According to the Islamic world’s interpretation of how things are done, Islamic law requires the female to dress the same to be “wearing niqab”, or full-body veil, as males.
The same goes for a man in full view of a woman and “without any covering” such as a hijab.
“It does not matter if it’s a black robe, a white cloak, or a turban, if there’s no niqab,” said one British woman who recently posed with the veil and then went to a dinner party to explain it.
“It’s part of a complete body of clothes that you put on or off, and it is the most important part of dress.”
Image copyright Reuters Image caption In Saudi Arabia women must cover their faces. Many wear the veil when travelling and travelling in the country.
Image copyright AP Image caption Men must take off their beards in public.
According to Dr Saleh al-Rasheed, the co-author of an Islamic text titled Islamic Laws and their Application in Modern Life: A Textual Introduction, if a woman takes off her niqab and exposes her breasts in public it is forbidden by Shari’a.
This “does not have anything to do with Islam, it’s a problem that’s a cultural problem between the society,” said Dr Rasheed, who believes the veil is the result of “modernization and capitalism” which has pushed Saudi women to this point.
So why does Western Islamic society have so much in common with its Saudi counterparts?
“Because in Saudi Arabia Islam is a way, a way of life, and so all of the values that Islam has is in the society – and that’s what people are trying to express to themselves,” said Dr Rasheed.
“Whereas Muslims in many countries have embraced Western values and we are adapting these to our beliefs, here in the West we have a situation where people are adapting them back to some sort of fundamentalist, literalist interpretation.”
For example, in the Muslim tradition, it is forbidden to wash one’s hands while eating because the principle of iman, or “restraint”, demands that one should take away the power to touch something before it is consumed.
Image copyright Reuters Image caption Dr Saleh al-Rasheed says there is a lack of freedom in Saudi Arabia because of the need to maintain social order when there is an outbreak of violence
“It has a
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