The entry was entitled: Changing Styles of Modest Dress

I’ve been hijabi for a while now, here in the US, from religious conviction.I just returned from a three-week trip to Algeria. While there, I got engaged. My fiance is a Kabyle.

Of note: In Algeria, there is a fairly sharp distinction culturally between those of Arab and those of Kabyle descent, particularly with people who are tribally identified as Kabyle (as Billal is). This extends to manner of dress. Women of more Arab tradition are the ones who wear hijab as we know it here; Kabyle women almost never cover their heads, although some older women wear a kerchief that leaves the neck exposed. Some of them actually wear quite-fabulous traditional Kabyle clothing; it was nice to touch down at Houari Boumediene Airport and see this, I was going, “OMG! Lookit the clothes! How cool!”

Actually there’s a wide spectrum of dress style in Algerie, from Western, often-revealing clothing, to full niqab. This in a country where 98% of the population is Muslim.

But: Wearing the hijabi style I’ve become accustomed to in the US in Algerie marks one as of the more conservative Arab tradition. Hanging around my fiance and his family and friends, it would have been inappropriate for me to do this, so I didn’t, only covering my head for prayer. I did continue to dress modestly, just not with full headscarf. Especially with older members of his family, it felt like a matter of respect, given the sometimes really contentious rift between Kabyle and Arab (of note: my fiance is a veteran of Algerie’s Civil War; he has strong feelings against the conservative “arabiste” style of Islam, for good reason.)

I have found that basically when we marry, I will be considered also tribally Kabyle. And the likelihood, right now, is inchallah I will be moving there, not him moving here.

So the thing is, I’ve had to kind of recalibrate my notions of hijab with certain cultural mores, because it’s a cultural identity issue. Given the amount of thought I’m putting into this, it’s not a matter of “hijab on, hijab off” fashion or convenience. It’s interesting though, because I *am* having to rethink my expectations.

Has anyone else had to adjust and adapt their modest dress conventions for cultural or identity reasons? Did you have difficulty doing so, or reconciling it with your religious beliefs? I don’t feel I’m compromising my religious beliefs, especially as my fiance and his family are just as good Muslims as anyone else, but it’s a rather jarring adaptation to make, mentally. But still, it has become part of my self-identity living in the US as a Muslimah, so it’s giving me a lot of food for thought.

I’ll share  my own thoughts in Part 2 next week.

Some comments on the entry:

These have been removed. It was pointed out that I only asked the poster of the original entry and not the posters of the comments. I appologise if I violated anyone’s sense of privacy or security. It will not happen again.


    You’re thoughts?
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One response to “Cultural Modesty Standards

  1. Pingback: Cultural Modesty Standards – Part 2 | Canadian Undercover

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