Sharia Chic

Sharia chic has come to London. During London Fashion Week, Fashion East designer Louise Goldin sent a model down the catwalk wearing an outfit that obscured the model’s entire face, all except her eyes, and covered her head entirely. Nor was this the only such outfit Goldin featured during London Fashion Week. The outfits were clearly modeled after Islamic dress, particularly the niqab, the full-face veil.

London is not the only place Sharia chic has appeared. In December, Marie Claire magazine ran a photoshoot featuring three glamorous women, all wearing hijabs and black dresses down to their shoetops — and sporting ipods, designer handbags, and other evidence of their modernity and sophistication.

Meanwhile, Urban Outfitters is selling the Palestinian kufiya, worn by murderous jihad terrorists for decades, as a “Skull Desert Scarf.”

Obviously there is no reason for the fashion world to be immune to the fashionable contempt for Western culture and values that pervades most creative fields these days, but it is one thing to hold that contempt and quite another to proffer it to the masses as the vanguard of contemporary culture. Contrast the Urban Outfitters item with the fact that in the 1930s, the British considered banning the kufiya, as it had become a symbol of Arab nationalist resistance to their rule. In the 1930s, the British were unafraid to do what they had to do to protect their own interests; in 2007, the U.S. pledged to give 86 million dollars to the government of Mahmoud Abbas just as a former official of Abbas’ Fatah party appeared on Palestinian Authority television saying to al Qaeda: “Do to Bush whatever you want, and we wish you success…We are fighting the Americans and hate the Americans more than you!” The official, Abu Ali Shahin, was of course wearing a kufiya.

Likewise, was Louise Goldin or anyone else connected with the pseudo-niqab fashions displayed in London this week aware of the nature of the culture they were aping. Those who are likely to prefer that women never venture outside without covering everything except their eyes are likely also to believe that women are essentially the possessions of men. The Islamic holy book, the Qur’an, declares that a woman’s testimony is worth half that of a man (2:282). Likewise, this is also a culture that allows men to marry up to four wives, and have sex with slave girls also: “If ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly with the orphans, marry women of your choice, two or three or four; but if ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one, or (a captive) that your right hands possess…” (4:3).

The same book rules that a son’s inheritance should be twice the size of that of a daughter: “Allah (thus) directs you as regards your children’s (inheritance): to the male, a portion equal to that of two females” (4:11).

Worst of all, the Qur’an tells husbands to beat their disobedient wives: “Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath made the one of them to excel the other, and because they spend of their property (for the support of women). So good women are the obedient, guarding in secret that which Allah hath guarded. As for those from whom ye fear rebellion, admonish them and banish them to beds apart, and scourge them” (4:34).

And it is the culture of those who revere the Qur’an as the supreme authority for human behavior that has produced the niqab. Is that the culture Louise Goldin wishes to bring to Britain? Or does she perhaps think its presence there is a fait accompli, since Muslims who clearly believe in Islamic supremacism have become such a prominent feature of the British landscape? Does she regard her fashion creations as a necessary attempt at inclusion and accommodation?

More accurately, they manifest the cultural weariness that has allowed those Islamic supremacists to become quite vocal in Britain, as the recent Dispatches documentary revealed. One may hope that the British will before too longer remember that they were once made of sterner stuff.