“Oh… are women in your country allowed to cover up their head with something else than a veil?” I was once asked by an Asian friend of mine, who saw me wearing a cap. And this funny and naive observation sums up the world’s vision of women in Muslim and Arab society.
Well YES, women in my country are allowed to show their legs, wear skirts and dresses, go to beaches and/ or any other mixed places, but they can also cover their heads and drape their bodies with traditional Islamic coverings if they decide to; they can pray, go to the mosque and that does not prevent them from going to school, university and work.
In fact, as women, we have been given some kind of a new room in a society that, for the last 20 years, have rejected the most radical interpretation of Islam and began to return to the softer North African interpretation of it. Thus, we have emerged as a new factor for social change; we represent 60% of university students, 30% of the judges and 60% of the lawyers and we are all across the workforce. Some may say that Algerian women have made quiet a revolution by releasing themselves from their suffocating traditions but that is not completely true; some of us still live by the code of tradition, and luckily they are doing it by choice and not by obligation.
There is also the whole “You should get married” prejudice in here and in many other cultures. So starting from when you turn around 18 years old, people around you start talking about why you should get married, and if it is not really in your near future plans, your entourage starts emphasizing on how getting married at a young age is important for your personal development –even though nobody really knows why- they get insistent gradually as you get older, and if you are not able to find a husband alone before 25, you’ll notice that people around start acting like a marriage agency; from your grand-mother to your youngest cousin J. But even if it seems frustrating and as long as nobody is forced to do anything, we all somehow play the game by being the youngest cousin or the oldest aunt and things have been going this way for generations.
In conclusion, nobody cares if you wear a cap, a hat, a veil or nothing at all, we have our own freedom though we are conditioned by a limit of decency in our behaviors that I think it is far from being harmful. But there will always be a crew of people who go back to the “women are inferior to men” way of thinking, complaining that the growing participation of women in society is a direct violation of faith, whereas it is the complete opposite: women’s movement could and will lead to more modernity while clinging on amazing traditions!
Post written by our guest blogger Asma Hamid from Algeria
Read her last post here
Picture taken from Flickr Creative Commons Attribution License “The Face of Terror”, by user Steve Snodgrass flickr.com/photos/stevensnodgrass/5480660500/