Appropriate Dress For Women

There’s a woman in my PhD program who wears what looks like the hijab (the Muslim head covering for women), and she always wears long sleeves and an ankle-length skirt. I’ve always just assumed that she’s Muslim until one day I witnessed her praying in a corner. She made the sign of the cross and continued praying the hours in Latin (I distinctly heard “Deus in adjutorium meum intende…”).

Anyway, I asked her if she was Catholic and she answered yes. I didn’t feel right asking her why she dresses in such a way as to appear Muslim. In any case, I know there are a few women here at Catholic Answers Forum who perpetually veil themselves, and who have a very strong sense of modesty. I’m curious if many Catholic women who feel so inclined just adopt Muslim/Arab dress in order to satisfy said modesty. Do you wear a hijab as a veil?

In the 1950s, Catholic men were:

  1. Expected to wear hats
  2. Required to remove them in Catholic Church

In the 1950s, Catholic women were

  1. Required to wear a hat and preferably a veil in Church.

Furthermore, conventional Catholic images of the Virgin Mary are based on images created by Raphael and Poussin. These images are based on contemporary images of Middle Eastern Muslim women wearing Muslim dress which at the time did not, in many cases, require that the face be veiled.

The Virgin Mary is Middle Eastern.

My grandmother and great grandmother often wore veils while shopping in the 1920s.

How dare any Catholic challenge the right of Muslim women to dress modestly? And since when has being a Christian meant running around half-naked while simultaneously expressing the uttermost contempt, as do some women, for any sexuality that is unlinked to money and power, especially the sexuality of older men without money and power?

I admit it. I am a girl watcher and an artist and I think the human form is a thing of beauty, as did the great Catholic artists Michelangelo, Raphael and Poussin. And when I was in Dubai, I was struck by the innocence of the eyes over the veil and the faces under the headscarves. I could only contrast the hard cynicism on the faces of young girls in Paris, obscenely fondling delicate sculptures in the Louvre until shoo’d away by the guard.

How dare any Catholic challenge the right of Muslim women to dress modestly?

I think you totally misunderstand what the OP said. He wasn’t saying that Muslim women should not dress the way they do, he was simply ASKING whether there are Catholic women out there whose convictions about modesty lead them to adopt Muslim-style dress. Moreover, he didn’t say anything bad about the woman he saw who was veiled, he simply said he assumed she was Muslim until he saw her cross herself and pray in Latin one day.

Is it possible that the woman the OP referred to was affiliated with some religious order or institute?

Why don’t you ask her nicely?

You might have a good discussion. I for one would be interested in what she had to say.

I would be interested in her response to the idea that you thought she is a muslim.

Also how much does it actually look like a hijab? I have seen some young ladies covering their hair with old style, I suppose almost like handkerchiefs but my vocabulary does not extend of articles of womens clothing.

God Bless

Br. Paul

She could be simply a very good and modest woman.

Let’s not forget that the first Christians were Jews and Arabs. And we have to bear in mind that the dresses the women wear at these areas are national dresses and not just related to any religion. So, we don’t have to be surprised if we see Christians dressed in veils. Everyone is free to choose whatever suits best, with the condition of being properly dressed and not naked.

Happy Sunday!

I believe I did, Brother Paul.

The OP thought that the woman in question was a Muslim because she didn’t understand, I believe, that other religions have also commanded their followers or a subset of their followers to dress in a certain way. I believe that allowing followers of a religion to follow their religion is essential to religious freedom.

Suppose a country required Catholic nuns of one of the stricter orders to go out in “ordinary” dress. Catholics would object.

Now as it happens, most Muslim countries do indeed allow Catholic nuns to dress as nuns and most Muslim countries give freedom of worship to Christians; for example, Saddam Hussein’s foreign minister was a Christian.

My point was that the original posters curiosity was probably (but not necessarily) piqued by what she thought was a Muslim woman, and this is the result of anti-Muslim media propaganda which makes people notice the Muslim.

Franz Fanon, in an essay entitled “Look! A Negro!” points out that media and education construct racial difference and racial problems. Whereas in 1995 a Muslim woman in hijab would be unremarked or probably welcomed (because most people conform to the “natural law” of default kindness toward strangers), it is now “look! a Muslim” said with dread in too many cases.

I took the opportunity to deconstruct the construction by pointing out that the Virgin Mary dressed according to the same general canons of female modesty (while Magdalene famously had exposed hair with which she washed Christ’s feet). You’ve got Blackwater thugs eyeing people praying in air terminals, and I say we’ve come to a pretty pass when praying is a problem.

