Modesty, Islam and the streets of NYC


Much has been said about the woman who walked around in the streets of New York city for ten hours while men of all descriptions made unwanted advances to her.  Of course it shows how uncivilized men’s desires can become but it also shows a degree of acclimation and expectation people have when confronted with their notions of beauty and attraction in today’s America. The link to the Hollaback video for your viewing pleasure is here.

However, there is another video in two parts that shows both the predictable reaction of men to women regular wearing regular attire walking for several hours and the same woman wearing a black abaya and hijab walking with vastly different results.  In the case of the woman with the “Islamic” clothes there are no recorded interactions between the veiled woman and men she passes on the streets.  In fact they seem not to even notice her as she walks mere inches away in some cases.  Perhaps the reason is because of the clothes…..Muslim women are told in their sacred scripture, The Quran, one of the reasons for the covering is to be easily identified as women of modesty and faith yet perhaps another reason is because men know that interacting with women like that will result in no reaction at all.  Operating on the principle that if one randomly approaches scores of women solicitously they may get one to accept their advances they have come to realize through interaction with Muslims that no matter how many times they make similar advances with Muslim women they will get no response at all.  If that’s the case, it is a praiseworthy on the part of the Muslim woman not to advance such societal norms with interaction.  Take a look at the video and decide for yourself what is the reason for the difference in how men react to the two examples…..

No Comment


hijab

Looka’ here


Found this article floating around Facebook and thought it a harbinger of things to come in America.  Women in western societies are accepting Islam absent male influence; they are deciding on their own to embrace a religion that many see as oppressive to women and women’s rights, yet in doing so making a statement that they want to decide their future, their relationships independently and in their own way.  That’s what western societies offer their citizens…the right to choose, and it seems so long as freedom of religion is not criminalized like other free choices that used to be available to women….the number of women who embrace Islam will most likely increase for the time being.

However, this young woman’s life choices seems to be a precursor to becoming Muslim.  Reading her story might make it easier for objective observers to see why women in America accept Islam

hijabi

I am an American non-Muslim woman who has chosen to wear the hijab. Yes, you did read that correctly! I am not conducting an experiment on what the hijab is like or trying to explore the lives of Muslims. I have made a permanent life decision to only show my face and hands while in public, and I love it!

When I was younger, I found the hijab to be beautiful, but unfortunately I thought that a lot of the myths about the hijab were true, and so I was daunted by it. When I started college I studied Arabic and made friends with the Muslim students in my classes. A few of the girls wore a hijab, and even though I liked the look of it and respected their right to wear it, I thought that it was oppressive.

Unfortunately, around the same time, I began to notice that some of the men at my university would openly speak about their female classmates as though they were moving pieces of meat. I would often have to hear stories that I rather wouldn’t about what these boys would like to do to this girl or that one, and I began to notice their looks. Before entering university, I would catch men looking at me in an inappropriate way from time to time, and I would just ignore it, but after hearing these conversations and feeling their many looks, I couldn’t just ignore it anymore.

I mentioned how I felt to some of my classmates, and often I got responses like “boys will be boys,” or “it’s just their biology, they can’t help their behavior.” At the time, I bought these responses, and I thought that my discomfort was just my problem. I thought that these people had a right to behave the way they were, and I had no right to try and stop them. When I got engaged, this all changed.

My fiance is my soulmate. We met in junior high and were friends for years before we began dating. He had asked me out a few times before then, and even though I turned him down, he always behaved around me in a respectful way. It was because of how he always treated me that I eventually agreed to go out with him. The day he proposed to me is, so far, the happiest day of my life. Once I made the decision to make a lifelong commitment to him and only him, it seemed obvious that no one had the right to treat me like their sex object. Whenever I would notice someone looking at me inappropriately, I no longer felt uncomfortable, I felt outraged! But I still had no idea what I could do about it.

couple

Finally, one day I saw one of my hijabi friends at school and ran over to say hi to her. She started to walk towards me, and for some reason I was just struck by her. She was wearing a scarf and an abayaa like she normally did, but in that moment she looked regal and powerful. In my mind I thought, “Wow, I want to look just like that.” I started researching the hijab, and I learned more about why Muslims wear a hijab, what makes a hijab a hijab, and how to wrap scarves. I watched youtube videos, browsed online hijab shops (including Haute Hijab) and the more I saw the more I was impressed by how these hijabi women exuded class and elegance. I wanted so much be like these women, and couldn’t get the hijab out of my mind. I even started dreaming about it!

There were many things I liked about the hijab. I liked the thought of having so much control over my body and how the outside world saw it, but what I also liked was how well it fit with my feminist beliefs. As a feminist I believe that women and men should be equals in society, and that the norm of treating women like sex objects is a form of unequal and unfair treatment. Women in American society are looked down upon if they don’t dress in order to be attractive for others, but I believe that women shouldn’t have to conform to some ridiculous and unattainable standard of beauty. The hijab is a way to be free of that.

However, the way the hijab best complemented my feminist beliefs was how it was about so much more than women’s clothing. As I understood it, the hijab is about how men and women should interact while in public. Men also dress in a non-revealing way, and both men and women are supposed to treat each other with respect. I was happy to learn that both men and women were expected to be responsible for their own actions, and impressed at how egalitarian the ideals of the hijab are.

At this point, I was certain that I wanted to wear a hijab, but I had a problem. I was afraid that wearing a hijab as a non-muslim would be offensive, and I was too afraid to ask my friends. I found one youtube video on the subject, and though it said that it wouldn’t be offensive, I still wasn’t sure. But eventually, after weeks of thinking about the hijab, I finally asked one of my friends. She told me that she wouldn’t be offended, and then pointed out that Muslims aren’t the only ones who wear headscarves, many Jews and Christians do as well.

