Growing up in a multicultural, non-segregated, multi religious country, I thought hijab was only a choice. Then later on I was convinced hijab was Islamic because I read that Ibn Abbas (the first commentator on the Quran and a companion of the Prophet Muhammed pbuh) wrote it being necessary in his commentary of the Quran. Keep in mind there is no reliable hadith about hijab, so other than the commentary, there was no solid evidence for hijab. Because the Quran really doesn't mention much on how or what women should cover. So later on I was reading the commentary of Ibn Abbas and I found nothing about a woman's dress. Now I don't believe head covering is mandatory for Muslim women. Have a look at the following links: http://www.irfi.org/articles/articles_1_50/is_hijab_compulsory.htm
Here are three videos from Dr. Shabir Ally:
In the Indian subcontinent, hijab among most women is not worn. Which is why so many Pakistani, Indian, and Bengali Muslim women have had their heads uncovered, both historically and today. Also historically in the Indian sub continent, there was no fatwa on women for not covering her head. So you can throw away that excuse by right wing Muslims who say there is an "ijma" (consensus) on women needing to cover their heads.
However, unfortunately, modern day Pakistani men are obsessed with hijab. This is the only thing Muslim men in Pakistan are conservative on. Otherwise they're liberal (you can see how men from Pakistan constantly send white women in the west creepy messages on Facebook and Twitter).
Now the debate is what type of clothing is appropriate. I keep on hearing Muslim women should wear clothes that don't show the shapes of the body. But this is just plain stupid, because whatever a woman wears, her body shapes will ALWAYS be visible. The movements of certain body parts will ALWAYS show, no matter what the clothing is. Women are shaped differently than men (they tend to have more fat in certain areas, and they tend to have wider hips, and so on). I have written extensively before about women needing to be modest in certain areas (not being tight or revealing in areas which cause arousal-butt, breasts, legs, and vagina) here:
Just because a woman is shaped in a certain way, it DOES NOT mean she is "showing off" her body. This is something Muslim communities need to understand. Just because she has a big butt, wide hips, big breasts, none of this means she is less religious. It does NOT mean she is a "whore" (their words, not mine). Tell yourself, when Muslim women are without hijab, they are just appearing as human. They are not "showing off" their beauty, they are just appearing as normal humans.
In the exact same way, the attire of skinny girls might seem tight. But again, it only APPEARS that way BECAUSE she has a skinny figure.
You don't need to wear a hijab, a burka, a niqab, or a jilbaab to prove you are a Muslim. You can wear anything, even western clothes, and STILL be modest (do note what is considered modest varies from culture to culture).
Obviously there are certain types of clothing (yoga pants for example) which are meant to show off certain body parts. There is a difference between wearing these types of clothes which purposely show off body parts and wearing normal regular clothes where your body parts will show. There is a clear distinction between the two, and Muslims, especially Muslim men and judgmental Muslim women, cannot see this.
The body shapes of men also show. Should we wear hijab and burka? I know for a fact, as a male, my body shapes show. I wear very loose and baggy clothing, but I know my body movements will show. But you know what? I don't care. It is stupid for me to pay attention to how others will see me. If women or gay men get turned on by me, so be it. Why should I have to care about how they feel? In the EXACT SAME WAY, women shouldn't care either how their body shapes or movements will appear. It is plain stupid to worry how others will think of you.
The Quran is ambiguous in dress. And the aggressive attitudes many Muslims have, they should stop targeting the women. They should instead target the one who created her that way. Its not the woman's fault for being shaped the way she is. It is not her fault that her body movements will show. Sometimes it may seem Muslim women are wearing tight clothes, but again you have to keep in mind, she could just be shaped that way. So its not necessarily the clothes, but the shape of her body.
Modern day conservative Muslims (a brand new branch of conservatives that just popped out of no where) often say it is because of colonialism that makes us think hijab is not mandatory. Well this makes no sense, since for example the Mughal Empire, you can look at all the art, history, and literature. It often features women without duppatta (or only lightly covering their heads with the duppatta). This is why to this day many Muslim women in the Indian subcontinent do not cover their heads (except only for prayer).
Another thing new conservative Muslims brag about is ijma. Well, where was the ijma in condemning these Muslim women who didn't cover? They did condemn Akbar who created deen illahi (a new kind of religion fusing Islam and Hinduism), but they NEVER condemned women for not following the "Islamic" dress code. Why?
A few notes I want to make 1) Whatever the type of clothing a woman wears, it NEVER leads to rape. Certain types of clothing can cause sexual advances and arousal (clothing that is forbidden for Muslim women), but in general, clothing is not enough to get raped. Women in Europe and the Americas wear whatever, and MOST men are not gonna do anything. If anything, its gonna be men who are drunk, high, or those who have mental problems (such as abused when they were young) who are going to try something. The first two types are found in college parties and night clubs, where the sexual assault, sexual harassment, and rape of women is high. See these scholarly sources for proof of how clothing doesn't lead to rape: http://www.d.umn.edu/cla/faculty/jhamlin/3925/myths.html
2) Hijab or burka will NOT STOP sexual assault or rape. Sexual assault and rapes are endemics in Egypt, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, and Pakistan. And the women there are not wearing bikinis. They're covered head to toe. In such countries like these, it has become a culture to act this way towards women. On top of that, the police and justice systems do nothing, making rape and sexual assault pretty much legal. 3) Clothing is NOT an indicator of religiosity. You might want to check this link on why we can't judge other Muslims: http://mymuslimthoughts.blogspot.ca/2015/02/something-that-i-have-come-to-realize.html
4) Muslims from countries where women are covered head to toe will automatically assume the clothing of women is tight and revealing when they visit another country where women are not covered head to toe. You may want to check out this article of culture influencing people's perceptions of Islam: http://mymuslimthoughts.blogspot.ca/2015/04/does-culture-influence-our-views-on.html
Just because a woman is wearing a hijab or burka or jilbab, is does not mean she is more or less religious than a Muslim woman who doesn't wear hijba, burka, or jilbaab. There are women who cover themselves up, yet do heinous sins, and there are muslim women who don't cover up yet they are good practicing muslims.
So, 2 things:
1) Muslim women should be modest in areas that will cause arousal (butt, legs, vagina, breasts) so the clothing shouldn't be tight or revealing
2) HOWEVER, it is important to note that body shapes and body movements of women will ALWAYS be visible, not matter what the clothing is. Sometimes it may seem the clothing is tight, but its just the shape of the body. And we can't get angry at the woman because ALLAH MADE HER THAT WAY.