Recently, details of the Qatari ‘Reflect your Respect’ campaign emerged, calling for women and men to dress appropriately and modestly during their visit to the Middle Eastern nation.
Recently, details of the Qatari ‘Reflect your Respect’ campaign emerged, calling for women and men to dress appropriately and modestly during their visit to the Middle Eastern nation.These guidelines include ‘dressing from shoulders to knees’ and remembering that ‘leggings are not pants’: rules which, to Western visitors new to the scorching Qatari climate, probably seem absurd.
However, it raised a hugely contentious debate: should people respect the country that they’re visiting by dressing appropriately, or do tourists have the right to dress according to their own preferences?
Of course, the reactionary discourse threw about words like ‘oppression!’, ‘misogyny!’, and plenty more discussion focused around concerns about gender equality. Indeed, it is certainly true that Islamic nations are not exactly well-known for treating women well, particularly in more conservative countries such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
However, in this case, it’s important to remember that this campaign was actually set up by a group of women seeking the preservation of their cultural values and traditions, not hard line, sexist men trying to oppress any woman they can. In fact, the underlying motivation here is not gender specific at all—there are rules which apply to men, too, such as not wearing sleeveless vest tops.
An alarming number of people dived straight into the discussion with the ‘but Muslims wear whatever they want in our country!’ line, obviously forgetting that the United Kingdom is a multicultural society.
Our culture is inherently multi-cultured, far from the ‘Christian nation’ some (mostly UKIP-supporting Daily Mail commenters) think it is, and part of that is being able to express yourself in whatever way you please.
Our nation is basically built on the fact we were once an empire, and with that, along with additional immigration, comes the amalgamation of many different cultures to make up what many would consider to be the ‘British’ identity.
In Muslim countries it’s just not the same: basically everyone is Muslim, and to disrespect their culture is to disrespect the people there personally. Why would anyone go to a country and purposely behave in a way that’s considered unacceptable across the board? Exactly. You just wouldn’t.
So, of course we should respect their dress standards, as we should in any country we choose to visit. It’s really not much to ask, and to be honest, in 50-odd degree heat, a cool, floaty maxi dress is probably preferable to letting your skin fry in shorts and a vest top anyway. And ladies, would you not rather be able to eat loads of delicious Middle Eastern food without having to worry about looking good in a cropped top later on? In any case, the best part of visiting new places is that you have the opportunity to immerse yourself in the culture.
Really, it’s simple: if you want to be respected, then be respectful, and if you feel that strongly about wearing whatever you want, wherever you want, perhaps just don’t go to the Middle East. Or at least stick to Sharm el Sheikh.
What do you think? Have your say in the comments section below.