Friday, June 22, 2012
Qatar's cover up campaign
Activists in Qatar are actually promoting a cover up campaign. It is called the "One of Us" campaign. The campaign is to encourage foreigners living in the country to respect the Qatari culture and dress modestly rather than in styles that reveal considerable flesh as is common in many countries.
Najila Al Mahmoud who leads the campaign wants to educate expatriates about the norms of modesty in Qatar. Both men and women should cover up between shoulders and knees. She claims that during the summer "the scene of exposed flesh increases", She says that Qataris or at least many of them are offended by this and thinks that if people realize this is so they will dress more appropriately.
Most local women wear an abaya, a black garment covering most of the body. The men also wear a garment the kandura that is often ankle length and made of white shades.
Foreign women are divided on the issue some siding with the cover up campaign but others suggesting the women could find better issues to promote. Many people point out that merchants in Qatari malls especially in high end stores do not even stock local clothes or indeed many clothes that would be considered acceptable according to the cover up criteria. In the Dubai Mall there are see through blouses, plunging necklines, and slit skirts that are nearly waist high. Fancy lingerie is quite popular.
Some people have called the cover up campaign hypocritical because Muslims have opposed veil bans in France and Belgium. I do not find that hypocritical. It is not as if they opposed all bans on the manner of dress. What may be hypocritical is that they support covering up but sell and perhaps buy clothes that reveal flesh. The Qataris point out as well that the dress code is not interfering with religious as is the banning of the veil.
So far Qatar has not made it a crime to violate the dress code as is the case in Belgium and France. In that sense Qatar is more liberal than France or Belgium. Of course one may be banned from entering a restaurant if you are not properly dressed but that is common in many countries. For more see this article.