Thanks for this Maha, and Eid Mubarak!

For me this is a question of normalcy – what is normal and what is not. Even in Muslim societies, these are moveable goalposts and we do not need to stray far from home, or look back much in time, to see how there is always some “new normal”.

Who makes these decisions about how others should dress and present themselves in public in order to be “dignified” and “proper”? Should we really predicate “respectability” on the appearance of others, or how far they seem to agree with our opinions and behavior? Respect for others ought to be a given. It should not be withheld because of superficial differences.

In a patriarchal society, it goes without saying who makes decisions about propriety and why they make them. It is about control, and in patriarchal society, control of women and containment of women’s power is the paramount concern. The state feminism of the Baathists in Iraq, Syria, and Libya sought to control women by bringing them out of the direct protection of their traditional families – through the liberation of women, all people were brought under the direct authority of the state. For the Islamists, the return of women to the authority of the mahram, within their families, extended their control by placing men in an intermediate position of oppressed (by the state) and oppressor (of “their” women).

This is always political.

On a personal level, I think that everyone deserves respect, regardless of how they choose to dress or what they choose to believe. I think that respecting others is normal. Not becoming angry or upset because someone is wearing something that I would not is normal. Not judging others because of their apparent religion, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, is normal. We have a conflict between those who want to extend and include, and those who want to restrict and exclude. In the Muslim world, women’s dress is very much part of this conflict.