I would agree, Brother Paul, that I have used the OP’s comment as an occasion for a rather long and possibly unauthorized sermon, and I will accept criticism and possible excommunication from this newsgroup as a result. This is because I believe my points to be important and to my knowledge unsaid.

Lots of people say they are Catholic but hold contrary beliefs.

Could she be part of some more conservative than the Pope sect?

No, you didn’t, spinoza; you immediately accused the OP of “dar[ing] to challenge the right of a Muslim woman to dress modestly,” when the OP’s only question - very midly stated, btw - is why a Catholic woman would choose to dress in this manner and whether there were any Catholic women who participate in the discussions here who do so. Then you state that the OP’s wonderment most probably arose from the OP’s falling for anti-Islamic propaganda - of course the** only** reason anyone living in the U.S. would look twice at the hijab. :rolleyes:

Only in the sense that I believe (as a non-practising Catholic) that the assassination of the only President (of a largely Catholic country) who was Catholic in 1963 and the abandonment of the Latin mass has created a dangerous historical amnesia in practising Catholics which is causing their religion to converge with Protestantism, with its uncritical support for capitalism.

That is my deal. I did not mean to attack or offend the OP, and if I have been perceived as doing so I apologize. As I have said, it may not be appropriate for me to post here at all given my relationship to the Church, and the reason I am posting is that I found a link to my essay on my blog.

I don’t recall seeing anyone posting about your question before, but there was a thread about Catholic women who adopted more extreme forms of modest dress fairly recently here:forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=470088

(I am addressing the OP and not spinoza1111 whose comments I consider irrelevant to the question asked.)

which quite a rare thing these days, which is why so many women are surprised to see one, lol…Modesty has become a dead trait in the young generation of women.

People don’t realize is that the hijab came from christian/Judaic tradition of the veil…They are rooted in the same thing. Id much prefer this than what some women wear in the Church today with short skirts, tight jeans, cut shirts, clothes that hug the body, etc. The way many women dress in the Church causes a stumbling block for others since their clothing incites lust. Parents and husbands need to get a better hold and directive on their daughters or wives… The fact that many seem to allow them to wear whatever they want is contrary to christian modesty and humility. A husband must guard his wifes modesty just as a father must guard her daughters. And with the advent of feminism which caused wives and daughters to rebel against the virtues of modesty it became an issue that took over

spinoza1111,

You completely misunderstood my initial post, and quite frankly have made many a dubious assumptions about me from challenging things I didn’t even say.

I’m a bit skeptical of this claim given that many of the conventional Catholic images of the Virgin Mary portray her as a white woman with a loosely fitting veil more similar to those of Medieval European women than of Middle Eastern women of that time. Nonetheless, the point isn’t really relevant to what I’m asking.

The Virgin Mary is Middle Eastern.

I never said otherwise.

My grandmother and great grandmother often wore veils while shopping in the 1920s.

As did mine. What they didn’t wear was a hijab. Which mind you, I’m not saying is a bad thing. This is simply the first time I’ve seen what seems to be a Christian woman wearing something that which is more specifically associated as Muslim garb than a mere veil, and it piqued curiosity and interest, not scorn and judgement. I’m used to seeing Western women wear veils. I attend an EF parish regularly and only attend the OF when circumstances necessitate it, so I’m quite familiar with the modesty which typifies women who call themselves “Traditional Catholics”. I’ve never seen the hijab worn by such Catholic women, although that has now changed, hasn’t it? I posed this question merely to get the perspective of other such women, should they be out there. Who knows, maybe this one woman in my program is a rarity. Maybe she’s a Syrian Christian or Jordanian Christian or something of the sort, for which it would make sense why she would wear the hijab rather than a western veil. Maybe the fact that I live in San Francisco where modesty is almost unheard of among Westerners while we have a sizable Middle Eastern (Muslim) minority making western veils incredibly difficult to come by.

I have a practicing Muslim friend who when we go out to eat asks for Kosher foods, why Kosher if he’ Muslim? Because he knows the Jewish dietary standard includes all the same prohibited items which are Haram for Muslims plus some, and since Kosher products are far more easily accessible here in the States than Halal items (though that is indeed changing), out of convenience he just follows the Jewish laws of Kashrut. If I hadn’t known him but saw him asking about Kosher items, I would naturally assume he was a Jew… that is until I then saw him prostrating himself on a prayer rug facing the east. That I made these observations and drew tentative conclusions from them doesn’t mean that I’m audacious enough to say that he doesn’t have the right to do so, nor does it even mean that I’m passing any value judgment on his practices!