I started wearing it off and on for a few weeks after that, and once I felt comfortable I always wore it when I left home. Soon after, I left for an internship in Jordan. I was afraid that the Jordanians would not like that I was wearing a hijab, but quickly after I got off the plane I found otherwise! When I told people that I was an American non-Muslim, they were excited to see that I wore a hijab. People often told me that they thought it was a very good thing that I was wearing it, and some people were touched that I would show such respect to their culture. Best of all, I will never forget the sight of a fully grown man jumping with excitement because I was wearing a jilbab! These memories will always bring warmth to my heart, and they give me strength back in the states when I have to deal with angry glares or awkward questions about my hijab.

Sometimes I will still catch men looking at me in a disrespectful way, but I take joy in knowing that though they may try, they still cannot see what they want to. Because of the hijab, I understand that my body is my right, and I will be forever grateful to the Muslim women who taught that to me.

 

 

No Comment


Entertaining.  I wonder if this guy would be welcomed in France?

Good hair, bad hair


I recently saw Chris Rock’s excellent documentary, ‘Good Hair’, and didn’t know how much women (he specifically focused on women in his piece) spent on getting their hair done!  Nor was I aware at the depths people go to get good hair, those who want it on their own heads and those who purchase it to sell to others. The exploitative side of a good ‘do can reach the point where it  rates up there with an international crime on the magnitude of human trafficking. I strongly recommend getting a copy of the movie and watching it.

I came away with a greater appreciation for the ‘hijab’ for Muslim women after watching this movie because of two very striking comments made in it.  One was my Maya Angelou who said, ‘hair is a woman’s glory’ and Rock’s statement at the end of the film, ‘it’s not what you put on your head it’s what you put in your head that counts’ that seem to make the point that is made by women who wear, out of a sense of conviction, the head scarf.

Modesty is not just in appearance but in how you shape that appearance is an essential element of the “good hair” debate as well.  Take the photo above.  I found it on a forum where someone was asking for a barber who could cut his hair like the picture and he went on to say, ‘Price does not matter just want a good haircut’ which could almost mean anything! Rock et. co explored the debate how can people “afford” to do so much to/with their hair in this time of economic uncertainty and the implied answers are as stark as the given ones.  It’s scary what we are willing to do to get ‘good hair’.

Niqab in America


We’ve written about women who choose to wear the niqab before at several places here at Miscellany101, but it is becoming an increasing phenomenon here in America and has caught the eye of main stream corporate media as well. What distinguishes America from her European colleagues in government is she has allowed people to exercise their freedom and not just given lip service to the notion, even if doing so makes others uncomfortable.  That’s the beauty of this country.  It is up to us to insure it remain that way.   I strongly urge you to take a look at the article in its entirety at the link; I will post a brief excerpt for you to read below

HEBAH AHMED (her first name is pronounced HIB-ah) was born in Chattanooga, raised in Nashville and Houston, and speaks with a slight drawl. She played basketball for her Catholic high school, earned a master’s in mechanical engineering and once worked in the Gulf of Mexico oilfields.

She is not a Muslim Everywoman; it is not a role she would ever claim for herself. Her story is hers alone. But she was willing to spend several days with a reporter to give an idea of what American life looks like from behind the veil, a garment that has become a powerful symbol of culture clash.

All that’s visible of Ms. Ahmed when she ventures into mixed company are her deep brown eyes, some faint freckles where the sun hits the top of her nose, and her hands. She used to leave the house in jeans and T-shirt (she still can, under her jilbab), but that all changed after the 9/11 attacks. It shook her deeply that the people who had committed the horrifying acts had identified themselves as Muslims.

“I just kept thinking ‘Why would they do this in the name of Islam?’ ” she said. “Does my religion really say to do those horrible things?”

HEBAH AHMED (her first name is pronounced HIB-ah) was born in Chattanooga, raised in Nashville and Houston, and speaks with a slight drawl. She played basketball for her Catholic high school, earned a master’s in mechanical engineering and once worked in the Gulf of Mexico oilfields.

She is not a Muslim Everywoman; it is not a role she would ever claim for herself. Her story is hers alone. But she was willing to spend several days with a reporter to give an idea of what American life looks like from behind the veil, a garment that has become a powerful symbol of culture clash.

All that’s visible of Ms. Ahmed when she ventures into mixed company are her deep brown eyes, some faint freckles where the sun hits the top of her nose, and her hands. She used to leave the house in jeans and T-shirt (she still can, under her jilbab), but that all changed after the 9/11 attacks. It shook her deeply that the people who had committed the horrifying acts had identified themselves as Muslims.

“I just kept thinking ‘Why would they do this in the name of Islam?’ ” she said. “Does my religion really say to do those horrible things?”

“I was really questioning my life’s purpose,” Ms. Ahmed said. “And everything about the bigger picture. I just wasn’t about me and my career anymore.”

She also reacted to a backlash against Islam and the news that many American Muslim women were not covering for fear of being targeted. “It was all so wrong,” she said. She took it upon herself to provide a positive example of her embattled faith, in a way that was hard to ignore.

So on Sept. 17, 2001, she wore a hijab into the laboratory where she worked, along with her business attire.

“A co-worker said, ‘You need to wrap a big ol’ American flag around your head so people know what side you’re on,’ ” Ms. Ahmed said. “From then on, they never let up.”

