K: Khimar: Kind and Kooky Knitted Clothing Traditions

There was a time in my life when I was ignorant: I thought that all head scarves were equal. I was wrong.

In fact, there are many different styles.

I am by no means an expert on Islamic headscarves ; however, and for this very reason, I’ve been reading on the subject. I come from a very Christian famille, so, most of my knowledge on religion spawns from my childhood churchgoing days; however, at université, I took a classe called World Religions. It covered various religions throughout the globe; I found it very interesting and thus did very well in the classe. But, one classe does not make me an expert. However, I would like to take this post to explore headscarves.

In France, headscarves and other religious paraphernalia are forbidden in government places such as écoles publiques. As you can imagine, this has caused quite a bit of controverse.

One thing to note is that they are not forbidden on the street (except for the burkha and the niqab because they completely cover the face).

Another thing to note is that while people should have the freedom to express their religion in the form of religious symbols and whatnot, people should respect the laws of the country where they live/they immigrate to. As I mentioned here, France practices laïcité. At the bas, France’s laïcité law has some good behind it: It creates an atmosphere where only You, as an individual free from religion, matter. That is to say that everyone is considered to be exactly the same, so, judging a person based on his/her religious beliefs is not an option. This can be a good thing in that it eliminates religious discrimination; however, if you identify with a particulier religious belief, then you probably think that laïcité is one big contradiction. For exemple, how can the focus be on you if you can’t fully express yourself? This is where the headscarf debate enters the argument.

This is also when ignorance enters. To understand why headscarves have entered into Islamic société, we must dive into the past. As with many cultures, nudité was the norm (see: The Myth of the ‘Islamic’ Headscarf by Omar Hussein Ibrahim for more reading). Just like Adam and Eve eventually found a way need to ‘cover up’, the Arab population found this need as well. Abdullah Rahim explains it the best: It was the Prophet who decided that this was derogatory: “people reveal[ed] their private parts unintentionally during prostration in the prayers.” When you wear a tiny clothe, something’s bound to peep through as you bend during prayers. Thus, the population became more conscious about covering up.

Wearing the Khimar did not begin as a religious act. In fact, the scripture is strict when it comes to explaining how people must dress – it’s goal: To be as clear as possible in order to change an entire nation who accepted nudité as a norm. There is nothing in the verse of the Surat An Nur that states that women must cover their heads, only that women must cover their breasts. So, how does the Khimar as a headscarf fit into this history? Well, according to Rahim, “Khimar was the most obvious clothe to use” to cover up the bosom.

In société contemporaine, one wonders: If headscarves are not listed in the Qur’an as mandatory, then why do so many Muslim women abide by them? Well, there is a simple answer: Headscarves are a partie of Islam culture. They have become a knitted clothing tradition. According to Caitlin Killian in The Other Side of the Veil: North African Women in France Respond to the Headscarf Affair, headscarves are “a vehicle for distinguishing between women and men and a means of controlling male sexual desire.”

Similar to the ever popular ‘little black dress’ of Western société, headscarves have become a huge partie of société: Today, we can see headscarves advertised in magazines and in clothing shops; and made from expensive matières and embedded in jewels.

In fact, many Islamic fashion magazines, such as Âlâ, are no different than the Western société fashion magazines, such as Vogue. There’s no (or very little) mention of religion, instead there’s a focus on the latest kind, kooky, and belle headscarf styles and on importante/popular muslim women.

As I previously mentioned, I don’t pretend to be an expert on Muslim veils; however, I find the sujet intéressantspécialement, living in a country that practices laïcité, yet has an ever growing Muslim population. La vie est surement animé ! ♦


This is part of a blogging challenge: Topics ranging from A-Z. You can follow my challenge by clicking on the links below:

A: Adulthood: The Age of Absolute Ambiguïté 

B: Bilingue: La Vie is Better Being Bilingual

C: Christianisme: Combing the Cliffs of Clarté

D: Death: Dealing with the Décès of My Dad

E: Éducation: The Endeavor of Easing into French Écoles

F: Food: Fancy or Faulty in France?

