First, a little history on the covering of the head, as it relates to the Muslim faith, as well as to women of ancient times:
The practice of wearing a hijab in Islam is one based on religious doctrine, grounded in Islam's emphasis on modesty. While there is a difference of views amongst Muslim scholars about the level of hijab (ie only headscarf, with face veil, etc), it is clear that some kind of head covering has almost always been practised in Muslim societies since the time of the Prophet Mohammad.
In fact, the practice of women veiling their faces and largely living in seclusion appeared in the Near East, classical Greece, Byzantium, Persia and India centuries before the time of the Prophet Mohammad.
The author has several things to say about a woman's right to chose to dress as she feels is proper. She also comments about modesty and covering up:
The other issue that emerges as a challenge for us as Muslims, is an internal challenge within our own societies because the hijab has emerged as a powerful symbol which defines or identifies the Muslim woman. Hence there is an automatic assumption that modesty and righteousness can be achieved just by veiling someone and this is naÃ¯ve because modesty is an attitude, it's a behaviour, it's a way of life, it is not easily attainable; it is a life-long effort to maintain, it's far deeper than the clothing we choose to wear.[emphasis mine - LM]
I say this because I can see a generation of young girls in my society who wear what appears to be Islamic dress, but their conduct is contrary to modesty, or righteousness. Many are apathetic about the core issues that we face in the world today, or are not at all devoted to the betterment of our society.
Some people I know criticize women of any background dressing modestly on purpose. Perhaps some of the misunderstanding is rooted in just this sort of hypocrisy and misunderstanding on the part of the woman wearing the clothes.
In her closing comments, she writes: "A woman who is educated, who has a strong sense of purpose in life will choose modesty because she has no desire to be viewed as an object, but this modesty will be on her own terms."
It seems to me that modesty is not for one place or time, but for all times and places. Modesty has to do with a full lifestyle attitude, and even a growing in understanding of that attitude as we go. It's not just about rebelling against the status quo of girls who go wild, or about cramming my opinions of proper dress styles on someone else. Modesty really is part of a Way of life, thinking properly about which things are right, pure, and lovely.
(photo above found at flickr.com)
Once again, free advertising for ModestClothes.com - the Author there has organized by category, by creed, by region, the variety of clothes that are available on line for ladies who wish to dress modestly.
On other topics which I am apt to talk too much about and risk making little to no Godly sense, I just came across Jess' article: Talkers Beware!
Thank you, Jess!