Three months later, she quit her job and started wearing a niqab, covering her face from view when in the presence of men other than her husband.

“I do this because I want to be closer to God, I want to please him and I want to live a modest lifestyle,” said Ms. Ahmed, who asked that her appearance without a veil not be described. “I want to be tested in that way. The niqab is a constant reminder to do the right thing. It’s God-consciousness in my face.”

Quebec’s witch hunt against niqabi minority


(Our neighbors to the North have been struck with Islamophobia too)

Governments intervene against the religious wishes of Jehovah’s Witness families to give blood transfusions to save the lives of their kin. The Quebec government wants to intervene to deny health care to women whose religious wish is to wear the niqab.

In Saudi Arabia, Iran and parts of Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, police or vigilante militias crack down on women not wearing the niqab or the burqa. In Quebec, authorities want to crack down on women who do.

Quebec officials have already chased down one niqab-wearing woman to oust her from a second French language class after she had been hounded out of her first. The bureaucrats are emulating the gendarmes of autocrats Kemal Ataturk of Turkey in the 1920s and the first Shah of Iran in the 1930s who persecuted women wearing either the niqab or the hijab.

It is scary when a state feels compelled to keep women either covered or uncovered.

It is scarier when majorities in democracies feel threatened by a minority – in this case, a tiny minority within the Muslim minority. Or feel the need to crush an isolated religious or cultural practice. Had such attitudes prevailed in an earlier era, we may not have been blessed today with Hutterites, Orthodox Jews, Sikhs and others in the rich religious tapestry of Canada.

Across Europe and now sadly in Quebec, populations and governments are in a tizzy over a few dozen niqabi women. Sadder still, Quebec is not only out of step with the rest of Canada but has taken a bigoted leap ahead of Europe, the historic home of Islamophobia.

In France – where out of 5 million Muslims, 367 wear the niqab (as counted by the domestic intelligence service, no less) – a parliamentary panel has pondered the issue for a year and suggested a ban from schools and hospitals but nowhere else.

In Denmark – where out of 100,000 Muslims, there are less than 200 niqabis (as estimated by the ministry of social affairs), the government is still mulling a ban.

In Quebec, less than 25 women are said to wear the niqab – of whom only 10 turned up last year at the Montreal office of the provincial health board out of 118,000 visitors.

Yet the obsession with the niqab continues. On the day Jean Charest tabled his anti-niqab bill, Hydro Quebec’s $3.2 billion deal to take over NB Power and gain access to the lucrative U.S. market collapsed – with nary a public concern.

His bill calls not only for showing the face for the legitimate purposes of a photo ID and security. It also bans niqabis from working for, or even receiving services from, government and the broader public sector. These taxpayers may be denied all schooling, including French language instruction, and all non-emergency health care, including regular checkups.

Charest rationalized it on the basis of gender equity, the secular nature of the state, the need to integrate immigrants, and the importance of personal interaction. Except that:

The giant crucifix in the National Assembly will stay.

Property and other tax breaks given the churches will remain, including for the Catholic Church, where women must remain in the pews and not ascend to the pulpit.

Niqabi women will be driven out of the public sphere, end up with less personal interaction with others and be ghettoized. It is a strange way to advance gender equity.

It is argued, as by Nicolas Sarkozy in France, that banning the niqab is not anti-Islamic, since it may not be a religious requirement, as opined by a senior Egyptian cleric last year. We elect politicians not to propound fatwas but to implement secular, democratic laws in an equitable manner for one and all. As for those enamoured of the authoritarian ways of Egypt, they are free to move there.

We are witnessing collective hysteria, prompting even liberal governments to cave in. It was not a pretty sight to see Charest, a Liberal, competing for headlines with Ann Coulter, the Muslim-baiting neo-con from America.

That’s democracy in action, it can be said. But we have seen many ugly manifestations of the popular will before. Targeting the niqabis may not be in the same league as past Canadian sins against some minorities but history should provide us with the perspective to pause.

The Feminist Hypocrisy


While faux pas French feminist criticize the candidacy of one of their own because of an article of clothing, America’s other allies, Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates have figured out how to make the best use of all of their human resources, men and women, those who wear a scarf and those who don’t but still want to serve their country.  Why a country would want to deny participation of one half of its citizens because of a scarf or a religious belief, even while the very same people want to serve, participate, protect is a study in racism and a mindset that takes people backwards in time we decided was counterproductive or worse.  No forward thinking country should countenance such a philosophy neither should a country support one that does.  A new America would do well to cast its lot with the likes of  Pakistan and the UAE and shun the homophobia that is overtaking Europe, and countries like France and Denmark and clearly and emphatically make a statement that the religious rights of a citizen of a country and that’s citizen’s desire to serve his or her country are the basis of solid, long lasting relationships America will honor.   Anything less than that is contributing more to the problem than to the solution.

A bitter disappointment


tantawi226bodygettyI saw an interesting thread over at Ginny’s Thoughts and Things about an encounter the head of Egypt’s leading Islamic University had with a high school aged girl.  You can read about it here and here.  What it boils down to in the simplest of terms is he asked a young high school aged girl to remove her face veil in his presence and when she demurred, he used the full weight of his position as the head of a major state supported institution to have it removed against her will.  Whether you agree with the article of clothing the young woman was wearing or not, the issue is, up to the time of that encounter with Sheikh Tantawi, it was not against the law of her land to wear it, but because her appearance offended him he brought the full action of the State against her.  It appears that even in Egypt, despite its claims of Islamic roots, the State supersedes individual freedom that Egyptian culture, religion and LAW give to the citizens of that country, and the sensitivities of a civil servant of the State, albeit a powerful one can determine what is legal and illegal.

