Muslims, Secular Middle Easterners Battle Over Veils and Miniskirts

Editor’s Note: This story first appeared in the BBC. We reprint in part here. 

Two opposing campaigns arguing about what women should wear are gripping the Arab world.

What makes a man? According to the people behind a campaign which apparently started in Algeria this week, “real men” take charge of what the women in their family wear – and they make sure females are covered up in public. The Facebook page “Be a man and don’t let your women out in revealing clothes” has attracted thousands of likes. On the page, men are sharing verses from the Quran and posting photos of their family members wearing conservative clothes. They argue that the Islamic hijab and other modest attire protects women from unwanted attention.

A few of the posts compare women to objects. Under a picture of two lollipops – one wrapped and pristine, the other unwrapped and covered in ants, a caption reads: “You can’t stop them but you can protect yourself.” Another image compares a woman who reveals “too much” of her body to a peeled banana.

But the campaign stirred a strong reaction from secular activists in neighbouring Tunisia, a country known for its more progressive views on women’s rights compared to others in the region. Tunisian campaigner Rachid ben Othman led the online offensive by calling for an “international day of the mini skirt” in a show of solidarity with Algerian women. “We must fight the pro-Islamists taking over,” Othman wrote on the event’s Facebook page.

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