Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Ramadan and Muslim Modesty

This month a little less than a billion of the world's population will be fasting and praying to Allah, the god of Islam. Fasting during Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam. Incidentally, many people put on weight during this month, as they feast early in the morning and late at night after the sun goes down. But you have to respect their commitment.

I was talking to Ava about how we need to be praying that Jesus would reveal himself to them as they pray. Our conversation somehow shifted to a Hindu kid in her class who brought an idol for show-and-tell to some covered ladies that Ava has seen at the mall.

She asked, "Does God want us (girls) to be covered up like them?"

I've been to five Muslim countries and I've seen the oppression of many women firsthand. I've met Muslim women whose stories are not unlike the horrors found in A Thousand Splendid Suns.

So with that baggage, the best I could do was to tell Ava that "their God is mean."

He doesn't just want them to be modest, he wants them to lose their identity and femininity. I know that isn't always the case, as many of the head coverings are pretty stylish, and many moderate Muslims reject such extreme forms of modesty. But Ava had in her mind the full on burqa covering.

Although this is becoming more and more counter-cultural to even bring up the topic, I'll use this opportunity to talk about Christian modesty. I'm pretty sure God's will for Christian women is not the burqa; however, there is a modesty line somewhere. There is often a disregard for modesty, as I've observed this a lot in college and youth ministry. I was appalled at a swimming party we had a few years ago for our junior highers. The swim suits these 12-14 year old girls were wearing...Wow. And that, with mom and dad's approval...

My encouragement to young women is to invite the wisdom of older women into your life when it comes to modesty. Ask the women who dress stylishly feminine what they think of your wardrobe.

I've also seen a number of "Little House on the Prairie" Christian sub-cultures. I'm not sure God's will has to mean that you knit your own dresses.


Anonymous said...

Especially with your experience in youth and college ministry, have you ever seen this modesty issue openly and specifically addressed to any large group of young women with any success? I just wonder what the best way to deal with this is. As a mom I want godly examples of appropriately dressed young women around my girls in addition to my own example, but at church that's a struggle especially in the summer. It's not exactly an issue to talk about from the pulpit because it is such a specific target audience. But most college-aged women are not in close contact with godly older women are they? With the enormous number of college students at Salt now, how are those girls being connected to older women so they can receive the guidance/encouragement they need regarding their dress?

The Pelhams said...

I remember a SALT retreat quite a few years ago at AOG camp, I think around 2000 or 01 maybe, and it was something new we did, the guys all met somewhere and the girls all met somewhere. We talked about appropriate dress and when we dress in spaghetti straps, low cut shirts, short shorts, etc, it makes our Christian brothers stumble. They talked about the countless magazines that they have to restrain from looking at just during a trip into the grocery store. Went onto explain how SALT and church should be a refuge for them. A place where they shouldn't have to deal with that temptation and we need to do our part in the clothes we wear to help them. Last question was "Do you want to be the reason your Christian brother stumbles?" Leading that discussion were some of the very involved women in the ministry that were also students. Kim Hayden, Jennifer Lineer, are 2 I remember, so it really stuck coming from peers that deal with the same challenge of finding appropriate clothing to buy and wear, but it can be done if you just look and find the right stores to shop in.
I had also had Jen Perry mentor me after I became a believer and she also brought what I was wearing to my attention. I felt embarrassed and actually like a prostitute! I was wearing spaghetti straps tank top and when I bent over you could see way more than I realized! She asked me if I wanted the whole world to see those parts of me or if I wanted to save that for my husband! If I was married, what would my husband say about what I was wearing?! I went home that night and gave away everything that was revealing!! No kidding, I really did! I bet I gave away over $400 worth of shirts and shorts and the search began for other stuff to wear! I know not everyone will react this way, but I know it also made some of the other girls change their ways too!

J and J Masson said...

women here are wearing even more modest and intricate robes right now to be more holy and gain more points. it's a stark contrast to the european women who dress in the complete oppostie way . .

WendyPierce said...

Amen Brother Mark! I love to point girls to Nattie Larson as a great example of modesty/style. However, I do remember the day when even SHE was confused on the subject. This issue is so close to my heart and I'm glad there are at least some parents out there who wouldn't be afraid to tell their daughters they can't leave the house dressed poorly! Oh I can't wait until Travis and Savannah have that talk :)