After reading this news, I wonder what came first, Tantawi’s indignation towards this young woman or Egyptian men and society’s disrespect of Egyptian women in general?  Sexual harassment is a big problem in Egyptian society, and Tantawi’s heavy handed approach with this young woman, which has caught the attention of the society, probably serves as an example of how Egyptian men view their relationship with women.  I question whether the Sheikh is the leader of this movement to denigrate women’s rights or is he  a follower of a mob trend in society to intimidate and harass women? It is a sorry state of affairs for an esteemed position or rank in scholarly Islam, and no amount of backtracking can undo the damage done to the young woman or to his position.

Muslims of conscious should avoid vacationing in Europe


bikiniI think it should go further than that, i.e. Muslim countries shouldn’t sell their oil to places which display such a vehemently anti-Islamic attitude towards them, and especially women who wear hijab, but if the rich oil drenched citizens of the oil producing states stop going there, that would be a start.  There’s simply too much drama, and politics, around the issue of women’s clothing…more than anything I’ve seen or heard of coming from the Middle East where bikini clad women frolick on the beaches of Muslim countries under the lustful stares of all who dare watch.  Or maybe it’s something to do with water and how whenever certain people approach water their appearance there just makes others a little stark raving mad.  Judging by the looks of the swimsuit worn by Carol a Muslim mother from France, it doesn’t seem so provocative or disruptive enough to cause an entire country to go crazy, but it has, and it’s leader, a known abuser and user of women, has gone on the offensive, proclaiming such attire has no place in France and is ‘a symbol of subservience that suppresses women’s identities and turns them into “prisoners behind a screen.”‘  I wasn’t aware Muslim women had asked Monsieur Sarkozy to be their spokesperson, but he has taken up that role and stuck his foot in his mouth by doing so.  Now that’s not to say there aren’t  many Muslims who abuse this issue of apparel, but when a grown, mature, woman decides she wants to wear a certain type of clothing which at the time of that decision is not illegal, then the only one who’s suppressing her “identity” is the one who prohibits her from her own self-expression…….i.e. Sarkozy’s ilk, and he has a lot of company.  Mr. Sarkozy does a much better job of cutting off from all social life Muslim women who want to practice their religion in France than any article of clothing they could possibly wear, when he tries to make that expression illegal under the law or unwelcome on French soil.  The greatest deprivation  of all identity comes in the pronouncement that once legal acts of religion are now illegal and unwelcome.  I hope all Muslims who like their summer vacations in nice temperate climates where things are green and people who may look different are welcomed would give pause and think of going to other places than the Islamophobic regions of Europe where politicians are reliving centuries old battles they simply can’t seem to forget. Avoid France; you are not wanted there!

As for the Sarkozys of the world, I offer up this explanation from  independent minded Muslim women, who seem to me to have a pretty good handle on the age old platitudes surrounding Muslim women attire.  Hey Sarkozy, listen up!

UPDATE

For those Muslims, men and women who like swimming, may I suggest heading down under…..Australia, where a Muslim woman can look like her similarly clad Muslim female life guard and even have a chance of being rescued should she need it as opposed to being left to her own devices should she venture into French or Dutch waters.

Hijab allowed in Georgia Courtrooms


hijab-demo-17jan04-741Any form of religious expression which is incontrovertibly linked to a religion should be classified as free speech in America and therefore the bearer or wearer should be allowed to go wherever need be.  It was disgraceful for personnel in a Georgia court room to cite a Muslim woman for contempt of court and sentence her to 10 days in prison for the “offense” of wearing her religiously mandated scarf to court.  She wasn’t scheduled to testify, she wasn’t a defendant or lawyer in court, she was merely accompanying a relative and was met at the door with the State’s infringement on her right to freedom of religion.  That has now changed, for the Muslim citizens of Georgia.

Georgia courtrooms will allow religious headgear after last year’s arrest of a Muslim woman who refused to remove her headscarf in a west Georgia courthouse.The Judicial Council of Georgia voted unanimously this week to allow religious and medical headgear into Georgia courtrooms. It also allows a person to request a private inspection if a security officer wants to conduct a search.

“If this had been a nun, no one would have required her to remove her habit,” said Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Carol Hunstein, who heads the Judicial Council. “I think this is a good rule, and I think it’s clear.”

The policy shift stems from the December 2008 arrest of Lisa Valentine, who was ordered to serve 10 days in jail for contempt of court after she refused to remove her hijab at a courtroom in Douglasville, a town of about 20,000 people west of Atlanta. She was released in less than a day.

Muslim rights activists were infuriated by the incident, pressing the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the incident and organizing a protest. The city also said its employees would take sensitivity training classes.

City officials at the time said they were trying to follow courtroom rules that restricted headgear, but the city said the officer who detained Valentine should have sought a solution that “would preserve the spirit of the law.”

Valentine, who did not immediately return phone messages Friday, said she was accompanying her nephew to a hearing when officials stopped her at the metal detector and told her she couldn’t enter the courtroom with the headscarf, known as a hijab.

She said she was stopped by officers when she objected and turned to leave, and that she was later brought before a municipal court judge who ordered her held for contempt of court.

City officials did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment, but Douglasville Police Chief Joe Whisenant characterized the incident at the time as a miscommunication.

The police department said in a news release that Valentine was found in contempt for fighting with one of the officers, not for wearing a scarf. The city said she was released after it was determined there had not been a fight.

