An interesting piece from the Arabic daily Okaz, translated in its sister publication Saudi Gazette. The writer notes that Umm Al-Qura university is going to strictly enforce its dress codes requiring students to appear in national dress. This is similar to the requirement that Saudis wear national dress when going into government offices.

Now, dress codes aren’t bad in themselves, though that can be a bit silly at times. What the writer objects to is that the administration of the university calls the required dress “Islamic dress.” What’s that, please? If it’s what Muslims wear, then that would incorporate everything from bikinis to burkas. What the university means, and should have said, was ‘national dress’, that is, thobes & ghutras for men and abayas for women. That’s Saudi dress. It’s not the dress of Muslims in Turkey or Indonesia, Mali or Morocco.

Extending the reach of religion into areas where it is not required does no favors for Islam. It makes it appear as though it is far narrower than it actually is. This is a problem for Saudis, I believe, as they have a tendency to see themselves as the standard of Islamic practice. In fact, they’re a small minority. Even Arab Muslims — most of whom are not Saudi or Gulf Arabs — represent only some 20% of all Muslims in the world.

There are no dictates in the Quran that all Muslims must dress like Saudis. All that is required is ‘modest dress’. Let’s try to stop stretching religion to cover all social and cultural preferences.

Umm Al-Qura University and “Islamic” dress
Saeed Al-Suraihi | Okaz

Like any other organization, universities – whether they are government or private – have the right to draw up rules and regulations that they think will ensure discipline among their students and staff. But it is not right for any university, or any government or private agency, to claim that what they have introduced are Islamic regulations, and that those who violate any of these regulations are violating Islamic law.

Umm Al-Qura University has come up with a raft of regulations that it has made mandatory for all male and female students to comply with. The university has made it clear to students that they will face disciplinary action if they violate any of these regulations.

Certainly, no one can argue with the right of the university to introduce regulations that it wishes to enforce on its campus, and students have no choice but to obey these regulations or suffer the consequences.

Let the university draw up as many regulations as it wants and call them the regulations of Umm Al-Qura University.


December:13:2013 - 10:04 | Comments & Trackbacks (2) | Permalink
2 Responses to “Unnecessary Religiosity”
  1. 1
    Chris Said:
    December:14:2013 - 03:40 

    In your third paragraph, I think that they’re a small majority should be “they’re a small minority”

  2. 2
    John Burgess Said:
    December:14:2013 - 06:56 

    @Chris: Yes, indeed… a typo. Thanks.

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