While here in Australia Muslim women are often affirming they are freely choosing Islamic dress, according to Age journalist Thomas Erdbrink, religious conservatives in Iran are apparently ‘waging an uphill battle to prevent young urban women from dressing the way they want’; and ‘morality police’ are still arresting those deemed to be attired ‘improperly’.
While the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance has employed Zahra Ranjbar to advise young women on proper dress by promoting ‘government approved’ garments in fashion shows that are both ‘Islamic and beautiful’, Zahra herself wears the traditional chador because ‘she was told to by the ministry’.
None of these new colorful and beautiful garments that cover women from head to toe impress the hardliner clerics whose main argument against this departure from traditional black appears to be that these ‘new designs encourage Western values’; Something that may cause a women to be arrested. One wonders why presenting in attractive colors and styles, criminal though it may be, is considered Western. If these hardliners were to take a trip to India, Asia or the Pacific they might realize the whole world is full of color and beauty. And why is Western synonymous with deplorable?
Despite what our Australian Muslims may say, clearly those who teach the fundamental precepts of Islam in an Islamic context consider appreciation of color and beauty ‘un-Islamic’. It can be argued that what does appear to be un-Islamic is the freedom to choose, reiterated in Erdbrinks article by the confession of a 23 year old women who had to wear what her family wanted her to, rather than what she would like.
While Australian Muslim women enjoy their freedoms downunder, it cannot be overlooked that a return to the black chador or to the Islamic face covering can be seen as a rejection of the Western values that afford them this privilege. And as the community grows, perhaps so too will the prevalence of the ‘unofficial’ morality police, who in their zeal and commitment to Islamic values, will harangue women in their community just as they do elsewhere. What will the future be for Australia’s Muslim women?
Part 1. 3ZZZ Ethnic radio interview with Ray Moran, National Director.