Although following fashions in dress has an aspect which seems inimical
to Islam, it is worth considering that Islamic dress is the practice which is
most visible to non-Muslims. Islam cannot make any concessions to Western
criticism or desires in the matter of bodily modesty. Muslims ought, however, to
foster concession in this matter in terms of style. It is perfectly appropriate
for immigrant Muslims to continue to use the dress styles of their home country.
It is not appropriate to give the impression that Europeans reverting to Islam
ought to follow the same styles. They ought to follow the same standards of
modesty, but in styles appropriate to their own country and culture.
The truth is that Islam, Christianity,
and Judaism share traditional standards of modesty. There are still areas of the
world where Christians dress with the same modesty as traditional Muslims,
although they have greatly decreased in the last century. It is a
misapprehension that modesty is a trait unique to Islam. It is scandalous that a
political conflict has been made of this issue in many areas, especially in
Europe, considering that Christians in theory have the same duties, according to
their own faith, as do Muslims.
European Muslims have sometimes failed
in the matter of style. Perhaps some propagators of Islam have put too much
emphasis on the principles of modesty and too little on how they ought to be
adapted to new situations. There has been a tendency, especially among women, to
copy foreign styles. This is one of the foremost barriers to embracing Islam by
Westerners. They get the impression that one must dress in black and cover the
face, because that is the way women dress in one or another country. There
should be a movement among European Muslim women towards designing and acquiring
styles of clothing which preserve Islamic modesty while at the same time
recognizing features of Western dress styles. Unless this is done, Islam has a
future in Europe only among those who marry immigrant Muslims or are attracted
by exotic, foreign dress.
Islam and Christianity differ greatly in the matter of social contracts.
In Islam, a free individual has the right and indeed obligation to make certain
contracts with others which are binding under religious law and consequently
even under secular law in such countries which recognize Islam. The right of
individual contract is greatly diminished under other religious and legal
systems, such as those dominant in the West. Marriage, for example, has already
been seen to have a sacramental character in Christianity, and even where this
is minimal, to be established only through the intervention of an authoritarian
establishment. Two individuals do not have the right in Christian contexts to
contract a legally binding marriage. The attempt of Christians to do so is
generally considered fornication. The same generally holds true for other types
of individual contracts, such as buying and selling, renting, or other matters.
The law intervenes to determine the forms of individual contract, which are
rights essentially granted by law rather than recognized by law. Thus the
marriage of church and state in Western societies continues, even when
ostensibly weakened, to govern individual freedom of contract in ways which
contrast with Islamic practice, whether or not actual conflict is present.