Much has been said about “the veil,” or hijab. Perhaps too much – mention it, and suddenly everyone – Muslim or not – is an expert. While in the West, hijab is often used to simply refer to the headscarf (veil), a more correct definition is any Islamically mandated dress for either gender, which for women includes, but is not limited to, covering the hair.
In Morocco, hijab is certainly a choice. Young and old alike don the headscarf, and in big cities, seeing it is as common as not seeing it. Although in rural areas it is more prevalent, all women have (legal) freedom of choice whether or not to wear it. Everything Morocco explains Moroccan dress accurately:
Veiling in Morocco is not a law, but a choice. Some women may wear it in submission to their husbands, but many women wear it as a sign of faith in and respect for the Islamic code. On the street, veiled women walk openly with their unveiled sisters and friends. Women in the same family may or may not choose to veil and it's nobody else's concern. Older women still wear the full veil, revealing only their eyes. I have even seen the occasional burqa like the Afghan women wear.
No doubt part of the choice to wear hijab is conformity to traditional customs and social rules, but even that is not necessarily so strong it prevents a woman's choice. It is much the same as when a Western woman didn't leave the house without a hat, coat and gloves. I remember when I lived in Nurnberg and a woman did not go into the city in pants or shorts. If you were inappropriately dressed, the sales clerks in the stores wouldn't even wait on you. So, most Moroccan women won't leave the house without putting on their djellaba and a scarf over their hair.
Another excellent article, from the Washingtonpost.com, has Pamela Windo sharing her experience with hijab in Morocco:
Although [the scarves] are made of colorful fabrics with pretty clips at the back, what most struck me was the blatant dichotomy between the hijab and their other clothes. While a few women wear it with a subdued djellaba, and others with their everyday modern suits, skirts and coats, a startling number of young Moroccan women combine the hijab with figure-revealing blue or black jeans, elaborate glittering belts, modern sexy tops and designer sunglasses. Equally striking is the glossy-magazine-style make-up, heavy on the lipstick and black kohl eye-liner.
Traveling Mama offers a slightly humorous perspective in a post entitled “Advice for Grandma”:
There is a wide variety of interpretations of “modest” dress, but one rule that most women follow here is that the *ahem* buttocks must be covered. Many of the local women choose to do that with a jilaba, but there are others such as the woman crossing the street in the picture above who choose to simply wear a long shirt or jacket. You would also want to avoid anything particularly low cut, revealing or sleeveless.
The subject of hijab has apparently become so important among foreigners as to prompt a discussion on the subject at a Fez cafe, reports The View from Fez. The discussion, entitled The Role of the Hijab, takes place on March 7 at Cafe Clock, and is presented by Subul Assalam Centre.
For more on the subject of hijab, read Abdurahman Warsame's recent article, “Somalia: Can a hijab-wearing blogger get a respectable job in the US?”
Creative Commons-licensed photo by koffiemetkoek.