This is what it says in the Christian Bible, and what the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) said. Nowhere did he say that women should have their faces fully veiled and be covered from head to toe in shapeless black robes (the Abayah). This is tribal custom enforced by men.
Even as recently as my Mother’s generation she and her friends would not dream of leaving the house without a headscarf covering her hair, and a coat covering her dress. She looked like the Egyptian women you see today who do not wear Abayahs, and yet are not fully Westernized. And if my Mother went to church she would certainly cover her head–and for weddings and funerals she would wear a hat with a veil.
So until about 50 years ago traces of Middle Eastern culture remained even in the UK. And it still persists of course most strongly in Spain where 700 years of Arab rule has left an indelible mark.
At a recent art exhibition in our local village in the Valencia province I bought a painting of the roofs of our village from the perspective of the minaret of the mosque. (our mosque dates back more than 600 years and is not in use because it is unsafe). And amid the tumble of terracotta tiled roofs every house has a small rooftop courtyard. This was the territory of the women of the house where they would go unrobed and unveiled to wash and gossip.
The apochryphal story is that the Muezzin who called the faithful to prayer from the minaret had to be blind so that he could not see the uncovered females of the village.
If you want to know more about tribalism in the Middle East, and how since the 1970s their fabulous oil wealth is breaking down tribalism in this fascinating and atavistic region read my book THE GULF “Reaping the Whirlwind”. It is a linked series of stories set in The Arabian/Persian Gulf from the perspective of Western expatriates who have washed up there for whatever reason.
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