Unit2-c:"Islam and the Culture of Dress"

~First Workshop~


Date/Time: Friday, July 2, 1999 2:00 PM

Place: Sophia University Library, 5th Floor, Room 524 (L-524)



1. "The Meaning of Veils for Converted Japanese Muslims" by NISHIO, Fumi; Doctoral Candidate at Hokkaido University

2. "Sketches of Turkish Scarves" by NAKAYAMA, Noriko; Chubu University


"The Meaning of Veils for Converted Japanese Muslims"

by NISHIO, Fumi; Doctoral Candidate at Hokkaido University


The immediate reason a Japanese woman converts to Islam is marriage to a Muslim man; however, she regards conversion as a long process and "following the path of God" or "a trial". Most of the converted Muslim women wear their veils only when they go to worship in the mosque or a religious study group. They do not normally wear the veils in their daily lives, except where Muslim women gather or when they wish to accentuate their femininity. Although these women often suffer adverse reactions to the veils from those around them, this burden is borne in memory of the sufferings of the Prophet.

When a Japanese Muslim woman wears religious costumes improperly, she is regarded as "ethnic", not Islamic. One example may be veiling "halfway", as a veil worn only around the neck or with short sleeves. This practice is often criticized as worse than not wearing a veil at all.

Veiling, which has been interpreted as a symbol of repression or an instrument for the concealment of sexuality in the patriarchal Islamic world, is viewed differently in Japan; it is as a symbol of pride in proper Muslim knowledge, faith and practice.

In the discussion, a commentator said there were some factors which had strong influences on these women's Islamic consciousness and attitudes toward veiling; the relationships between these women and their own families, and the social status and education of the husbands in their home countries (most of them are from Pakistan). It was also pointed out that as a result of the influence of Hinduism, the meaning of veiling in Pakistan is different from that in the Arab world, where more scholarly attention has been focused on the veil.


"Sketches of Turkish Scarves"

by NAKAYAMA, Noriko; Chubu University


In Turkey, which has recently undergone a rapid change toward secularization, the ratio of women who do not wear scarves in the name of "women's liberation" is higher than before. There are, however, women who do wear them, and they may be broadly classified into two categories: Islamists and village women.

According to the reporter, there are 3 basic types of scarves:

1) Cotton scarves with floral patterns

2) Plain white cotton scarves

3) Silk scarves with abstract patterns

Scarves in category 1 are mainly worn by younger women who often buy scarves in neighboring towns and then embroider the edges by themselves. These scarves are often given as presents or used as wedding gifts for new brides. In daily life some women wear scarves with their hair covered so that the necks are visible. However, when entering a mosque, they wear them carefully so as to cover the hair and necks.

Scarves in category 2 are mainly worn by elderly women; younger women also wear them during funerals. Elderly women are generally not skilled at embroidery, and opt for plain scarves, which reflects the fact that before people began leaving the country for higher wages in Europe, these women had little time to spare for embroidery.

Scarves in category 3 are worn by women who live in Europe but spend their vacation in their home village. It seems that when they are in Europe, trying to keep their own traditions and culture, they focus on Islam rather than the culture of their home village. It is interesting that the type of scarves worn by these women bears a close resemblance to the scarves worn by Islamists.

The important difference between Islamists and village women is the reason why they wear scarves. The former cite the Koran or the Hadith as their reason, but the latter usually say, "Because it is tradition." It is doubtful whether they wear scarves as a conscious decision.

Even among urban women, who are often thought to wear scarves based on conscious decision, there are some wearing them without thinking deeply about their reasons. It is interesting to watch future trends among these women.


summary by Otsubo, Reiko