Is it Dangerous to Wear Arabic Traditional Clothes in the US?

Last Updated on August 30, 2023 by Chase Reiner

Wearing Arabic traditional clothes in the US is generally safe. The US values cultural diversity and freedom of expression. While isolated incidents can occur, there’s no widespread danger. The country promotes inclusivity and understanding among different cultures and backgrounds.

Is it Dangerous to Wear Arabic Traditional Clothes in the US?

When discussing the intersectionality of cultural expression and personal safety, it is vital to examine the potential threats that individuals wearing traditional clothing may face in various countries. As such, a significant question to ponder is; Is it dangerous to wear Arabic traditional clothes in the US? 

1. Perception and Stereotyping

One of the pressing concerns associated with wearing Arabic traditional clothes in the US is the issue of perception and stereotyping. Owing to the widespread lack of understanding about the rich diversity of Arabic cultures, individuals who wear such attire may face discriminatory attitudes and actions borne out of ignorance or prejudice.

2. Increased Visibility

Wearing Arabic traditional clothes, such as the Thobe or Abaya, significantly increases an individual’s visibility. Such visible markers of cultural identity may unfortunately make one a potential target for ethnocentric or xenophobic behavior.

3. Instances of Hate Crime

According to the FBI’s 2019 hate crime statistics, there is a noticeable number of hate crimes perpetrated against individuals affiliated with or perceived to be of Middle Eastern descent. This, tragically, extends to individuals wearing traditional Arabic clothing, signaling a potential risk when doing so.

4. Potential Harassment

Increased security measures, especially in airports, combined with racial and cultural profiling, might put individuals wearing Arabic traditional clothing at risk of harassment or unfair treatment. Such situations make it imperative for such individuals to acquaint themselves with their rights under American law.

5. Unequal Treatment

The wearing of Arabic traditional clothes in a multicultural society like the US can regrettably lead to unequal treatment in various settings, such as in the job market or housing applications.

6. Public Attitudes

A survey conducted by the Pew Research Center indicates that anti-Muslim sentiment within the US is comparatively high. This may render the wearing of Arabic traditional clothes potentially precarious, due to the incorrect conflation of Arabic culture and Islamic religious identity.

While these points present potential risks, it should be stressed that the experience is not universally negative. Many Arab Americans proudly wear their traditional clothes and experience warmth and curiosity rather than hostility. Moreover, the US laws and constitution provide robust protection for individuals to express their cultural identity freely. However, it is essential to remain aware of potential challenges while working towards promoting cultural understanding and acceptance.

Cultural Aspects and Tips for Wearing Traditional Arab Clothes in the USA

When wearing traditional Arab clothes in the USA, consider these cultural aspects and tips for a respectful and comfortable experience:

  1. Cultural Appreciation: Embrace the opportunity to showcase Arab culture and heritage. Traditional clothing reflects values, history, and aesthetics that are important to many Arab communities.
  2. Freedom of Choice: Remember that wearing traditional Arab clothes is a personal choice. The US respects individual freedom of expression, allowing you to dress in a way that aligns with your cultural identity.
  3. Awareness of Stereotypes: Be prepared for potential questions or curious glances. Educate others about the significance of your attire, helping dispel stereotypes and fostering cultural understanding.
  4. Modesty Considerations: Arab traditional clothing often emphasizes modesty. Ensure your attire aligns with your personal comfort level while adhering to local norms and expectations.
  5. Local Context: Adapt your clothing choice based on the occasion and setting. While you can wear traditional clothes in many places, consider the appropriateness for formal events, work environments, or casual outings.
  6. Respectful Attire: Choose clothing that respects both Arab traditions and local customs. Avoid overly flashy or extravagant designs that might draw unwanted attention.
  7. Inclusivity: The US celebrates diversity. Use your clothing as an opportunity to engage in conversations about Arab culture, helping to break down cultural barriers and foster connections.
  8. Educational Exchange: Share the significance of your traditional clothing when appropriate. Discussing cultural meanings, fabrics, and styles can create meaningful conversations.
  9. Confidence: Wear your traditional Arab clothes with confidence. Confidence not only reflects your personal pride but also encourages others to appreciate cultural diversity.
  10. Learn Basic Phrases: Familiarize yourself with a few Arabic phrases. This can be a great icebreaker and show your effort to connect with others on a cultural level.

What Are Some of the Arabic Traditional Clothes?

What Are Some of the Arabic Traditional Clothes

 The Arabic traditional clothes are attire interpreted as adhering to Islamic beliefs. Muslims dress in various styles influenced by practical, cultural, social, and political reasons and religious considerations. 

Some Muslims have adopted Western-style clothing in modern times, while others wear modernized versions of traditional Muslim attire, including long-flowing garments. According to Islamic traditions, sexually active body parts must be covered from public view. 

Traditional Muslim men’s clothing typically covers the head and the area between the waist and the knees.

In contrast, traditional Muslim women’s clothing covers the hair and the entire body from the ankles to the neck. Some Muslim women also wear facial coverings. The Quran and Sunnah are two scriptural texts that influence Islamic attire. 

