The veil has made a comeback among Libyan women in recent years, and with it, comes new trends and styles of wearing it.
According to an interesting report from the BBC, many Libyan women are still wrestling with moral and religious dilemmas about whether to wear a hijab (headscarf) or a niqab (full veil). Opinions vary widely on what kind of head or face covering is appropriate and when, how and where it should be worn.
The Fabric of History
The word hijab comes from the Arabic for veil. Many Muslim men and women regard these headscarves as a symbol of both religion and womanhood, and come in a myriad of styles and colours.
Afaf, one of the Libyan women interviewed for the article, wears her veil Tuareg-style, tightly wrapped around the forehead and cascading below the neck. New ways of wearing the veils and new styles of veil with beads, and sequins are a popular sight on the Tripoli high street.
Afaf has an interesting take on the recent historical evolution of the hijab and the possible economical reasons behind its revival in Libya.
“…The beginning of the hijab trend which appeared in the 1980s in Libya was mainly due to economic reasons like things becoming more expensive and low state wages.”
“Women needed a sizeable budget for their fashion needs, so their solution was to wear the veil and cover up with a simple cloak to escape from the economic strangulation.” – She says.
Choice or Obligation?
Hala, a housewife interviewed by the BBC correspondent feels she has little choice but to cover up.
“If you don’t wear it here, people look at you as if you’re doing something horribly wrong – this is the only way you’ll fit in this society – to feel that you belong.”
Going The Whole Way
While the hijab may be widely expected by Libyan society at large, the Niqab is generally considered to be a step too far.
For some young Libyan women, such as Hala al-Mgadmi, it is simply something she feels she must do.
“I did not choose to wear the veil this way, this is how Allah and Islam requires you to wear it. Seduction is in the face,” she says.
When asked if wearing the niqab posed any social restrictions in her life she said:
“In a way, yes it poses a lot of restrictions because this way of covering up is generally not acceptable here.”
Female Libyan teachers are not allowed to teach with their entire faces covered. There’s no Libyan law that states this, but there is a kind of silent code upon which the educational community agrees. Schools may teach about Islam, but teachers are not allowed to influence their students on how to implement it.