Muslims are just as much a part of the American fabric as any other ethnic group and their rights as citizens cannot and should not be abridged because of personal dislikes or community wide prejudices.  Personal likes and dislikes have no place in determining what is legal and illegal.  The Constitution, and particularly the 1st amendment  says in clear language that the legislative body of this Republic cannot make any law prohibiting the free exercise of any religion.  In this regard we are different and better than our European cousins who bend the rules to satisfy contemporary societal mores usually directed towards those they deem distasteful.  Whether we like it or not, we have become a pluralistic society that is home to people of faiths, colors, creeds that span the entire breath of human existence; we must live under this umbrella of law that has been developed throughout the lifetime of America, sometimes carefully and deliberately, and at other times impulsively yet judiciously.  To do otherwise would make us criminals before the law and before our Creator.

Killed Because of Her Religion


marwaEurope is leading the way in racist, homo/Islamophobia, almost like a throwback to the days of a young Adolph Hitler who then targeted Jews.   The tragedy which occurred in a German court room in front of judges and lawyers reflects the depth of Europe’s fanaticism.  A young Egyptian wife, mother and academic, yes she was all three, who also practiced her religion as she interpreted it and wore a scarf on her hair, was stabbed 18 times in a crime that hasn’t graced the pages of main stream media in America.  She was killed because she was exercising her citizenship by taking her attacker to court for a previous assault he had committed against her.  What’s even more heinous is her husband who was in the court room at the time and who came to her aid was shot by German police as he tried to subdue the killer…….quite naturally because an Arab Muslim is more likely to be a criminal, than an unemployed  Russian German, was probably the rationale for the officer who shot him.  People who look different, who are  not quite WASPy in appearance in Europe have a tendency to be shot sight unseen by the local police force.

,

Marwa al-Sherbini’s problem wasn’t with the police however, but with some German guy motivated by his hatred for Muslims who was able to assault his victim twice, once in a park where he first saw and interacted with her and again in front of the police and judicial authority.  This happened  because the atmosphere in Europe is fueled by hatred of Muslims and Islam, and part of that fuel is supplied by xenophobic politicans seeking a political advantage over their rivals in government by plying on the fears and hatred of their constituents.  This is accompanied by selective reporting by the media, which is obsequious to the power of government, which reports acts of racism and bigotry that target one group of people in which it is assumed real power is vested while ignoring acts of terror perpetuated against or by other groups.

Marwa was a victim and her perpetrator was a terrorist, but Marwa was also victimzed by a wave of anti-Islam euphoria which is promoted, tolerated and excused by large segments of European society.  The reaction of Muslims to the murder of al-Sherbini has been muted and dignified.  Had there been the hysteria most westerners associate with Muslim reaction to anything, it would have garnered front page coverage, featured prominently in every journal and newscast, while the reason for such outburst simply ignored.  The head of one of the leading Islamic universities in the world has gone on record saying that the Germans should exact the strictest punishment applicable under German law to the offender while family members echoed that refrain.  Indeed every citizen of Europe should feel and say the same.  For too long, western countries have talked a good fight when it comes to equality and liberty.  It’s now time to walk the walk and apply it against those who use terror as a weapon, whether they be the angriest of Muslims or the fairest skin  Europeans.

The French Government and Hypocrisy- One and the same


lorealLet me see if I understand this correctly, the French government can impose limits on what a hijab-demo-17jan04-741person can wear or not wear in order to attend government schools, yet a private company cannot say who it can hire to be sales staff for its products, even when the people appearing in those products are people of color?

France can ban the wearing of religious symbols even when those wearing them are doing so of their own free will in an expression of their religious beliefs in a society thatsupposedly  promotes, liberty, fraternity and equality, while insisting at the same time that companies do not have the right to determine who they can  employ in selling their products?  No one sees the slightest bit of hypocrisy in the French position?

People, who of their own free will,  practice a faith that may be different and not customary to the wider society  and choose to wear clothes that express themselves in ways different than the majority, but who are at the same time law abiding citizens who do not  frighten or intimidate others, should not have laws legislated which seek to limit or curtail that expression.  In fact the beauty of liberty and freedom means acts of social interaction are interpreted based on the law, which should should not be enacted to deny expression, but rather the acts of illegality that expression may or may not encourage.  Therefore, if a school girl walking down a French street is the victim of sexual harassment or assault it is the perpetrator of that action who should be limited not the girl wearing an article of clothing.   What the French want to do is take the act of discipline off their hands by removing the object of people’s ire, and in the process limit the freedom of its citizens.

Likewise, companies who have broadly used women of color in their advertising campaigns but choose to hire a sales staff they think may be able to sale their product to a broad based clientele should not have the weight of the State descend on them in a punitive way.  L’Oreal in France has to have the support of a majority of women of color in order to be profitable.  If hiring people that reflect a certain demographic will give them that market, how can the State justify changing that dynamic and jeopardizing the viability of the Company?  Will the State then say that the public MUST buy certain products in order to insure the success of a company so that it doesn’t go under because of the financially oppressive measures of the State?  Don’t be surprised if that happens next.

For now, France is following in the tradition of other western countries that seek to use expressions of liberty and freedom as slogans  which fall quickly when government wants to intervene in the lives of its citizens.  The tools the state uses for this intervention are usually fear and loathing of opponents who are unknown or unfamiliar.  Civilized people should recognize such tactics for what they are.  Ignorant people are too easily persuaded and succomb to the deceit.  The two cases above highlight how France is counting on the latter with its citizens!  Que sera, sera!

