Muslim FFA-ers, thoughts on non-muslims wearing abayas?

Muslim FFA-ers, thoughts on non-muslims wearing abayas?


Short story: I bought an abaya not knowing what it was. Then I did some research, found out the garment is probably an open abaya, and stopped wearing it in public because I’m not muslim and some articles talked about that being cultural appropriation.

Recently I had a conversation with someone that prompted me to ask for advice from muslim ladies, rather than just reading articles. I have read opinions that vary from saying that unless a muslim person asks a non-muslim to wear one, it’s always appropriation, to some other people who feel modest dress is modest dress no matter who you are.

I would like to be respectful– and I would like to dress in a modest and practical way in the summer. If I can wear this garment, I would be very pleased because it is both those things, but if I cannot, any advice about how to make a robe that isn’t an abaya but has the modesty and practicality of one would be much appreciated.

EDIT: Thank you to everyone who commented so far! I wasn’t sure if anyone would be able to take the time to share their thoughts, and many of you have been very helpful and insightful.

For those of you wondering, mine is a bit like [this](https://www.hanaacollection.com/products/hasinah-embroidered-open-abaya), but it’s shorter (mid calf), the embroidery is more grey, and there is none on the sleeves, but a column down the back instead. I still have a lot to think about; as a white-passing person in Canada, there are definitely matters of privilege I need to consider– but it’s very good to know that it is not usually a problem to wear a plain modern version without embroidery.



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Comments ( 14 )
  1. AllSeeingEyebrows
    June 28, 2018 at 1:21 pm
    Reply

    I don’t see why it should be anyone’s business what you respectfully wear. There is a huge difference between dressing like a caricature of another culture and simply wearing something common to another culture.

    Like, I can see an argument made against non-Muslim wearing something like a boshiya, but an open abaya is so much more general than that.

    I understand the cultural appropriation argument, but I disagree with cultural separatism. The abaya is a piece of clothing; it doesn’t belong to Muslim women.

  2. [deleted]
    June 28, 2018 at 1:35 pm
    Reply

    If you aren’t muslim and you don’t actually live in the Middle East where abayas are very common, it seems like a rather extreme way to go about dressing “modestly” for the summer…? What about like a long sleeved maxi or tunic dress? In my opinion, if there’s at all a risk of cultural appropriation, I’d avoid it. Even if you get a few “we don’t minds” on reddit, there’s no guarantee that everyone of that background/religion/heritage etc. wouldn’t find it inappropriate. So why risk it when you have other options?

  3. zikriat
    June 28, 2018 at 1:40 pm
    Reply

    Abaya is an item of clothing from the Gulf that has spread to other regions and cultures and become immensely popular there through Islam – it’s already pretty ubiquitous and culturally diffuse.

    Wearing a very traditional closed style if you aren’t Muslim or from an ethnic background where it’s ‘everyday’ wear might get you some weird looks, but many of the modern ‘open’ styles are not easily distinguishable from any other long light robe tbh. I don’t see much of an issue with it.

  4. AbleIndependence
    June 28, 2018 at 1:49 pm
    Reply

    I live in the Gulf where abayas reign. I am non-Muslim. Abayas are fair game. No one will be offended. I see non Muslim white ladies wearing them all the time.

  5. tyrannosaurusregina
    June 28, 2018 at 2:03 pm
    Reply

    Is it recognizably an abaya (motifs in the embroidery, maybe?) and distinctive from any other maxi-length duster?

    Because non-Muslims wear long dusters. Heck, LulaRoe sells them.

  6. Legenderie
    June 28, 2018 at 3:32 pm
    Reply

    As someone from a somewhat Muslim background, I don’t care. Some Muslims might care I guess. If you live in North America, you might get some unwanted attention (both negative and positive), but if you’re fine with that then you do you.

    If you are looking for inspiration for fashionable but modest summer outfits, try following some Muslim IG influencers. I follow @Shahdbatal, she’s based in LA right now and has amazing style.

  7. lilypadded
    June 28, 2018 at 4:19 pm
    Reply

    I grew up very Muslim and if you enjoy it I think you should wear it.

  8. luv_gud
    June 28, 2018 at 4:22 pm
    Reply

    Tbh I can usually tell if something is an abaya versus just a long maxi duster coat/cardigan. Abayas usually have some motifs on them and they come in a polyesterish fabric. They are also often black.

