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Hijab and modesty: Muslim religious identity expression among Egyptian women in the United States

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This study explored the symbolic meaning of modest dress, generally referred to as hijab, to Egyptian Muslim women living in the United States. In the diaspora, women need to integrate the requirements for religious modesty when shopping for western apparel that is not designed to align with their values of modesty. Face-to-face, in-depth interviews with photo-elicitation were conducted with ten veiled Muslim women to explore the symbolic meaning of hijab and their views on modest clothing as it relates to religiosity. Three themes surfaced as the participants discussed their experiences: (1) intrinsic and extrinsic values of hijab ‐ adapting to US norms, (2) the accessibility and attributes of modest clothing and (3) defining modest hijab based on religiosity ‐ three types. The findings of this study may help non-Muslims understand the symbolic message of hijab and the different types of modest clothing related to religiosity.
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Keywords: Muslim women; hijab; identity; modesty; religion; veiling

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 0000000121576568Washington State University

Publication date: June 1, 2019

More about this publication?
  • We all wear clothes. We are all therefore invested at some level in the production and consumption of clothing. This journal intends to embrace issues and themes that are both universal and personal, addressing [and dressing] us all. Increasingly, as we all become accomplished semioticians, clothing becomes the key signifier in determining social interaction and behaviour, and sartorial norms dictate socio-cultural appropriateness. Following the rise of fashion theory, on an everyday level, we all understand that our clothes 'say' something about us, about our times, nation, system of values. Yet clothing is not fashion; clothing is a term derivative from 'cloth', to cover the body, whereas fashion alludes to the glamorous, the ephemeral and the avant garde. We wear clothes, but imagine fashion-an unattainable ideal.
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