A Letter: Hijab Is The Modest Muslim Clothing Style

Islamic texts teach that if someone addresses you with something good, you reply with something even better. Any American Muslim woman will know and understand such a compliment as a nice gesture and courtesy, because they were born or raised in our culture."

Dear Answer Man, I would like to challenge the international wisdom of the all-knowing Answer Man. There are many people in our fair city who wear hijabs or other items. Many of these items are very beautiful, especially the ones worn by children. My question is, is it appropriate to compliment the wearer on the beauty of the item or would it be considered an insult? -- Another Dumb Norwegian

I happen to be an expert in hijab etiquette, but I turned to a friend, Rashed Ferdous of Rochester, for these suggestions:

"Traditionally, hijab is the head covering that Muslim women wear," Rashed says. "More generally, hijab is the modest Muslim clothing style. However, hijab is not only worn by Muslim women, and neither is it something new that Islam introduced. The concept of hijab or modest dress goes back to many earlier prophets of Judaism and Christianity. We often see the image of Mary on churches wearing a similar headscarf." The hijab is "to give women the respect they deserve. The core idea is a person should be judged by his or her intellect and not outward appearance."

It's "perfectly acceptable from an Islamic perspective" to compliment someone on the beauty of her hijab. "Islamic texts teach that if someone addresses you with something good, you reply with something even better," he said. "Any American Muslim woman will know and understand such a compliment as a nice gesture and courtesy, because they were born or raised in our culture."

Rashed notes that, of course, Muslims in Rochester come from all over the world, and some cultures have a different approach to giving or receiving compliments on beauty or dress. In any case, no harm's likely to be done with such a compliment.

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