“Modesty is in your values, not your clothes.”


What a celebration of female repression.

If you were brave and purposeful, you would’ve done an exhibition on muslim women who chose and dared to defy the religious bondage to express their identity and womanhood.

The question is, why do only women have to have this, so called, ‘modest’ fashion? Muslim men are allowed to be immodest i guess? Or else they would have been wearing their Arab attire in Australia too. And why does covering your head mean you are modest? Modesty is in your values, not your clothes.


9 thoughts on ““Modesty is in your values, not your clothes.”

  1. May I suggest that you take the time to watch the interview with Susan Carland and read what she has to say on the issue of modesty and dress?

    I think it’s also worth pointing out that the exhibition features muslim women who are not veiled, such as Randa Abdel-Fattah. This is something that has been picked up by visitors like Sarah Chaabo, who also features in our Sartorial Stories.

    In her words: “I believe even though I am not veiled, I embody principles of modesty. No woman is perfect, and I think if I do not judge my fellow Muslims for their clothing choices I shouldn’t be judged for mine. I’m really glad the Powerhouse Museum chose to include non-veiled Muslim women in the exhibit. We also have a voice and are no less Muslim than any other woman – Islam isn’t merely about superficial beards and scarves.”

  2. A celebration of female repression? Where?

    All I see are strong, level-headed Australian women who have chosen to “express their identity and womanhood” in the manner they see fit. Veiling is not merely about modesty. Each woman who chooses to do so is motivated by very different things. Some may see it as an expression of modesty ( if modesty is in your values, does that not then open the concept of “modesty” to interpretation ? Why is a veiled woman’s perspective less valid than yours?) whereas others may see it as an expression of devotion to God. Some view it as an integral part of their identity.

    Who are you to judge the motivations of others, Jason? Are your presumptions about the way some women choose to dress not also a form of repression?

  3. Men are also required to be and dress modestly, long sleeves, no shorts, no tight pants. It is just not so noticeable as womens’ dress as it doesn’t require head coverings. Modesty does not only mean shapeless and that is the challenge of contemporary fashion. I remember in the 1970s, after the Iranian Revolution how many of us were challenged by the new modesty rules. Good for everyone who tries to discover new meanings of modesty.

  4. I am a Muslim woman who doesn’t wear hijab but that doesn’t mean that I am not modest in my clothing choices. I read the headline and thought I could add… Modesty is in your values and not JUST your clothes. There are too many women in the UK that wear hijab but do not dress the rest of their body modestly.

  5. “dared to defy the religious bondage to express their identity and womanhood” You seriously didn´t understand that they ARE expressing their identety and womanhood? Muslim women, that is. Yes, by wearing that extra cloth they are expressing womanhood! Just like all women who are wearing higher heels then men or more low-cut tops than men, just in another way. What these muslim women are defying is not the religion, but they ARE defying sexualisation of the womens bodies in western society. That takes some guts if you think about it, cause it´s very much the norm to show off MORE than a man if you´re woman here in the west.

    And as an answer to your question and statement that men are allowed to be immodest I would like you to ask yourself; Is it might so that women have to have longer hair to show off then men have to have to be considered beautiful? Maybe it´s therefore very logical that it´s considered more modest of a woman to cover her hair than a man covering his.

    As to the statement that modesty is in your values, not in your clothes all I can say is that it´s irrelevant. It´s like saying punk/bohemian lifestyle/whatever is in your values, not in your clothes. Well, OFFCOURSE it is, but that doesent mean there should be no freedom of EXPRESSION. (As in clothes, speach, writing from a certain point of view etc)

    On another note, many muslim women wear veils just as much to show that they are muslim. And THAT might take some courage these days. The number of young muslim women donning veils suprisingly raised very fast after september 11, because many muslim women wanted to show to the world that muslims in general are not bad people. (By wearing a highly visable muslim symbol and acting extra kindly.) I´ve come into contact with many young muslim women who started wearing the veil much for this reason, even though their mothers didn´t. When Islam was a new religion the women distinguished themselves from non-muslim women of that time by covering their chests. Now when more women cover their chests they cannot show they are muslim that way, but they do by continuing the pre-islamic tradition of covering the hair. It was not so long ago that the veil became this strong identety-symbol for muslim women, because as we know it was commonly worn by both Jews, christians and others up until last century. And it has been prescribed many different meanings. I think that the individual interpretation of what the veil symbolises varies amongst the women wearing it today also. It is defenitely not just worn because women think they are more modest when wearing it. And often a complex thing that can express culture by the form and colour/pattern and at the same time religious devotion. There are many unmarried converts and young refugees living alone in Europe who have started wearing faceveils. More often than not the women tells stories of how they have been inspired by other women and by reading about their prophets wives to put on the faceveil. before they are married of even against the will of their husbands! So if putting on the faceveil can be a choise of women when no men are in the equation then why could wearing the usual veil not be a choise?

    It´s even usual sight nowadays that muslim teen girls seeking for their identety and put on the veil just as volontarely as any emo/punk/rocker teen puts on their clothes. I can tell you that I have come into contact with MANY muslim teengirls who has been wearing the veil for a period and then take it off when they feel it does not suit their identety anymore. Some come back to it later and some leave it completely. One thing is for sure; It takes atleast as much courage to put on a veil as donning the most hardcore punkstyle in todays western society. Yes, it´s THAT provokative to many and causes THAT many stares. No wonder why so many teen girls gets fashinated and experiments with wearing it, testing if they dare to. There are even many youtube-videos with non-muslim teen girls trying it out for a day or a shorter period, just to see what it´s like, as an experiment.

  6. I agree with Tasnim Choudhury. I am also a Muslim woman who does not wear the hijab. However, I wear loose clothes and often a scarf around my neck. My scarf has become like a security blanket. I just love the feel of a cotton material on my body. I don’t wear it for modesty. I don’t think I should be judged by my clothes. Modesty is definitely in your values, not clothes. I have seen some Muslim women in Australia wear the hijab with tight jeans and fitting tops or short dresses. I feel it defeats the purpose of dressing modestly.

  7. Modesty can definitely be in your values, but this can also be shown in your choice of clothing and attire, hence the term ‘modest dressing’.I personally believe you can have both- dress modestly accordingly and still aquire certain values and characteristics as well

  8. Dr Tareq Al-Suwaidan in an excerpt from his presentation to the Islamic community at Monash University Melbourne earlier this year stated:

    “The hijab is a resistance to Western occupation of the mind. THE HIJAB IS AN IDENTITY & A RESISTANCE”

  9. “Man in early times was almost naked, and as his intellect evolved he started wearing clothes. What I am today and what I’m wearing represents the highest level of thought and civilization that man has achieved, and is not regressive. It’s the removal of clothes again that is regressive back to ancient times.” (Tawakkul Karman, the first Arab woman and youngest person awarded the Nobel Peace Laureate).

    “We are shaped and fashioned by what we love” (Goethe).

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