It’s a pretty common question among Muslim Americans.
Mostly, these questions relate to something less than the behavior of the Muslim community per se. They are a question of how Islam feels about what the culture does with the bodies of its most committed adherents.
There are Muslims who celebrate Islamic modesty, or who don’t believe in a “divine” punishment for those who are uncovered in public, or who would rather dress up in traditional Islamic garb for holiday celebrations. That is fine, and it’s a great sign of what is possible today if Muslims are willing to change the way they live. As Muslims are becoming more accustomed to Western norms, and are having children who will have a better grasp of the teachings of the Quran, the need to adapt and adapt and adapt becomes an issue that will need to be explored and debated among Muslims as well as non-Muslims.
It’s easy for those who are not part of the Muslim community to see what their fellow Muslims are doing as an affront to Muslim modesty, or to see the Western approach to celebrating religious freedoms in Muslim cultures as an affront to their own.
And it is easy to see why so many Muslims are confused about what Islam is all about. As one young Muslim woman said in a CNN forum, “If you just look at what a Muslim does and you don’t know anything about Islam … why would you try to change, to look into something different? Why would you try to go back to where you were before the whole thing?”
The good news is that not all Muslims are like this young woman, and I don’t claim to know everything about Islam and Muslim cultures. I have the good fortune to know many Muslims who are not going to embrace all aspects of Muslim cultures as part of their core values. I know Muslims who practice modesty but enjoy many aspects of Western culture. I would even argue that the most conservative Muslim women I know are more liberal than I am.
So here is a quick guide to some of the most common misconceptions about the Muslim or the Muslim community and its attitudes towards what constitutes nudity:
Misconception 1: It’s okay to embrace this type of behavior in the Muslim community.
No. Muslim women wear what they want, when they want, as long as there is no visible object between these parts. Some non-Muslim Americans believe that this behavior is considered Islamic, and I have heard this statement from non-Muslim Americans who are, indeed, liberal, educated,
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