A grassroots modesty campaign started by a group of Qatari women this summer has received the backing of the Qatar Tourism Authority, with the goal of helping visitors and expat residents “avoid embarrassment” and “feel welcome” here, the group has announced.
The “One of Us” drive, which was launched in June, highlights the part of the Qatari penal code that prohibits wearing “indecent” clothing in public, but adds to it by clarifying what exactly is deemed inappropriate – namely, bare shoulders and legs.
QTA will ensure that the dress code campaign guidelines will be displayed on posters in shopping malls and public spaces. They will also be posted on the QTA website and in future guides and brochures that the group publishes.
In June, campaign organizer Najla Al-Mahmoud told Doha News:
I don’t blame foreigners as they come from a different culture and they don’t know that it’s not acceptable… that’s why a group of ladies from different group of age gathered and decided to do something for Qatar…
We don’t want to interfere with anyone’s religion and force them to wear hijab … we only want modest clothing. It’s a matter of etiquette and class. We want to be able to go to public places without a lot of flesh around us.
Despite organizers’ efforts not to raise hackles, the campaign sparked a fierce debate on social media and Doha News about local/expat relations and the definition of decency.
Commenter J wrote:
This is a tricky issue for ex-pat women here as being “modest” is relative. And there are lots of mixed messages. You may see a young Muslim woman wearing a Shayla, a long, loose skirt, and the tightest long-sleeve shirt you’ve ever seen, leaving little to the imagination. And men wear tight t-shirts, tight skinny jeans, and shirts with the first three buttons open showing their chest. I think this campaign should not be aimed at everyone, not just at ex-pat women.
Others said they supported the campaign and expressed appreciation for having concrete guidelines to follow.
Meanwhile, Qatar University rolled out its own dress code in September, to mixed reaction from the student body, who are now prohibited from wearing tight, revealing clothing (including tight abayas) and casual wear like sweatpants and Bermuda shorts.
Credit: Image courtesy of One of Us on Twitter