Constraints of Culture

In the Name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful…

We have moved on in our course to studying the portrayals of women artists in popular music throughout the last few decades, and I’d like to talk about something mentioned from my previous post and a few points related to a recent course post.

In my last blog entry, I wrote about the injunctions in the Qur’an for men and women alike to display modesty in not only their dress but their behavior. Speaking from a male perspective, I wanted to mention why it’s important for women to dress modestly.

muslimah dress Suits

According to deep scientific research, recent statistics, predominant biological makeup, and the last umpteen millennia, men find women attractive.  And to a real man, any and every part of a woman is attractive – hands, feet, arms, legs, neck, anything – including her hair. This is why Muslim women cover their hair when they are in public (just on the side: concerning male company, the hijab doesn’t need to be worn in front of the her husband, brother, son, father, uncle, nephew, or grandfather – family, basically).

There was a story on Yahoo! not too long ago about Rihanna seductively posing for pictures at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Complex in Abu Dhabi and getting kicked out for it (full story here) – this is one of the shots:


After reading the story I had a few thoughts: due to the obligations and requirements of her pop-culture profession (not to mention how ingrained they must be in her), she might not even have known she was violating the sanctity of the mosque by posing as she did and just thought it would be cool to do a photo shoot (I like to think that she didn’t or wouldn’t intentionally set out to be disrespectful); and also, it shows the stark difference between acceptable behavior/fashion norms in present American culture and other cultures.

Here in present-day America, it’s acceptable for women to wear short skirts and high heels to church on Sundays where that isn’t even regular daily attire for women of other cultures. I’ve seen it myself; women dressing provocatively in a building that is supposed to be a House of God, with a mixed gathering of men and women, and during a time when focus, attention, devotion, and worship are supposed to be at their highest of the week for God alone. This is very different from the perspective of the folks maintaining the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque that Rihanna visited, but it might not be her fault – we should give her the benefit of the doubt.


3 thoughts on “Constraints of Culture

  1. I know religion has always been a hot topic among people but I wonder what would’ve happened if she did this shoot years ago? Do you think people would have been paying as much attention? Like you said, she might’ve thought it was a cool idea and wasn’t trying to hurt or offend someone. I feel more people today are just more easily offended by things than before.

  2. The thing is, is she being provocative in these photos? She was completely covered, which sure, could be seen as simple as a “destination” fashion choice, but surely respectful of the surrounding community? Everyone poses for a picture, but this is Rihanna we are talking about. I understand the sensitivity here, but I think this is another example of the media riling up the public and not the other way around.

  3. You, my friend, have provided a reason for me to sign into my wordpress acount after about three years, by which time I had forgotten about my own blog.
    I love this post! It reminded me of how easy it is for me to judge. I remember seeing this news story, and I did not even think of giving her giving any benefit of the doubt… I think.

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