At the top of her game


bilquisWhen people put their mind to it they can do anything.  Anything!  One of the great poets of the 20th century once said, ‘the hand of the believer is the hand of God, dominant, resourceful, full of light…..His heart is indifferent to the riches of the world.’  Where some people see barriers, others see challenges.  When some stop, others excel, and so it is with Bilqis Abdul Qaadir, a senior high school student who has broken the record for the most points scored in a high school basketball career by either male or female for the state of Massachusetts.  Coming from the home of Tarheel and Blue Devil basketball that’s no small feat in my opinion so Ms. Abdul Qaadir deserves major respect.  However what she has done so well in, playing basketball,  is overshadowed by the fact that she did it while being an observant Muslim adult woman, wearing the hijab and covering herself, albeit innovatively, according to her religious tradition.  The young lady seems to have everything going for her, a loving family with both parents involved in her life  and an eye towards life after collegiate basketball and she has managed that without any trace of bitterness or victimhood built up after years of Islamophobia in this country.  My hats off to her and I wish her all the success in the world.  She’s a role model, as a woman, a Muslim, a student athlete, and a member of this society  we all can look up to.

Here we go again….


A Charlotte, NC credit union wants to discriminate against its customers who wear scarves, hats, sunglasses, et.al.  Of course the move is aimed against Muslim women who wear the hijab as a part of their wardrobe when out in public; all the other folks mentioned in the news report can easily doff their offending clothes item.

The credit union says it’s their way of protecting their employees from bank robbers. (I really wonder how many banks have been held up by women wearing hijab?) but Rose Hamid has it right…it’s simply the bank’s way of taking an offensive jab at Muslims in America and humiliate those Muslim women who are its patrons. No one should pay anyone else to subjugate them to second class citizen status, so, here’s a shout out to the Muslims in the Charlotte area…psssst.  Take your business elsewhere.

Goodness shows


woldteven when you’re wearing a black abaya, or at least that’s what  one one young lady found out while traversing the streets of Arab, Alabama.  The deep south is my home and even I’m amazed at the changes that have gone on there during my lifetime.  The people are generally good, and kind, although easily misled at times.  The main stream media realized that a long time ago and joined with the Bush Administration to demonize a segment of the American population so that the rest would never want anything to do with them.

Hailey Woldt found out their plan hasn’t quite worked.  You can read about her story here.  It echoes the stories of countless others who are different have been maligned by demagogues in our not too distant past, but who are still accorded their rights of citizenship and respect by other law abiding Americans.  We’re trying to fight our way through the haze of fear and suspicion of the last eight years and at the moment we seem to be winning the fight. Take a look at the video below to see what I mean.

Stay tuned!!

Islam is here to stay, so let’s move on


amalAmericans, and those who live within its borders, come in all shapes, sizes and colors, and while some of the American dream and the meaning of the words, ‘send me your tired and your poor; your huddled masses yearning to be free’ has not always turned out the way those huddled masses wanted at the time, America has been a largely successful experiment.

It is however, a work in progress, continually defined, reshaped, molded in a way that meets the needs of most of the 300 million plus who live within its borders.  America has seen all sorts of people come and go.  Many have blended and integrated themselves into the social fabric, indistinguishable from the whole, while others have chosen to retain their identities.  The common thread has always been the rule of law that’s kept the entire cloth from unravelling.

Sure there are times in the Nation’s history we can point to when the administration of the law has not been equitable, but social agitation (something sorely missed in today’s citizenry) always corrected that inequity which resulted in a better mix of brown, whites, reds, and yellows.  We discovered along the way that it wasn’t necessary to lose those colors or attitudes in the elixir of America; that sometimes it was healthy to keep them distinguished not seperated, visible, not homogenized, ‘in order to form a more perfect union.’

So it is that now we have black, white, Jew, Gentile, Muslim unbeliever living, perhaps askew, but in relative peace and with the knowledge they can take their grievance to the Law should the need arise.  This is what happened to Amal Hersi  a Somali American Muslim woman who was told service at a credit union was only possible if she blended and forsake her Muslim identity.

For Amal this was not an option, so she took her case to a higher authority, in this instance the people in charge of the credit union.  No doubt the employee of the bank forgot their roots, forgot that despite the finely coiffed hair and contemporary styled clothes they wore that day, they most likely had an acestor, perhaps not too far in their past who looked like Amal and chose to stay that way…….or not.  Most likely that distant relative decided when he/she ran into an obdurate public servant bent on defining their place in the American fabric they weren’t going to bend and that act of resistance made it possible for Amal to refuse today, which made the quilt that much more pretty and pliable for the common good.

Muslim women in the West have defined their role as one of modesty wrapped in clothes they’ve chosen to express their identity.  In most cases, if not all, it is their conscious choice to wear hijab just as they also choose to obey the law and just as there is no penalty for embracing the latter, neither should there be for the former.  The officials of the credit union, more in touch with the spirit of the Law than the wayward employee who started this all, recognized that instantly and issued a statement which said in part:

Navy Federal values and respects all its members. Working with the law enforcement community, we have recently implemented a policy to make sure we can positively identify everyone we serve in our many branches.

Navy Federal weighed very carefully the need to accommodate religious and cultural customs, as well as medical conditions. Our policy does not prohibit nor discourage the use of headscarves, and will make sure it’s thoroughly understood to all employees.

I salute them and nothing further needs to be addressed to them. To the employee who lost her way I would encourage a quick visual primer on American history. Perhaps they will see someone they know or someone who looks like them. While they’re at it they’ll most likely see someone who looks like Amal Hersi too.

