What do these women have in common: The Virgin Mary, Queen Elizabeth II, Mother Teresa, Malala Yousekzai and Emine Gülbaran
Answer: They have all appeared in public wearing a headscarf!
We believe that the Virgin Mary according to the custom of the time, would have worn a head covering and indeed nearly every image we have of her usually shows her with a white veil or scarf.
Since most of these images appeared many hundred of years after her death, it is likely that artists were imposing a more contemporary image of modesty. We don’t know for sure what Mary, the wife of Joseph wore on her head. Even today, many Orthodox Jewish women wear a scarf or wig on their heads as a sign of respect to God and their men wear a small cap called kippah or yarmulke at prayer and to honour the Divine Presence.
Many of us would remember the custom of women wearing a hat and even gloves to church on Sundays. In some churches women wore a veil or mantilla. In the more conservative parts of Europe and the Middle East, women are expected to dress ‘modestly’ and cover their heads when visiting places of worship.
When Queen Elizabeth is relaxing, she is often photographed wearing a colourful designer scarf, of which she seems to have an extensive collection. On her official visits to Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, she respected the custom of wearing a heavy black veil, but held in place by a diamond tiara, as queens do!
When visiting the Middle East recently, the Queen wore a long modest gold coat and a fine scarf to cover her head, though not the black abaya (coat and head scarf) required of other women in Islamic countries such as Saudi Arabia.
During the many years she lived in Calcutta, India, Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu, commonly known as Mother Teresa, adopted an Indian-style white sari, with a blue edged shawl or head covering.
A white sari in India is traditionally the dress of Hindu widows but the Missionaries of Charity, all 4500 of them, wear this as their religious dress. In times past, prior to the reforms of Vatican II (1962-65), Roman Catholic nuns wore a religious habit, usually a long dress in a plain colour together with a wimple that covered their hair with a veil over it. The religious dress adopted by the Missionaries of Charity reflects a more conservative tradition: however, in the Indian context it makes an important religious statement.
Another famous young woman who wears traditional dress in public is Malala Yousefzai, who has recently won the Noble Peace Prize for her campaign for the educational rights of girls, not only in her homeland of Afghanistan but world wide. In her dress, she honours the modest dress required of Muslim women but in her courage and advocacy she speaks strongly for girls and women. Wearing hijab has not limited her!
The appearance in public of the wife of the President Erdoğan of Turkey, wearing a headscarf has been and remains controversial. When Ataturk established modern Turkey as a secular state in 1923, the wearing of a headscarf in public life was banned. Since the 1980 coup, wearing the headscarf in public has now become against the law. This includes teachers, lawyers, journalists, members of Parliament and more recently university students. Ataturk believed that the headscarf or hijab was symbolic of the old ways and therefore not appropriate in a modern country. He also changed the alphabet from Arabic script to Roman script and supported many other modernising changes.
But Emine Gülbaran, wife of the President has chosen to wear a hijab as a symbol of her religious beliefs, despite criticism of her stance.
So for reasons of modesty, comfort, respect of local customs or religious identity these women have chosen to wear a head covering which could be called a veil, a scarf or a hijab (türban in Turkish).
Although these are women of high status or respected religious figures, no one questions their right to wear a head covering… whichever name is used for it.
One of these women was Jewish, two are Christian and two are Muslim. So in the unlikely event of any of them walking down a street in Melbourne or Sydney …which one would be criticised for her dress?
In today’s climate when Islamaphobia is gripping the media, Emine Gülbaran, wife of a Head of State shows great courage, as does her husband who does not interfere with her religious observance. Malala a young woman who has been shot by Taliban terrorists for advocating for girls’ education (which is in fact supported by the Qu’ran) continues to wear her scarf. Having been shot, hate-speak from anyone else is not going to intimidate her!
When the Australian media supports ill-informed opinions from politicians and other public figures about some forms of Islamic dress, it shows we have not understood the reasons why a woman may cover her head in public.
Are we going to ban veiled images of the Virgin Mary or photographs of Queen Elizabeth in a designer scarf?
 Nobel Peace Prize co-winner
Social Justice Group: Alms Baskets
If each one of us bought just one additional item costing us a couple of dollars extra on our grocery bill each week, we would have around 150 items to pass on to the Waverley Benevolent Society and the Dandenong Asylum Seeker Centre every week!
Something that is barely noticeable to us can make an enormous difference to those people who may have been made redundant, are sick and unable to work, or who have arrived here with nothing more than the clothes they stand up in and are not permitted to work.
If you’re not already in the habit (and thank you to everyone who already is!), please pop an extra item in your shopping basket or trolley each week when you do your shopping – and don’t forget to bring it to church each Sunday and put it in the baskets in the narthex or just inside the side entrance.
If you don’t know what to get, here are some suggested items:
- tinned fruit
- tinned fish
- red lentils
- UHT milk
- chick peas
- cooking oil
- tins of meat/vegetables
Make it easy and just bring the same thing each week… and leave it in the car rather than take it into the house after shopping!
Thank you very much for being part of this important mission.
The Social Justice Committee
New ABM Project
This year we have chosen to support the work of the Rev’d Gloria Shipp in the Diocese of Bathurst. Gloria is an indigenous priest working mainly in support of the indigenous communities in the rural areas of the Diocese.
Further details of her work and photos can be found on the Mission Notice Board (by the kitchen servery window) or by clicking here.