How dare any Catholic challenge the right of Muslim women to dress modestly?

I absolutely agree. Thankfully no Catholic has done so in this thread.

And since when has being a Christian meant running around half-naked while simultaneously expressing the uttermost contempt, as do some women, for any sexuality that is unlinked to money and power, especially the sexuality of older men without money and power?

I absolutely agree. Thankfully no Christian has argued such in this thread.

I think I just might. We’ve actually been talking a bit recently, but I think I’ll wait until I get to know her a little better.

Also how much does it actually look like a hijab? I have seen some young ladies covering their hair with old style, I suppose almost like handkerchiefs but my vocabulary does not extend of articles of womens clothing.

God Bless

Br. Paul

There’s a fairly large minority of Middle Eastern Muslims here, mostly from Jordan, Palestine, and Afghanistan/Pakistan, for which It’s been my experience that the hijab is moreso worn here by the Jordanian and Palestinian expats while the Afghani/Pakistani ones tend to disregard the veil entirely (though of course there are exceptions, and this is mere anecdote). From such, I’ve learned a lot about Islam and Middle Eastern culture in general, and I can definitely distinguish a hijab from a western veil. The western veil usually fits rather loosely around the neck (if at all), and it isn’t uncommon to see some bangs or other bits of hair through the front near the forehead or on the back. The hijab is worn tightly around the neck, ears, and forehead (much like most nuns’ habits), and the women usually then wear their hair in a bun underneath it to keep it from being shown on the back, and so you see a protrusion to the back of their head under the hijab. The hijab itself is usually black or white and then women either stop at that or wear another veil (possibly colorful with geometric designs, but never designs of anything living).

As I just mentioned in the post I just posted before this one, it could be that this Catholic woman has just adopted the hijab in order to satisfy her sense of modesty since hijabs are pretty easy to come by here given the sizable Muslim minority here.

I met a sister last week who wore a long dress and a veil who had taken private vows and was living as a hermit.

My guess (totally a guess) would be the added coverage, with no hair showing at all. And maybe also availability; I think it would be pretty easy for me to find one near me and pretty hard to find a western veil with good coverage.

The post wasn’t about you, and wasn’t meant to be offensive. My point was that part of the reason your curiosity even existed was the construction of a “binary opposition” between openness and modesty paralleling a new Christian and Muslim divide: the creation of the thought-meme makes it surprising to see a Catholic woman with a veil, and this I find troubling.

Mediaeval European women were veiled, when they were, because of St. Paul’s admonition, which was taken from a Judaic (Semitic) tradition that St Paul thought worthwhile. It’s possible that pre-Pauline Christian women were less modest given the story of Mary Magdalene using her hair to wash Christ’s feet.

But after the seventh century, images of Mary showed her, usually, modestly dressed in comparision to the fashions of the time of the image. I agree that this was primarily to emphasize her modesty, not to realistically show her as middle eastern in most cases so on reflection I admit I’m wrong on this point.

However, it remains the case that the construction of the “Muslim” as the “terrorist” has not only been transformed into an attack, willy-nilly, on female modesty (especially in France, with its positive law against the veil) but even on prayer itself, where a Muslim man praying during a flight will disturb some passengers. I’m saying that Catholics should criticise the confusion here.

They should point out that prayer and women taking responsibility for the effect of their bodies on men are common themes in all of the Abrahamite religions. They should point out that many Muslims are not so much “religious fanatics” as men, women and children that have been repeatedly bombed in war zones or forcibly relocated.

The rest of your post is in a style that I recognize as San Francisco’s brand of “narcissitic repressive tolerance”: “some of my best friends are Muslims”, in which it is farting in church to even speculate that the media is having pernicious effects on our basic tolerance with its global semi-equation of “Muslim” and “terrorist”; global in the sense of being a common element even in messages of tolerance.

This San Francisco meme is indeed tolerance.

But it’s also repressive when you center my “assumptions” and, I think with a bit of narcissism, worry more about whether I’m “attacking” you. This is the sort of tolerance often on display in genteel environments, where directly contradicting someone is the one thing not tolerated, personality and amour-propre being considered more important than what is the case.

The question here for me is not whether you are a bad person. I don’t think you are. I am saying that the media effects are global and subconscious.