A letter from Gaza


Asaalam Alaykum,

My dear sisters and brothers I wanted to take this opportunity to send you a message from the sisters in Gaza. Please hear about our situation, and convey it to everyone who you know and do not know.

Our situation is dire but our eman is strong alhamdulillah, even though we have no water to speak of. When we do [have water] it is polluted, and we have no money to buy mineral water. When we obtain money, then those that sell it [the water] tell us that it is too dangerous for them to travel out to get new supplies. We have no gas, and have not had for the last four months. We cook the little food we have on real [wood] fires that we have learned to light.

Our men have lost all their jobs. They spend their days at home now. My husband can end up spending a day just going from place to place in search of the bare necessities, like water. He usually returns empty handed. There are no schools and no banks; hardly any hospitals are open. You are constantly aware that you risk your life when you go out and when you are indoors. We are under a curfew [imposed by the Israeli army-IDF] between 1-4pm. We can go out, they [IDF] say, in safety to get our supplies, but that is a lie. They have often used that opportunity to add more shuhada [martyrs] to their list.

We eat rice one day and bread one day. Meat and milk are luxuries. They are using chemical warfare upon the areas close to the borders.

All this and we are being told that people demonstrate all over the world. Masha Allah. The fact that you go to the embassies, leaving your homes, makes us truly feel that we are not alone in our struggle.

But you go home at night and lock your door. We cannot do that. I have to leave my home on the second floor every night and stay with my sister on the ground floor. Should there be an attack, it’s quicker to leave from the ground floor.

Yes we are tired. When we hear rockets and bombs and see planes that fly too close to our building, I scream with my young son, while my husband feels helpless.

In all this there is no one but Allah (swt) that can save us. But the ummah is asking, “where are the armies?”, “where is the victory?”

Don’t forget us because you are all that we have now. Your kind sadaqaat are not reaching us, and when they open the borders, it only reaches a few. Keep up the work of Allah and pray that the victory will come soon insha Allah.

wasalam
Your sister Umm Taqi

Hat tip to MuslimMatters.org for this.

And then along comes this bit of news from the UN to underscore Umm Taqi’s letter.

ISRAEL deliberately blocked the United Nations from building up vital food supplies in Gaza that feed a million people daily before the launch of its war against Hamas, according to a senior UN official in Jerusalem.

In a scathing critique of Israeli actions leading up to the conflict, the UN’s chief humanitarian co-ordinator in Israel, the former Australian diplomat Maxwell Gaylard, accused Israel of failing to honour its commitments to open its border with Gaza during several months of truce from June 19 last year.

“The Israelis would not let us facilitate a regular and sufficient flow of supplies into the Strip,” Mr Gaylard said.

The chief spokesman for Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Yigal Palmor, said the claims were “unqualified bullshit”.

“At no time was there a shortage of food in Gaza over the past three weeks,” Mr Palmor said.

Mr Gaylard, who is the UN Special Co-ordinator’s Office’s most senior representative in Israel, told the Herald that when Israel launched its surprise attack on Gaza on December 27, the UN’s warehouses in Gaza were nearly empty, with all food and equipment sitting in nearby port facilities. “The food was in Israel but we couldn’t get it in. This is before. The blockade was very tight.”

Finally when there was aid available this is what happened.
GAZA UN TRUCE EFFORTS

Israeli forces shelled areas deep inside Gaza City on Thursday, hitting the headquarters of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency and wounding at least three people among the hundreds taking shelter in the compound, UN officials and witnesses said.

Are these the best allies we, the United States, can come up with in the Middle East?

Israelis are above the law


I watched this really interesting video of what it’s like to be regarded in such low regard by Israeli authorities while in that country and the treatment people receive at their hands is appalling.

The next time someone talks about Israel being the only democratic ally we have in the Middle East, point them to this video, or remind them how they discriminate against their own Arab citizens by banning political parties that  give voice to Arab Israelis.

How refreshing


to read someone write about Islam and not be apologetic, and especially when it is a woman! My wildest dream is that this woman be appointed to a cabinet level position in an Obama administration. My typing that probably insures his defeat among this widely hysteric Islamophobic electorate, but I don’t care and I don’t think the author of this piece does either, so here goes. (hat tip to Taalib)

Spare Me the Sermon On Muslim Women By Mohja Kahf

Crimson chiffon, silver lamé or green silk: Which scarf to wear today? My veil collection is 64 scarves and growing. The scarves hang four or five to a row on a rack in my closet, and elation fills me when I open the door to this beautiful array. Last week, I chose a particularly nice scarf to slip on for the Eid al-Fitr festivities marking the end of the month of Ramadan.

It irks me that I even have to say this: Being a Muslim woman is a joyful thing.

My first neighbor in Arkansas borrowed my Quran and returned it, saying, “I’m glad I’m not a Muslim woman.” Excuse me, but a woman with Saint Paul in her religious heritage has no place feeling superior to a Muslim woman, as far as woman-affirming principles are concerned. Maybe no worse, if I listen to Christian feminists, but certainly no better.

Blessings abound for me as a Muslim woman: The freshness of ablution is mine, and the daily meditation zone of five prayers that involve graceful, yoga-like movements, performed in prayer attire. Prayer scarves are a chapter in themselves, cool and comforting as bedsheets. They lie folded in the velveteen prayer rug when not in use: two lightweight muslin pieces, the long drapey headcover and the roomy gathered skirt. I fling open the top piece, and it billows like summer laundry, a lace-edged meadow. I slip into the bottom piece to cover my legs for prayer time because I am wearing shorts around the house today.

