x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Local reaction: Women say designs fall short of standards for Muslim dress

Emirati women in Abu Dhabi were unimpressed when shown pictures of Sarah Elenany's "Islamic-focused" clothes by The National.

Emirati women in Abu Dhabi were unimpressed when shown pictures of Sarah Elenany's "Islamic-focused" clothes by The National. While some admired the designs and fresh look and said they would consider wearing them abroad, the consensus was that the abaya was still the outfit of choice. Zainab al Ameeri, 21, a Sharjah resident who is visiting her sister in the capital, shook her head as she scrutinised the images. "I don't see it. It doesn't look like clothes for Muslim girls."

She said the abaya was a conservative Islamic dress that distinguished Muslim girls from others. "I know that there are girls who don't have abaya in their culture, but the clothes have to be wide, and unrevealing of a woman's figure." While she thought that the designs were striking, she said if the fashion line was introduced in the UAE, "people won't care if it was designed for Muslim girls or not".

Alyazi al Mazroui, 24, a nutrition student at Zayed University, said: "It's like any other clothes found in the stores here." Wearing a stylish, decorated abaya, Ms al Mazroui had nothing to say about the long sleeves, but she was concerned about the upper part of the shirts and the hoods. "There has to be no presentation of the body. But the shirts show the figure a little, and the hood doesn't do much to cover the head."

While the shirts had a near acceptable length near the knees, the length of the trousers was the first thing Zainah Salem, a 23-year-old engineering student at United Arab Emirates University, noticed. "The pants are short." If they were long, and wide, it wouldn't be a problem, she said - and would consider wearing them abroad. Fatima al Seraidy, a 13-year-old student from Masafi, Fujairah, said she saw nothing Islamic about the garments, while her sister, Moza al Seraidy, 28, liked the designs on the shirts, but commented on how tight they were.

"Even when I go abroad, I would wear a wide shirt, like the abaya, that would reach just beneath the knees, and pants. And, of course, the headscarf," she said. The idea that the clothes might be worn without the abaya was inconceivable to the women. "No way would women leave the abayas," Ms al Seraidy said. Um Saleh, a 60-year-old Emirati, and Abu Dhabi resident, concurred. "For Arab girls, it's hard for them to leave the abaya. She would have a bad reputation," she said.

Mostly, it was because the community had conflicting ideas about what they saw as religiously appropriate. She said: "Some people think that decorations on the abaya are religiously unacceptable, can you imagine?" She added that young Muslim women and girls should encourage modesty among each other. Her daughter, Um Mohammed, 23, also believed that abandoning the abaya would detract from the individuality of Muslim girls.

"I don't think it would work in Arab countries. Abayas, or clothes that don't show the figure, are the one thing that distinguishes us from other places," she said. * The National