Wondering why it became a news item!
The most recent controversy here in the Maldives has been the placing of a 16 year old girl in police custody “for her protection” (not arrested mind you!).
Apparently she was wearing very skimpy clothing, which is generally not socially acceptable in our community. More importantly it is against our general belief about how a Muslim woman should be covered.
Our scripture, the Holy Quran, instructs women to cover our bodies.
Quran (33:59) (narrated in "TheReligionofPeace)" -
"Tell thy wives and thy daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks close round them..."
There are other verses too with similar messages.
There are differences in how these verses are interpreted though. Some people define the verses to mean admonishments to dress modestly. Others believe, it specifically instructs to cover the full body, while yet others have meanings that lie in between these two spectrum. Elsewhere in Quran and in Hadhees there are instructions for women that it’s chaste to cover every part of the body except the palms and face, and the men to cover at least from waist down to the knees (and these are the mainstream beliefs about what should be covered).
So yes, as a Muslim many of us take heed of this general observance. Many cover from head to toe, except for the palms and face. But the fashions vary, with many wearing very trendy and hip outfits. There are others who believe anything except black and very loose dresses are unacceptable.
Now all of that is beside the point.
The Maldives is a 100% Muslim country. We all follow the same religion and generally we are all happy with it. We are born into the religion and we embrace it and go with the flow. But as things stand, Maldives is a very modern and to the most part an affluent country. We follow hip culture and many are fashion savvy. It’s not new to see girls wearing brief dresses, very short sleeves, deep cleavages, short skirts, or very tight fitting tops and jeans. Most of our wedding parties are on par with Western fashion show catwalks.
Yesterday’s news headline and newspapers were spattered with this "news" about a girl being taken into police custody for something akin to public nudity. I agree, the dress was not acceptable for the societal values and standards. But I cannot help ask “so what?”
Oh wait! Maybe it made news, because most people have this question. Why she? Why not everyone else parading on the road in a brief top and shorts or tight jeans? Maybe that's what it is.
We see our celebrities going on their award functions dressed as skimpily as this girl; nobody takes them into custody. We watch our local film productions with 'stars' wearing just that – Police do not censor those productions. We watch Bollywood movies and Hollywood movies in almost all of our sitting rooms – and we very obviously watch people wearing much skimpier clothes. Police do not censor those channels. And our men go on public shows like the body building championship with the briefest of briefs. What happened to the waist to knee dress-code? Or else, anyone living in Male’ city will just have to walk up to the football stadium in Maafannu to witness hordes and hordes of men playing, wearing short-shorts; or walk up to the swimming track and there are so many men there in their mini boxers.
That’s why I cannot help ask "so what?"
What is the big deal? What is the acceptable dress code? If she is to be ostracized for her skimpy dress, there are many others who should be treated the same. If we are to go by our religious preachings, all of our women need to be forced to cover our full body and all of our men need to conform to theirs too.
But since we don't, how and why was this girl targeted? If one can wear jeans and top, why not a cocktail dress?
I would personally raise my brows if I come across that girl; my belief in my religion and what is ingrained in my mind as society accepted norms will make me question her reasons for dressing like THAT.
But my point is - are these the kind of things that can be enforced by police? Will an effective solution come out of it by forcing a certain kind of dress code? Of course I believe in modesty. But I also believe in civic education and freedom of choice.
P.S. Image sources:
and from other sites. These images are used to show my readers how differently our women dress and we all accept it.
The last image is from the local newspaper Haveeru showing the girl in question.