    Edit: Btw Islam is a religion. As long as you are respectful about it, I don’t see what’s wrong with it. It’s not a culture, it’s a religion. Anyone and everyone is welcome to it.

  9. MsRhuby
    June 28, 2018 at 4:23 pm
    Reply

    I don’t see how it would be cultural appropriation of Muslims, considering the majority of Muslim women around the world don’t wear abayas at all. You could argue it’s appropriating Saudi culture if it wasn’t for the fact that they require non-Muslims to wear abayas in public there as well.

  10. LeNoirDarling
    June 28, 2018 at 5:06 pm
    Reply

    The rule of thumb for cultural appropriation is if the people of origin have been discriminated against for wearing the clothing article. OR if the clothing item has sacred or ritualistic meaning and is being worn without respect to its origins.

    Examples-

    Black people have been discriminated against for wearing dreadlocks / cornrows but white people do not (see Kim Kardashian wearing “Bo Derek” braids)

    Festival goers wearing Native American sacred headdresses without regard to their ceremonial intent

    ————————

    In general an Abaya is almost a generic loose fitting piece of clothing. But let’s not forget that many countries and areas are passing “anti Burka” laws and discrimination against Muslims and their modest dress is common. I would say tread lightly and choose your abaya carefully.

    A lot of cultures are flattered if you wear their traditional dress as an outsider or foreigner. But if POC are discriminated against and you want to wear the same item and you don’t receive any persecution- then I would pause and reevaluate!

    Note : I am not Muslim but I grew up in a Muslim country.

  11. VestalGeostrategy
    June 28, 2018 at 5:43 pm
    Reply

    Would you mind posting a picture of it? I think that would help in deciding. If it’s immediately recognizable as an abaya it might be better to not wear it. If it’s like a modern version its most likely fine.

  12. SkullArrows
    June 28, 2018 at 6:09 pm
    Reply

    Chinese American here, and I love Middle Eastern clothing from afar. Middle Eastern cultures are some of my favorite cultures ever.

  13. farciculus_retroflex
    June 28, 2018 at 6:49 pm
    Reply

    Hello! Warning: things are gonna get a lil nitpicky in this post. I don’t mean to come down on OP or anyone else; I’m just choosing to take this, as a WoC and someone who talks a lot about cultural appropriation, as a minute to clarify some things. Also disclaimer: I’m not Muslim, but I am South Asian and am therefore familiar with South Asian Muslim culture, to an extent.

    First of all OP- it’s great that you’re thinking about cultural appropriation. It’s a step in the right direction that this is a question you asked yourself, and it’s even better that you’re trying to get people’s opinions on how to wear an abaya respectfully.

    That being said, Islam is not a culture. It’s a religion. There are Muslim women all over the world, and while the way they practice Islam (hijab, or the practice of dressing modestly, in particular) may affect the way they dress, it doesn’t necessarily mean that’s their culture. In this sense, a Swedish Muslim woman probably has more in common culturally with a Swedish non-Muslim woman than she would with an Indian Muslim woman.

    This is important because the abaya isn’t strictly a Muslim garment; it’s more a garment worn in the Middle East/Arabian Peninsula/North Africa. Its popularity has spread via Islam to other geographical areas where Islam is practiced because of its adherence to many women’s practice of hijab; however, it’s far from the only way (or even the most traditional way) for Muslim women of a particular culture to dress. [This wikipedia article](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Types_of_hijab) provides a great overview of traditional ways to practice hijab all over the world; it’s easy to see, just from the photos, the amount of diversity in the clothing.

    That being said, I don’t think it was strictly incorrect to address this question to Muslim women- they’d be the most likely to have an appropriate response for you. However, it may have been more precise to address the question to Muslim women with Middle-Eastern, or North African heritage, as the abaya would be both within their religion *and* their culture.

    Hopefully this was an accurate overview; anyone with a more relevant point of view please feel free to add on/correct me!

  14. efffffervesce
    June 28, 2018 at 7:29 pm
    Reply

    If it’s obviously an abaya then yeah I’d think twice. The abuse I’ve had for looking Muslim and wearing hijab in Europe makes me salty when non Muslim women want to wear one bc fashion. If you’re in Saudi Arabia go for it. You wouldn’t get very far if you didn’t wear one or something equally loose and modest.

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