The Quran contains guiding principles attributed to God, whereas the hadith describes a human role model based on the traditions of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. Islamic fashion is a subset of the fashion business influenced by Islamic values. Some of the traditional Arabic clothes for women include:

  • Abaya: A conservative woman can dress in an “Abayah,” a long black garment covering the body from the shoulders to the feet.
  • Thawb: A traditional Arabian dress worn under the abaya.
  • Hejab: A scarf-like cloth cover used to cover the hair only and not the face.
  • Burqa: Also known as a niqab, it’s a type of veil used to conceal someone’s face.

Men, too, dress differently depending on their country and whether they live in a rural or urban region. They may wear Western-style clothing or traditional clothing. Some of the traditional Arabic clothes for men include:

  • Thobe: This is a robe-like garment that is ankle-length and has long sleeves. Men in the Arabian Peninsula and also some neighboring nations commonly wear it. Cotton is commonly used, but heavier materials like sheep’s wool can also be utilized, especially in colder climates. It differs wildly across the Gulf’s various regions. (To make the shirt look more formal, tighten the sleeves and collar).
  • Kaffiyeh: The Kaffiyer is an Arab men’s traditional headdress composed of a square of cloth (or scarf) folded and wrapped in various fashions around the head, mainly cotton (but also a mix of cotton and wool for winter). 

It’s often used in desert climates to protect the mouth and eyes from blown dust and sand and direct sun exposure. 

There are regional variances. The kaffiyeh is secured by a rope circle known as an igal. Under the kaffiyeh, a skullcap is sometimes worn. 

The kaffiyeh is generally made of white cotton cloth, but several versions have a checkered pattern embroidered onto them in red or black.

  • Igal: The Igal is a cord-based device attached around the kaffiyeh to keep it in place. A black cord is frequently tightly wound around a core of goat wool or bunched fabric.

What Are the Dangers of Wearing Arabic Traditional Clothes in the US?

What Are the Dangers of Wearing Arabic Traditional Clothes in the US

Muslim women are a rapidly growing segment of the population in the United States, reflecting the diversity of the country’s racial, ethnic, and multicultural heritage. They include U.S.-born Muslims of various ethnicities, immigrants from various countries and regions, and converts from various backgrounds. 

Many Muslim women, but far from all, wear traditional Arabic clothes regarding their religious beliefs. Due to their dressing, some of them face various dangers such as:

Likely to Be Branded a Terrorist

Since 9/11, unfavorable media coverage of Muslim communities has exacerbated the demonization of Muslims, as have government counter-terrorism strategies in many Western countries. 

This has led to Muslim subjection to undue scrutiny at airport security. Following terrorist acts such as the 7/7 London bombings, some hijab wearers decided to quit wearing the veil to avoid encountering bigotry.

Facing Infringement of Their Rights

Muslim women are barred from wearing their traditional headscarves in several cases. Because they wear hijab, they have been harassed, sacked from employment for refusing to remove their hijab, denied entrance to public venues, and otherwise discriminated against. 

Muslim women who wear hijab are especially vulnerable to discrimination because of their prominence and have become increasingly targets of harassment in the aftermath of September 11th. 

Students have also been denied the right to wear hijab to school and the ability to take part in extracurricular activities like musical concerts and sporting events. 

Muslim women have been denied driver’s licenses and other civic activities unless they uncover their head coverings for the photograph. Women attempting to obtain passports and NSA photos have had the same experience.

How Can We Protect Those Who Wear Arabic Traditional Clothes in the US?

The United States Constitution’s First and Fourteenth Amendments prevent federal and state governments from enacting laws or policies prohibiting women from wearing hijab. Federal and state officials and private actors are prohibited from discriminating against women who wear hijab under the 14th Amendment and other federal civil rights laws. 

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) adds to this protection by prohibiting the federal government and its officials from restricting women’s ability to wear hijab. Either expressly or through generally applicable rules unless they can show that their action was the “least restrictive means” for achieving a “compelling governmental interest.”  

RFRA does not extend to state governments, but many states have passed their own “mini-RFRAs” or construed their state constitutions to grant similar enhanced rights. 

Protection at Places of Work

Civil Rights Act of 1964 Title VII prohibits an employer from refusing to hire, or firing, because of religious practices such as wearing traditional clothing such as the hijab or abaya. However, there is an exception if the employer can demonstrate that it made a “reasonable accommodation” or could not make such accommodation without causing “undue hardship.”

 The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission categorically prohibits the refusal to hire someone because you are concerned that customers or coworkers will be “uncomfortable” with the hijab. 

Many states and municipalities have extra legislation protecting employees from discrimination, threats, and harassment because they wear traditional Arabic clothes. Recently, the Supreme Court approved the rights of job candidates who seek religious accommodations, deciding in favor of an applicant who wore a hijab, which violated Abercrombie & Fitch’s “Look Policy.”

All Americans, including Muslim women, have the right to exercise their religion. They equally have the right to equal treatment. They are free from discrimination or harassment based on their religion, gender, or perceptions of their country or ethnicity just by wearing traditional Arabic clothing. 

Simply passing laws in the US to protect all people who choose to put on traditional Arabic clothing has decreased the danger they face since their rights as citizens of the country must be upheld at all times.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *