Friday, March 11, 2005


The article from Arabnews below echoes Atenah's comment on my previous article. Sadly, there are many who feel that wearing trousers is deemed unfeminine. But who determines what is considered feminine and what is considered masculine?

Is It Forbidden for Women to Wear Jeans?
Lubna Hussain,

I don’t think I am wrong in assuming that most women around the world wear trousers. I personally have never found anything wrong with this form of attire and I know that it is considered decent and formal to don a pair of slacks in lieu of a skirt. We grew up in a denim culture where lounging around in a pair of jeans was symbolic of relaxation. Jeans were weekend clothes, informal, comfortable and practical. They were not worn to work, like many places in the States, but men and women alike sported a pair whilst engaged in casual activities. I know for certain that trousers and jeans are not worn by women in order to try and emulate men. I can’t even think of a single instant when I had been led to believe that any female friend/acquaintance/colleague of mine has turned up in a pair of pants as a form of rebellion or as an attempt at role reversal.

I was standing outside a hospital one day waiting for my driver when I heard someone to the rear of me shouting “Haraam! Haraam! Haraam!” I wondered lackadaisically as to what the commotion was about, but did not condescend to turn around and gape at something that was not a matter of personal concern. Another voice joined in and this duet appeared to be getting closer. In actual fact so close that it seemed for all intents and purposes that the pair was standing right behind me. This time I could not resist and succumbed to the temptation of looking back and being turned to stone in the process, without the slightest idea that I was the one being shouted at.

The elder of the two individuals had a walking stick and began poking the bottom of my abaya with it. I stood astonished at his audacity. “Haraam! Haraam!” he continued to chant venomously and wafted his wand in an imaginary circle around the spot where I stood petrified.

I was so perplexed and offended that I glared at him defiantly and shouted back, “What on earth are you talking about? What ‘Haraam! Haraam!’?”

He took this as an invitation to deliver his sermon.

“You,” he said pointing his finger accusingly, “are dressed up as a man!”

“A man?” I marveled aloud.

“Yes! It is haraam for a woman to be wearing trousers. The curse of Allah will be upon you,” he spat out as his young companion looked upon me with disgust.

Irrespective of the fact that I knew full well that I should ignore his edict, I felt quite shaken up by the whole incident. No matter how hard I tried to reconcile myself to the absurdity of his illogical ranting, I could not help but feel perturbed by it. It is wholly peculiar that shops here stock a wide variety of what I would deem immodest and distasteful clothing. Some of the apparel I have seen brazenly displayed in shop windows is nothing short of vulgar and crude. I have always been fully covered and choose clothes that reflect inherent values of modesty and decency. And yet it seems that wearing a pair of trousers is more offensive than sporting one of the aforementioned outfits as long as it is perceived as being “feminine”! I arrived at the conclusion that my own conscience was a far better judge of what was and was not acceptable as far as my dress was concerned.

During Ramadan, I frequented the mosque daily and, one evening, was accosted by a fellow worshipper who stood in front of me blocking my exit after the prayer had been concluded.

“May God bless you my dear sister,” she began. I knew from her body language that she was about to admonish me for some perceived deficiency in my prayer or the fact that I had not conformed to one of the commonplace directives. I anxiously anticipated being apprised of what stricture exactly it was that I had broken.

“You know that God has created you in the form of a woman,” she continued with maternal tenderness, “so it is a shame that you should want to look and behave like a man.”

I was once again astounded by her comment.

“What makes you think I am behaving like a man?” I retorted having realized that in this society offense is the best form of defense.

She pointed at my pants and stated the obvious, “Look at what you are wearing! If you behaved like a woman, you would be wearing a dress.”

By this time I was thoroughly exasperated, so I decided to apply some logic of my own to counter her argument.

“Well,” I conceded matter of factly, “the day men here stop wearing dresses, I will start!”


MakNenek said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Hi Sunflora,
I love the irony in the article. But, as you can see, irony is not for every one :)

atenah said...

when i was in saudi, i dressed in loose arbayas just so i wouldnt stick out like a sore thumb. the prophet says that my ummah is of the middle path. this confrontation is something that i just avoid just because its distasteful, but i have a feeling the 2 extremes in our religion will one day clash, in Msia the jawi case raid i think is the beginning, my 2 cents