Australia: The AGE Promotes "Hijab Chic"

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Janice Breen Burns /The Age

“It’s about desexualising the public sphere”

Saara Sabbagh (front), wears silky smudge-green patterned maxi-dress with deeply ruffled hemline, chocolate jacklet and underscarf with draped latte headscarf. Nadine (left, rear), wears sunset-orange border print maxi-dress and Toltu Tufa (right), the sage floral maxi she modernised with Dotti denim vest and metallic silver sandals.

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Pack it in, Muslims! You’ll never defeat this…!

Photo Gallery here, from the Telegraph

THE graceful maxi-dress sashayed into fashion just in time for summer and in certain Muslim circles, the joy was palpable. “It’s fantastic,” says youth and community worker, Saara Sabbagh, 37, delighted. “We’re all out there, stocking up on maxis now.”

In shops from Supre to Sportsgirl and many small boutiques, summer’s crop of maxi-frocks is a rich and colourful windfall for many Muslim women. Not only that, many of the prettiest are still on sale. “I got this for, I think, $30,” says university student Nadine Sabbagh, 19. She shakes out the skirts of a silky, flame-orange floor-grazer that she has cleverly teamed with a nut-brown jersey bolero and terracotta silk headscarf.

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Her friend, postgraduate psychology student Toltu Tufa, 22, is also a gifted editor of summer trends. She pulls on a cropped Dotti denim vest, giving a funky finish to the swathe of sage-green floral she’s matched to an airy silk headscarf, elegantly swag-draped almost to her waist at the front. She’s sharpened the green with crisp white sleeves and the visible two-finger-wide arc of an underscarf across her forehead. “I shop here and there — all over — to find what I want,” Ms Tufa says.

The Muslim ensemble may be more complicated than the average string-strapped sun frock and sandals, but she revels in the extra challenge. She says the chain stores are handy — particularly on a student’s budget — but also high among her favorite haunts are fabric outlets such as Spotlight.

“My sister can really sew, but you can also find some beautiful pieces you can use for scarves.” She demonstrates with a glorious length of bronze silk shot with pink lights. It’s been pinched into a three-dimensional textured pattern with tiny, regular stitches and Ms Tufa anchors it with an exotic webbed headpiece of bronze beads. “Gorgeous!’ declares photographer Melanie Faith Dove as Ms Tufa poses.

As an Australian Muslim, Saara Sabbagh and her young friends are talented cherry-pickers of seasonal fashion trends, adapting what they can to their definition of hijab. For the uninitiated, at its most fundamental level the Muslim dress code or hijab instructs men and women to dress modestly, mostly in loose garments that do not accentuate their body or overtly express sexuality.

“It’s about desexualising the public sphere,” explains Ms Sabbagh. (In the private sphere, the rules relax.) “It’s a boundary between the genders that promotes respect, and it’s an extension of your inner practices (of Islam) into the outer world; practices like honesty, and being loving, and being at peace with oneself and one’s faith and one’s community.” She says hijab can be interpreted in infinite ways by personal choice and by Muslims in various cultures internationally.

In Australia, where it’s estimated that just under 2 per cent of people are Muslims, hijab instructs men to wear loose clothing (“No Speedos!” Ms Sabbagh laughs) and women to be covered except for the face, hands and feet.           

“But even that is a personal choice,” she says. “Although hijab is a commandment in Islam, ultimately it is a woman’s choice to embrace it or choose not to practise it according to (her) individual spiritual journey. There are Muslims who choose not to wear the scarf at all, and some who choose to wear a complete covering, including the face. It doesn’t mean they’re more devout or that others aren’t. It’s just their choice.”

Like many Muslims, Ms Sabbagh, a mother of three, is well acquainted with the misunderstanding occasionally triggered by those choices in Australian communities. “Particularly after September 11,” she recalls, head shaking. “I wondered — I just couldn’t believe — how a statement of faith (hijab) could be so misunderstood.”

Instead of dwelling on the problem, she resolved to solve it using one of her favourite disciplines: fashion. Now, for almost eight years, My Dress, My Image, My Choice, a fashion show and forum for Muslim and non-Muslim women to talk about the issues in their lives and draw comfort from each other, has regularly led to full houses of 200 to 300 enthusiastic women.

“We use fashion to bring them together,” Ms Sabbagh says. And, with further funding from the the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, the forum is now travelling to Brisbane, Sydney, Adelaide and Tasmania where similar crowds are turning up to see how women such as Ms Tufa, Saara and Nadine Sabbagh and others capitalise on the graceful and elegant potential of hijab. Despite the breadth of individual looks, common to every interpretation of hijab is an approach to fashion markedly different to the mainstream’s obsession with flesh. It’s a difference that triggers some curiosity — positive and negative — among non-Muslims. In summer, for example, how do Muslims stay cool? In fact, they switch to lighter, breezier fabrics and the effect is probably cooler than the average micro-mini. For Muslim swimmers, there are also specialised garments such as the Burqini, by Sydney designer Aheda Zanetti.

