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     Volume 4 Issue 58 | August 12 , 2005 |

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Hijab for MEN does exist you know!

Nabila Idris

While Western society has brazenly sexualised the role of women (to sell a car you have to have a sexy woman rolling all over it!), the more conservative East has dumped the burden of maintaining modesty on the backs of women, only. We have millions of so-called Islamic leaders in our country, regularly denouncing cable TV, because of the naked women on it. I haven't yet heard any of them talking about the men in swimming trunks and underwear prancing all over the screen.

Since Islam makes covering from the navel to the knees obligatory for males (and many scholars believe that this is valid only if working in the sun; otherwise, a man must be covered reasonably), aren't these men naked? If a boy and a girl have a pre-marital relationship, society manages to blame the girl only. The boy goes scot-free. Even many religious people say, "If she had covered herself, this would not be so." But that's rubbish! She can't be the only one responsible for the relationship (hello, a 'relationship' needs two or more people!).

However, the Quran mentions the matter of men's 'hijab' before that of women's: Allah commands, "Say to the believing men to lower their gazes and guard their chastity," (An-Nur: 30) and then in the next ayah says, "And say to the believing women to lower their gazes and guard their chastity, and let them not display of their charm -- except what is apparent." (An-Nur: 31).

A friend once complained, "Why can men just not stare? Islam ought to blindfold the men, if they're covering up the women!" Well, blindfolding has its obvious difficulties, but I would say the ayahs of An-Nur have the same effect. That is, they would have the same effect if the men only followed it. What now needs to be addressed is the requirement of Muslim men to lower their gaze and maintain Islamic decorum in relations with all women-- not just Muslim women (though we'd appreciate that for a start!). It does happen that a father will instruct his daughter to cover properly before going out, and then turn back to gawk at Bipasha Basu (or someone equivalently 'smokin'!). Now, this doesn't mean the Qur'an orders us to shuffle down Dhaka's streets, eyes lowered, bumping into rickshaws and die a tragic death under a bus. Islam is always logical so, a hadith relates that the first glance is allowed, but if you look back ("Ooh man, she's hot!") that's where you falter. As must be evident, the hadith wasn't worded exactly like that!

Some characteristics of the dress code are same for both men and women, clothes shouldn't be figure-hugging, transparent, flashy etc. Our society has forgotten that, especially the Bangla cinema actors-- but then, this isn't the only law they've forgotten! There are injunctions forbidding men to wear silk right, tell that to the elite of our society strutting off to Eid prayers in embroidered punjabis of the finest silk. Men have taken to treating women, and their hijab, with a very condescending attitude. You must have heard the "women are honey, attracting bees; cover the honey" example it makes me mad. If a man is Islamic enough to preach to me about these things, he has to be Islamic enough to lower his gaze and stop himself from being attracted. Otherwise, down with the hypocrite!

But I realise it's utopian to think all men will become that upstanding. And so, women and men will both have to lower their gazes and dress properly, dividing (50-50) the responsibility of maintaining modesty in society. An example I read that is analogous to the matter of hijab in Islam goes: a long time ago, motorcyclists didn't wear helmets. After many were injured, a study was conducted and it was found that, in most cases, the fault was of the car drivers who knocked them down. To protect the motorcyclists, a law was passed they had to wear helmets. And car drivers were given more severe penalties, forcing them to drive more carefully. Now if only the car drivers were penalised, there would still be motorcyclists dying. And if the car drivers were asked to wear the helmets, instead of the motorcyclists, it would be ludicrous.

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