May 30, 2006

Don't Hate Her Because She's Beautiful ... and Wears a ... Tudung

Hijabs at the Amerstdam Historical Museum

What follows is a comment I made on another website, called Cultural Kitchen. They themselves are reacting to an exhibit at the Amsterdam Historical Museum called "My Headscarf."

The title of the Cultural Kitchen article is "Don't Hate Her Because She's Beautiful ... and Wears a Burqa." One of the small annoyances I've been having with non-Muslims lately (and the degree of annoyance has been growing larger recently) is that non-Muslims don't use Muslim terminology properly. My initial point in the comment was that none of the scarves in the above picture are burqas, that they are all hijabs (or tudungs, depending on where you live in the world).

But I see this improper use of terminology as being symptomatic of a larger problem: that non-Muslims, being largely ignorant of Islam and more or less unwilling to learn more about Islam and the lives of Muslims, use Islamic terminology in a very willy-nilly fashion, not really knowing what they're talking about, and exposing their ignorance to those of us who do know the terminology. (My hackles are raised even more with the improper use of "Jihad.")

But Cultural Kitchen's basic premise, as expressed in their title, is a correct one and I made that point (insha'allah) in the second paragraph.

All of the pictures and styrofoam "models" are wearing hijabs (or tudungs, as they're called here in SE Asia). A burqa is a type of all-concealing robe that has a little "grilled window" that allows the woman to see through and tends to be worn only by Muslim women in central Asia (e.g., Afghanistan). The hijab and tudung, however, are worn by Muslim women most everywhere else.

I agree with your basic sentiment, though. Don't hate her because she's beautiful and wears a tudung. My wife (we are both Muslims) has been wearing a tudung since long before we met and, of course, I think she looks beautiful either with or without the scarf. But she doesn't wear the tudung to please me (although that's a side benefit for myself), she wears it to please Allah (swt), because she tries to be a proper Muslim. And that, I feel, is the problem with many non-Muslims, such as the Dutch who are proposing this "ban." They don't seem to be willing to look at the issue from our perspective. They're merely worried about whether the Muslim community will integrate into their culture. That's a legitimate concern for any country, of course, but it's not *our* primary concern. Like Hebrew National said in their hot dog commercials, "we answer to a higher authority." Trying to ban a religious covering like the hijab or tudung is only setting one's self up for failure, because we will look at the two authors of the law (man vs. Allah (swt)), and decide accordingly.


liza said...

I have to go back to that article because I need to make clear that's the terminology used in the show, not mine. I did research it and, as I said in the comments, used the term the museum chose to go with.

I've never heard tudung used in Europe. My brother, who converted to Islam and lives in Germany, uses the word 'chador' (am I writing that right?).

Anyhow, I guess the nuances of the use and the term to use have more to do with the culture than the actual words that appear (or don't) in the Q'uran.


PS : Oh, and btw, is a community site open to anyone. You are more than welcome to open a blog and post away about these things. I'd love to have an actual resident 'muslim expert'. My brother prefers to have a life offline :P


Amani said...

It makes me sick that the Dutch are considering a hijab ban. What are they so afraid of?? These are the same countries that claim to want to "free" the Muslim world, yet they are imposing on Muslim women's freedom. It makes me very angry.

Anonymous said...

AFAIK tudung is a Malaysian term. Confusingly, the Indonesians call the headscarf a "jilbab"!

JDsg said...


The languages spoken in Malaysia and Indonesia are very similar to each other; as a result, both Malaysians and Indonesians refer to the hijab as a tudung. A jilbab is a type of tudung; where the tudung comes down to about the mid-chest area, the jilbab frequently goes all the way down to the waist. Girls in Singapore who attend the local madrassahs wear jilbabs. (I double-checked all this with my wife, who's fluent in Malay and understands the Indonesian version of Malay well enough. ;) )