G: Going: Going Going Gone!

H: Home: My Heart Has Two Harbors

I: Interests: Intelligent, Insightful, Incredible!

J: Joy: La Jalousie is Overcome by La Joie

K: Khimar: Kind and Kooky Knitted Clothing Traditions

L: Lesson Plans: Leading the “Little Ones” into Language through Laughable Leçons

M: Musique: The Many Musicians Making Love on the Streets of Aix

N: Naughty or Nice?: Not Only Noticing the Différences, But Also the Similarités Between France and the U.S.

O: Obéi: Only Open to Obeying the Rules of the Road in…

P: PACS: Passionate Partners Pledging L’amour

Q: Questions: A Queen’s Quest for Clarté

R: Raisons: Riding on the Pony of Real Reasons (to Take the A-Z Challenge)

S: Study Abroad: Smiles and Sadness Set the Scène

T: Travel: Time to Hit the Trail!

U: Under the Influence: An Ugly Upward Climb Until Reaching the Summit

V: Vulgarité: Venturing out into the Vast and Voluptuous World of Cultural Différences

W: Walking: The Wise and Watchful Médiéval Wanderer

X: Xenial: A Xenodochial but not Xenophobic Host in France

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C: Christianisme: Combing the Cliffs of Clarté

Basilique de Notre Dame de la Garde, aka La Bonne Mère (Marseille).

Don’t be distrait by all of the cathédrales, basiliques, and churches in France because, these days, the French aren’t really that religieux.

Laïcité = the séparation between church and state.

I grew up in the ways of a typical Américaine stéréotypé: Every Sunday churchgoer. Eventhough the number of churchgoers in the U.S. is nowhere near as small as that in France, nowadays, the réalité of this stéréotype is on the decline. When mon chéri and I were stateside in Juin, we attended two church services with ma mère; I couldn’t believe how small the congrégation had become.

As an Américaine who grew up going to church every Sunday, I was thrown off guard upon my first arrivée in the south of France. France: A country where the cathédrales go centuries back.

A portion of what was once a beautiful work of art still existe inside Cathédrale Saint-Sauveur (Aix-en-Provence).

I was never really adamant about attending weekly church services (it was really my parents who were adamant); however, that never changed my beliefs. As a result, moving to France didn’t change much for me, either, because I could still prie and worship in my own way…And, I have a great appréciation for centuries-old architecture.

Eglise de Saint Jean de Malte (Aix-en-Provence).

At the same time, I found myself combing the edges of Montagne Sainte-Victoire – seeking clarté religieux.

At the summit of Montagne Sainte-Victoire.

I wanted to know why France was loosing its aspect religieux. In 2012, I took a course on éducation in France. Over the course of several leçons, we compared éducation in France to éducation in various countries around the world. What we discovered was incroyable: France has a very stricte policy on laïcité, the séparation of church and state. It is for this very raison (this is not the only raison) that Christianisme, in général, is on the decline. Once you entre a public place (school, courtroom, townhall, etc…), according to law, you must leave your religious values and beliefs at the door. For exemple, in 2012, there was a huge debate: The Headscarf Debate. In short, this debate stemmed from the fact that hijabs and other voiles (in addition to crosses, turbans, pendants…) for religious purposes are not allowed in écoles publiques, or public schools. On the one hand, this promotes égalité among everyone. The religious judging and discrimination that appears between U.S. primary and secondary students in U.S. écoles publiques is almost non-existent in French schools (obviously, it existe at some level). On the other hand, it tells you that you can’t be “you” when you entre school. So, it plays on an individual’s identité and value.

