Hundreds of women, most wearing chadors or other forms of conservative dress, browsed an array of outfits, many of which appeared strikingly uniform in their dark colouring and full length. But representatives from the Tehran-based Superior Hijab Production Company modelled a blue chador that departed from tradition by coming with sleeves – solving an age-old practical problem.
The sales pitch was reinforced by a fringe exhibition of quotes extolling the virtue of Islamic hijab. One, from the prophet Muhammad, read: “Any woman with faith in Allah and the resurrection day won’t expose her adornments to any man except her husband. Any woman who does these things for other than her husband has betrayed her faith and provoked God’s anger.”
The exhibition was a response to recent trends among many young Iranian women towards short, tight-fitting manteaus and headscarves pushed back to expose elaborate hair styles. Earlier this year Tehran city council ordered a police crackdown against women whose dress was deemed insufficiently Islamic.
Hamid Reza Moniri, the exhibition’s executive secretary, said it had been organised to help stem a cultural invasion from the west. “We believe that dressing in recent years has been influenced and damaged by non-Iranian fashions,” he said. “Some international designers and television news channels have invaded our culture and influenced the morality of our youth and our nation. If you look at western countries, you never see statues of the Virgin Mary depicting her half-naked, but that is now the case with western dress. We don’t want to end up like westerners.”
Rafighe Musapour, 65, dressed in a traditional black chador, welcomed the exhibition. “It’s a good idea to persuade younger women to dress in a more Islamic fashion. We are Muslims and we should try to dress more appropriately,” she said.
But some young women were less impressed. “The designs here are not appropriate for the youth or people of my age,” said Shakoofeh, 19, a student. “I came along out of curiosity to see what the authorities think we should wear. I would not wear hijab at all if it wasn’t the law.”
Robert Tait in Tehran
Friday July 14 2006, The Guardian