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Compass – Islam on Parade (2005)

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A fashion parade with a difference education content clip 1, 2

Original classification rating: PG. This clip chosen to be PG

Clip description

A group of Muslim Australian women travel all over Melbourne to put on their very special brand of fashion parade. Afterwards they stay to talk to the audience about their faith and especially why they wear the headscarf.

Curator’s notes

This is thought provoking television. Whatever you may think about Muslim women wearing the headscarf, you’ll never quite think exactly the same again. The women are beautiful, articulate and absolutely charming – great ambassadors for a religion that is sometimes portrayed as fanatical.

Teacher’s notes

provided by The Le@rning FederationEducation Services Australia

This clip shows a fashion parade organised by a group of Muslim women in Melbourne, Australia, to foster greater understanding of their culture and practices, particularly their dress codes. Some of the women introduce and give details about themselves. Slow-motion footage of the women parading their outfits is followed by a question-and-answer session. The parade is accompanied by contemporary Islamic music.

Educational value points

  • The fashion parade was organised by Muslim women from a number of organisations, such as Young Muslims of Australia and the Muslim Women’s National Network of Australia, to educate the non-Muslim community about Islamic culture. The event, titled My Dress, My Image, My Choice, featured Muslim women wearing traditional clothes and speaking about Islamic practices and about being Muslim in Australia. Its aim was to counter the negative stereotypes of Muslims that undermine and marginalise the Muslim community and are the result of world political events such as the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in the USA.
  • The hijab is a headscarf that is wound around the head and under the chin and is worn by some Muslim women to acknowledge their observance of the idea of modesty in dress outlined in the Koran. The Koran, the sacred text of Islam, indicates that Muslim women and men should dress modestly in public. Some Muslim scholars have interpreted this as meaning that women should dress in loose clothing that covers the entire body except the face and hands, while men should cover from the navel to the knees. Not all Muslim women choose to wear a hijab, while others wear robes that cover the entire body including the head and face.
  • The Koran indicates that women should adopt modest behaviour as well as modesty in dress. This modest behaviour, which includes no physical contact with men who are not immediate family, is referred to as 'internal hijab’. It is believed that modest dress or the 'external hijab’ serves to reflect and reinforce modest behaviour. Other types of covering include the niqab, which covers the face as well as the head, and the burka, which covers the whole body.
  • In a Western country such as Australia women who wear the hijab stand out and have sometimes been subject to harassment. A 2004 report by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission found that since the September 11 terrorist attacks some Muslim Australian women who wear the hijab have restricted their movements in public. The United Muslim Women’s Association has organised a 'pro-hijab campaign’ in response to calls by some to ban the hijab in government schools in Australia.
  • Muslim women may have different reasons for wearing the hijab. Some Muslim women feel the hijab liberates them from vanity and from being viewed by men as 'sex objects’, and means that they are more likely to be judged on who they are rather than how they look. However, in some Muslim countries, such as Iran, women are required by law to wear the hijab in public, and it is viewed by some as being oppressive.
  • The Muslim women in this clip regard the decision to wear the headscarf as a personal choice. A central tenet of the Koran is that 'there is no compulsion in religion’ and therefore husbands, other male family members and religious leaders should not force women to adopt the hijab. However, in Saudi Arabia, women who do not wear a headscarf are harassed by 'religious police’, the government-funded Committees for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, while in Iran 'religious police’ also enforce a dress code.
  • The burka is a garment for women that conceals the entire body but has a slit or 'net curtain’ for the eyes. Fundamentalist Muslims have interpreted the dress code to mean that a woman’s entire body must be covered, and under Taliban rule in Afghanistan women had to wear a burka. In Iran women are required to wear a similar robe known as a chador when in public, while in Saudi Arabia women are expected to wear an abaya, a neck-to-ankle black robe, in addition to a headscarf. The clip shows a woman in the audience wearing a burka.
  • The women who took part in the fashion event challenged stereotypes of Muslim women that portray them as being oppressed and anti-Western by showing that they actually lead diverse, active lives, and are articulate, assertive and engaged in society. By describing their roles as mothers, university graduates and workers the women highlighted the common ground they share with mainstream Australia. A survey of women who attended the fashion parade found that most thought that the event had changed their understanding of Muslims and Islamic practices in Australia.

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