Maggie is a whip smart 4 year old girl, living in Los Angeles, California. For the past year, I have the great pleasure of caring for her and her brother, Gabriel, 6. In October of 2014 she asked me why my head was covered in this photograph, below.*
Like, many American kids, she has never been in a mosque, nor is she used to seeing women wearing head coverings or traditional, modest dress in her day to day life - at least not in a way that it stands out to her. Seeing someone she knows well (me), with my head covered, sparked a lot of interest in her. I told her that when women enter a mosque, they have to cover their head. She accepted this explanation for about a half and hour and then she asked me again. "Well, Maggie, when women enter a mosque, it is the rule that they cover their head."
She was like, "Ok...but WHY?"
I encouraged her to pose this question to my friend, Yakup, who is a Turkish tour guide, history buff and knower of a great many things.
Yakup's response is here.
Yakup explains that Muslim women cover their heads inside of mosques because many Muslims believe that this is what is instructed by the Koran. However, the Koran says that women (and men) should dress modestly, as to not distract others from worship. Stating that one should cover "all which is not necessary."
The current "rule" regarding head coverings is perhaps predicated on a (deliberate?) mis-translation of a few specific passages in the Koran. This is a long complicated conversation which I will address in more detail in a future post. If the adults want to get some more details, the first commenter on this thread, MUhammed K., gives a really nice explanation. But for today, we keep it simple.
Now, let's break down a few things in Yakup's response for our younger audience.
People who follow Islam are called Muslims and their holy book is the Koran.
Islam is one of the major religions of the world, like Christianity or Judaism. A 2009 Pew Forum on Religion and and Public Life report, states that there are 1.57 billion Muslims in the world, meaning about 1 in 4 people is a follower of Islam.
I hope this serves as a little primer on Islam for anyone who is not exposed to it. Knowledge is power! Ignorance serves to keep people separate and in fear of the unknown. If this information was new to you, pass it on!
*this picture was taken in the Sultan Ahmed Mosque (or, "Blue Mosque) in October, 2014. Recently, in 2013, the dress code for visiting, non-muslim women was newly enforced to include head covering, whereas before, modest dress and covered shoulders was considered adequate. Below, is one of the signs stating guidelines for entering the Blue Mosque which can be seen outside from the que.