7 thoughts on “Australia: The AGE Promotes "Hijab Chic"”

  1. This is OT:
    Could someone please list the demands Muslims have made on Australian Society?

    The Australian Human Rights Commission is calling for submissions in order to introduce a Bill of Rights which includes actually restricting our freedom of Religion. It will mean that critizism of Islam will be outlawed and leave those who do open to criminal charges.
    The website with all the particulars:
    Submissions close on 31st January. You do not have to answer all the questions you can just send in a letter with your points of concern.

  2. “Desexualising” society by having women wear drab clothes doesn’t work to control the male sexual drive, because men are stimulated by fantasizing as much as visualization.

    But I wouldn’t expect the Islamic mindset to understand such basic human psychology. If a Muslim did, they would quickly become a apostate to that psychotic religion to leave it.

  3. Seeing those Israeli girls doing their military service – and I think, given our location right next door to “the world’s most populous Muslim country”, Australia would be wise to emulate the Israeli example and institute national service for all OUR school-leavers, male and female, ASAP (though for Homeland Defence only, or for helping fellow kafirs fight off Jihad in places like Timor and Philippines; NOT to waste their lives trying to herd murderous Muslim kilkenny cats in hellholes like Afghanistan or Iraq!) – reminded me of chapter 14 of John Roy Carlson’s ‘From Cairo to Damascus’.

    Time: the Israeli War of Independence. Place: Jerusalem. Location: a rooftop, occupied by the Haganah. Carlson who has been undercover among the Arab Muslim jihadis, has sneaked away from them to visit the people whose side he is really on – the Jews.

    “We climbed to the roof. Cozy sandbag shelter had been erected and a canopy furnished shade for the half-dozen young men and two Haganah girls – both buxom, and pleasing to the eye. One was dressed in khaki trousers, the other in shorts.

    “The latter, who had just turned 18, was married to the dark, curly-haired leader of the group, a Jew from Poland. She showed the Auschwitz concentration camp number tattooed above her wrist. Her parents and her husband’s parents as well as most of their families, had been liquidated.

    “With Europe we are finish. In Israel we begin new life”.

    ‘Her husband spoke to her in Hebrew. She turned to me and said gaily, ‘Moshe wants you know he will be father in six months’…

    ‘Morale here was high. Many couple sin the Haganah fought side by side as friends, fiances, and not infrequently as man and wife…

    ‘I asked the married girl about her companion, who seemed a few years older.

    “She sharpshooter. Verry verry good sharpshooter soldier”….

  4. Wow, I have a running series of IDF girl/s of the day on my site, but I found them off Maxim and MySpace….check it out, LOL

    What a coincidence…btw, I keep asking if the IDF will take a 38 year old American Catholic into their ranks, :)))))) Of course, working in tandem with their female contingent….

    But I really would love to send Muhammad lovers to their master in Hell, so they can get their 72 transgendered, deformed “virgins”!!!

  5. I’m not a religious person, but I know I’m a human being and not an animal…my mind is struggling to comprehend firstly how a catholic can make a comment like the one above, secondly how so many people can even begin to call themselves human beings when their mentality is raised little beyoond that of chimps, as is displayed here.
    I wonder how many of you know the slightest thing about Islam or any of the Abrahamic traditions for that matter…particularly Islam though I need to tell you people…life as you know it would not exist had it not been for the vastly peacefully achieved Islamic Empire…(do some research if you doubt it)…mathematics, physics, astronomy, medicine…the list goes on and on…thanks are due to their advancements and the spirit of enquiry they strived in. The artistic and intellectual merit of the Islamic world has traditionally been one of such beauty and depth that the whole world has been scrambling for their artefacts and philosophies for the last few centuries….attempts to penetrate the linguistic subtleties of the Arabic language, specifically Qur’anic Arabic…continue to miss the mark by a long shot. The nuances run far and wide and only the most dedicated of our European and American Orientalists have even come close!!
    I have spent much time studying Islamic communities from afar and within, precisely because of attitudes such as those expressed above…anyone who clings to LITERALIST interpretations of the scriptures and attempts to impose that reality upon the actual dynamics of the diverse muslim population is a moron, and no different from the purist groups who are also attempting to erode Islams essential messages of compassion, patience and gratitude from the inside out.

    Some wise words were left to the world by the Prophet Muhammed to the value of ” He who believes in God should speak good or be silent” Perhaps the catholic church could do with viewing some of the Hadiths for a little reminder on conduct.

    I am a 27 year old scottish woman, I am white, I am relatively well educated and was brought up in a home with no religious preference whatsoever.

  6. Hmm, looks like Islamic brainwashing had its desired effect on you.

    Your post simply proves that being white is no defense when it comes to indoctrination and being submissive. But are always welcome to try your da’awa efforts here…

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