I've covered different styles of hijab from across the world, including Turkey, Dubai, Malaysia and Afghanistan, but I've yet to blog about my own country, Lebanon. Perhaps because there's not much in the way of a 'hijab fashion culture' like Egypt. Heck, there's not much in the way of hijabis in Lebanon in the first place! I've been working on this for a while now, and unsurprisingly, there is very little on the Internet that discusses the hijab either from a social or style point of view, save for this extremely annoying news report from New TV and this article. Forward to 24:00 to view the clip:
Before I discuss the video, I should probably explain a few things.
1. Lebanon's population is roughly 60% Muslim, and is not considered to be a 'Muslim' country. The rest of the population is comprised of different Christian sects and minority groups, like the Druze.2. The Lebanese society in general is very concerned with what we call 'mazaher', or appearances - check out this article about 'plastic surgery loans'. Younger people especially are very fashion conscious and some of the most talented designers in the world hail from here: Elie Saab, Zuhair Murad and Mireille Dagher are just a few.
I last went to Lebanon about 5 years ago, and whilst I was there, I saw very few girls in hijab. And those few that did, dressed perfectly reasonably in modest clothing. Things may well have changed, but I find it hard to believe that suddenly all the hijabis are wearing skinny jeans and tight tops.There were several things that really annoyed me in the above video. Firstly, was the idea that ALL hijabis in Lebanon, save for the ones who adopt Iranian chador, dress like the ones shown. Inevitably, there are going to be girls that try to combine the headscarf (or esharb as we normally call it) with tight clothes, but to give the impression that all the girls who choose 'Western' clothing dress like that is very misleading.
The segment was also giving the impression that 'fashion' = tight clothing. I think I've shown plenty of times here that that is most definitely not always the case. It also seemed to present the idea that hijab-wearing women being interested in fashion is somewhat of a new phenomenon. I assure you it is not. The report kept referring to colourful clothes as something unusual or contradictory to hijab. This has me thinking - 'what the...?' The Lebanese in general don't like wearing the colour black - it signifies mourning and grief. I remember getting positively told off about wearing too many dark colours when I was there. When I went shopping the shop owners themselves would pick out colourful items which were '3al moda' (in fashion). So why should women who wear hijab be expected to dress totally differently to the rest of society?The problem with this report is that it is already biased from the outset. There is a certain attitude amongst Lebanese (usually with non-Muslims and non-practicing Muslims) that the hijab is something reserved for the super-religious. I am often astonished to see girls in mini-skirts or shorts sounding off about how hijabis ought to dress: 'she shouldn't be wearing that - she's supposed to be modest'! It is ironic that they feel the need to tell others how to be 'modest' when they don't think it applies to themselves... Hence the idea that hijabis should be as drab and boring as possible because they have supposedly elevated themselves above such things as style and fashion. This was represented very starkly when the presenter, Zeyna Zeydan, opted to cover her hair in front of the cleric, when during the rest of the show she too was in 'Western' fashions.
The second guest they spoke to, Laura Abi Khalil is not a Muslim, and yet they felt she should be the one telling us that being fashionable whilst wearing hijab is 'improper'.In a society where women spend so much time on make-up, hair and clothes and the latest trends, I found that this report was terribly misleading. Perhaps I am reading too much into this, but I felt that they were ridiculing the way some Muslim girls choose to dress, forgetting that this country is home to the likes of Nancy Ajram and Haifa Wehbe (Google them to see what I mean). The commentary about the way the girls were walking and their 'indecent' clothing really irked me too. I would have expected New TV to be a little more responsible, considering the tensions that exist in the country. I also have to question the necessity of discussing these girls' clothing in the first place, when we get enough of it in the Western media.
I apologize that there's so little to show, but perhaps I'll do a post about traditional Lebanese dress (which sometimes I think is jeans and Aviators) - but no really, it exists! If there are any fellow Lebnaniyat reading, let us know more!