Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Presented at “Textiles and Settlement: From Plains Space to Cyber Space,” Textile Society of America 12th Biennial Symposium, Lincoln, Nebraska, October 6-9, 2010. Copyright 2010 Textile Society of America.


A growing body of literature points to the Internet as a place where Muslims are re-imagining themselves as part of a global, interconnected, religious culture—a new virtual umma. Along with issues such as politics, Islamic law, the interpretation of text, and procedures for rituals, hijab (modest dress) is a frequent topic of conversation. Compared to the physical world, where debates are heavily framed by time, place, and the habits of daily life, on the World Wide Web ideas and products flow much more easily. A new convert in Canada, for example, could use the Internet to read translated passages from the Qur’an about hijab, buy a scarf from a company based in the UK, and then watch a video on YouTube demonstrating how to wear a Turkish-style head covering—all without going outside of the home, where local culture is bound to re-exert its influence over her dress. This paper explores the range of textiles and head coverings that have become part of Islamic fashion over the last two decades, while considering the technological and cultural changes that have made this kind of global fashion system possible.