I still must disagree, given my own position which I’ve already divulged to you. I frequently attend the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. I’m very much used to women veiling themselves, and I agree that it’s a great sign of modesty. My question concerned not veiling in general, but a Catholic woman wearing a distinctively Muslim (or at least Middle Eastern) veil; I have already conceded that she very well could be a Middle Eastern Christian, for which there would be no surprise. I assure you that none of my curiosity was due to some perceived “binary opposition” between openness and modesty.

However, it remains the case that the construction of the “Muslim” as the “terrorist” has not only been transformed into an attack, willy-nilly, on female modesty (especially in France, with its positive law against the veil) but even on prayer itself, where a Muslim man praying during a flight will disturb some passengers. I’m saying that Catholics should criticise the confusion here.

I absolutely agree. Nevermind the fact that I’m a traditionally minded Catholic, even if I were nothing more than a so-called humanist atheist, I’d be against the recent scourge of anti-Muslim legislation in France which is nothing more than a thinly veiled (pardon the pun) attack on modesty in the name of so called women’s liberation. Odd that women are seemingly free to choose to dress immodestly, but as soon as a woman chooses to cover herself that it must be due to male pressure and thus antagonistic to true feminism.

I just want to make it perfectly clear that my “confusion” wasn’t in that this woman veiled herself at all, it’s that she uses the hijab specifically as a veil.

The rest of your post is in a style that I recognize as San Francisco’s brand of “narcissitic repressive tolerance”: “some of my best friends are Muslims”, in which it is farting in church to even speculate that the media is having pernicious effects on our basic tolerance with its global semi-equation of “Muslim” and “terrorist”; global in the sense of being a common element even in messages of tolerance.

Seriously, please quit putting things in quotation marks unless I’ve actually said them. Nowhere did I say “Some of my best friends are Muslim”, as one would expect a racist to say in response to an allegation of racism. I simply used a close friend who just so happens to be Muslim as an example of someone using another religion’s tradition as a means of fulfilling his own religious obligation. In the example I gave, my friend asked for “kosher menus” when we would eat out knowing that most places wouldn’t have “halal menus”, and also knowing that the Jewish Kashrut laws are far more strict than the Muslim dietary laws. I was using him as an example as a possible explanation for why this particular woman in my OP might use the garb of another religion in order to satisfy her own religious sensibilities, given local availability.

I don’t know what the media has to do with this. I never brought them up, and I’m not sure what it has to do with my questions about Catholic women using Muslim hijabs as veils.

But it’s also repressive when you center my “assumptions” and, I think with a bit of narcissism, worry more about whether I’m “attacking” you.

Again, I have never once in this thread claimed that you have “attacked” me. Please keep the quotation marks for things I actually say. What I did say is that you misunderstood me.

This is the sort of tolerance often on display in genteel environments, where directly contradicting someone is the one thing not tolerated, personality and amour-propre being considered more important than what is the case.

I don’t mind being contradicted, and I certainly don’t mind being told that I’m wrong. I like learning new things, but I’m afraid that cannot be accomplished if I must spend an inordinate amount of time defending myself from things I DIDN’T EVEN SAY.

The question here for me is not whether you are a bad person. I don’t think you are. I am saying that the media effects are global and subconscious.

I think you’re so used to arguing with people in such stark black and white terms that you’ve lost all ability to distinguish nuance and to divorce individuals from their greater associations, evident in your passing judgment on me based on my city of residence. It’s actually quite humorous given the allegations of prejudice you’re lodging against me.

No matter the case, I hope this time I’ve made my position unequivocally clear:

I respect ALL WOMEN with a sense of modesty, no matter the religion from which that sense of modesty comes. The one and ONLY reason I began this thread was to ask Traditional Catholics if they too wore the hijab as a veil, and if so, why they did so. It wasn’t to question the act of veiling one’s head in general.

Capiche?

I don’t think it’s really a stretch for a Catholic woman to wear a hijab-style veil. I mean, sure, they are associated more with Islam, but after all, Christianity came before Islam, right? Whenever you see a picture of Our Lady dressed as she really would have during her life on Earth, she isn’t wearing a mantilla…she’s wearing what most closely resembles a hijab. [Check out the pic in my signature :slight_smile: ] I mean, the idea is modesty, right? So, what’s the matter with a hijab? My thought on the matter is, Since when did Islam corner the market on real headscarves?
I don’t think the OP was offensive to the woman mentioned or challenging her right to dress modestly as she pleases. We shouldn’t jump on the OP for their curiosity.

Your co-worker may be Eastern Orthodox.

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