The debate didn’t end end in 2012, in fact, it heightened in 2013, when one mother, Youssra, wanted to be a parent-helper on a school field-trip. Ultimately, she could only join the students on the trip if she left her religious paraphernalia (in this case, the hijab) at home. While the hijab might have nothing to do with the decline of Christianisme, through this story, we can see why Christianisme is on the decline: If religious paraphernalia such as head scarves, turbans, crosses, and pendants are not allowed in écoles publiques, then what’s really the point of identifying with a certain religious belief? I can see how, over time, this laïcité affects an individual’s beliefs. Think abou it: For X amount of hours everyday of every week, you’re not identifying with X religion. After time, you’re bound to seek identification through other outlets (think of Freud, Erikson, and Piaget, for exemple, there comes a point when we “need” that identification-with-others aspect in our lives)…And, it may be possible that these other outlets takeover what was once the religious one.

One important thing to note: After working a year in the French public school system (at the primaire level), I have seen that all of the students know each other’s backgrounds, including religious beliefs, despite this leave-your-religion-at-the-door business. Also, this “Head Scarf Debate” continues even today in 2015.

Even though religion is to be kept out of the gouvernement/public sectors, the French still keep the religious fériés, or gouvernement holidays, alive. This concept can be confusing to the expat: You can’t flash your religion in public, but you can participate in religious fériés…Say, what? But, let’s face it: The French love their fériés…And who can blame them? I love them, too (getting paid for a well-deserved (I bust my butt daily for my students) day off is something I can’t disagree with).

The last time I was inside a church in France, about 80% of the congrégation were touristes. Maybe I went at the wrong time? I don’t think so, though.

More than 50% of the French population have never stepped foot inside a church (to participate in a religious service).

According to the Europe Commission’s Biotechnology Report, in 2010, 44% of France’s population considered themselves Christian. In 2007, the pourcentage was at 54%. In fact, in 2007, Le Monde des Religions noticed this decline when it conducted a survey that showed: France was “no longer Catholique,” as the pourcentage of Catholiques declined from 81% to 51%. Three years after this survey, the Europe Commission’s report proved that Le Monde des Religions was correcte.

It’s now 2015, and Christianisme in France has only further declined. But, what does this mean for expats? Well, ça dépend, or that depends, on your religious beliefs and/or on how much you appreciate centuries-old architecture.

A beautiful stained glass window at Cathédrale Saint Gatien (Tours).

For now, tourisme has kept most of France’s cathédrales, basiliques, and churches alive, so, if you’re Christian, then you’re sure to find that Sunday service available in most religious établissements.

Chapelle des Oblats (Aix-en-Provence).

Also, there’s still that small pourcentage of Français who attend church. So, for now, there’s nothing for the expat churchgoer, touriste, and/or architecture-appreciator to worry about. ♦


This is part of a blogging challenge: Topics ranging from A-Z. You can follow my challenge by clicking on the links below:

A: Adulthood: The Age of Absolute Ambiguïté 

B: Bilingue: La Vie is Better Being Bilingual

C: Christianisme: Combing the Cliffs of Clarté

D: Death: Dealing with the Décès of My Dad

E: Éducation: The Endeavor of Easing into French Écoles

F: Food: Fancy or Faulty in France?

G: Going: Going Going Gone!

H: Home: My Heart Has Two Harbors

I: Interests: Intelligent, Insightful, Incredible!

J: Joy: La Jalousie is Overcome by La Joie

K: Khimar: Kind and Kooky Knitted Clothing Traditions

L: Lesson Plans: Leading the “Little Ones” into Language through Laughable Leçons

M: Musique: The Many Musicians Making Love on the Streets of Aix

N: Naughty or Nice?: Not Only Noticing the Différences, But Also the Similarités Between France and the U.S.

O: Obéi: Only Open to Obeying the Rules of the Road in…

P: PACS: Passionate Partners Pledging L’amour

Q: Questions: A Queen’s Quest for Clarté

R: Raisons: Riding on the Pony of Real Reasons (to Take the A-Z Challenge)

S: Study Abroad: Smiles and Sadness Set the Scène

T: Travel: Time to Hit the Trail!

U: Under the Influence: An Ugly Upward Climb Until Reaching the Summit

V: Vulgarité: Venturing out into the Vast and Voluptuous World of Cultural Différences

W: Walking: The Wise and Watchful Médiéval Wanderer

X: Xenial: A Xenodochial but not Xenophobic Host in France