These create a tent of tranquility. The serene spirit sent from God is called by a feminine name, “sakinah,” in the Quran, and I understand why some Muslim women like to wear their prayer clothes for more than prayer, to take that sakinah into the world with them. I, too, wear a (smaller) version of the veil when I go out. What a loss it would be for me not to have in my life this alternating structure, of covering outdoors and uncovering indoors. I take pleasure in preparing a clean, folded set for a houseguest, the way home-decor mavens lay elegant plump towels around a bathroom to give it a relaxing feel.

Tassled turquoise cotton and flowered peach crepe flutter as I pull out a black-and-ivory striped headscarf for the day. When I was 22 and balked at buying a $30 paisley scarf, my best friend told me, “I never scrimp on scarves. If people are going to make a big deal of it, it may as well look good.”

I embraced that principle, too, even when I was a scratch-poor graduate student. Today I sort my scarves, always looking to replace the frayed ones and to find missing colors, my collection shrinking and expanding, dynamic, bright: The blue-and-yellow daisy print is good with jeans, the incandescent purple voile for a night on the town, the gray houndstooth solidly professional, the white chambray anytime.

As beautiful as veils are, they are not the best part of being a Muslim woman — and many Muslim women in Islamic countries don’t veil. The central blessing of Islam to women is that it affirms their spiritual equality with men, a principle stated over and over in the Quran, on a plane believers hold to be untouched by the social or legalistic “women in Islam” concerns raised by other parts of the Scripture, in verses parsed endlessly by patriarchal interpreters as well as Muslim feminists and used by Islamophobes to “prove” Islam’s sexism. This is how most believing Muslim women experience God: as the Friend who is beyond gender, not as the Father, not as the Son, not inhabiting a male form, or any form.

And the reasons for being a joyful Muslim woman go beyond the spiritual. Marriage is a contract in Islam, not a sacrament. The prenup is not some new invention; it’s the standard Muslim format. I can put whatever I want in it, but Muslims never get credit for that. Or for having mahr, the bridegift that goes from the man to the woman — not to her family, but to her, for her own private use. A mahr has to have significant value — a year’s salary, say. And if patriarchal customs have overridden Islam and whittled away this blessing in many Muslim locales, it’s still there, available, in the law. Hey, I got mine (cash, partly deferred because my husband was broke when we married; like a loan to him, owed to me whenever I want to claim it) — and I was married in Saudi Arabia, a country whose personal-status laws are drawn from the most conservative end of the Muslim spectrum.

I had to sign my name indicating my consent, or the marriage contract would not have been valid under Saudi Islamic law. And, of course, I chose whom to marry. Every Muslim girl in the conservative circle of my youth chose her husband. We just did it our way, a conservative Muslim way, and we did it without this nonsensical Western custom of teenage dating. My friends Salma and Magda chose at 16 and 17: Salma to marry boy-next-door Muhammad, with whom she grew up, and Magda to marry a doctor 10 years her senior who came courting from half a world away. Both sisters have careers, one as a counselor, one as a school principal, and both are still vibrantly married and vibrantly Muslim, their kids now in college.

I held out until I was 18, making my parents beat back suitors at the door until I was good and ready. And here I am, still married to the guy I finally let in the door, 22 years (some of them not even dysfunctional) later. My cousin, on the other hand, broke off a marriage she contracted (but did not consummate) at 16 and chose another man. Another childhood friend, Zeynab, chose four times and is looking for Mr. Fifth. Her serial monogamy is nothing new or radical; she didn’t pick up the idea from reading Cosmo or from the “liberating” influence of U.S. troops in Afghanistan. It’s simply what a lot of women in early Muslim history did, in 7th- and 8th-century Arabia.

And would you guess that we’ve also been freer to divorce and remarry than Christian women have been for most of history? In medieval times, when Christian authorities were against divorce and remarriage, this was seen as another Islamic abomination. Now that divorce and remarriage are popular in the West, Muslims don’t get credit for having had that flexibility all along. We just can’t win with the Muslim-haters.

Here’s another one: Medieval Christianity excoriated Islam for being orgiastic, which seems to mean that Muslims didn’t lay a guilt trip on hot sex (at least within what were deemed licit relationships). Now that hot sex is all the rage in the post-sexual revolution West, you’d think Muslims would get some credit for the pro-sex attitude of Islam — but no. The older stereotype has been turned on its head, and in the new one, we’re the prudes. Listen, we’re the only monotheistic faith I know with an actual legal rule that the wife has a right to orgasm.

Of course, I’m still putting in my time struggling for a more woman-affirming interpretation of Islam and in criticizing Muslim misogyny (which at times is almost as bad as American misogyny), but let me take a moment to celebrate some of the good stuff. Under Islamic law, custody of minor children always goes first to the mother. The Quran doesn’t blame Eve. Literacy for women is highly encouraged by the traditions of the Prophet Muhammad. Breast-feeding is a woman’s choice and a means for her to create family ties independent of male lineage, as nursing creates legally recognized family relationships under Islamic law. Rapists are punishable by death in Islamic law (and yes, an atavistic part of me applauds that death penalty), which they certainly are not in any Western legal code. Birth control allowed in Islamic law? Check. Masturbation? Let’s just say former surgeon general Joycelyn Elders’s permissive stance on that practice is not unknown among classical and modern Muslim jurists. Abortion? Again, allowances exist — even Muslims seem not to remember that.

It’s easy to forget that Muslims are not inherently more sexist than folks in other religions. Muslim societies may lag behind on some issues that women in certain economically advanced, non-Muslim societies have resolved after much effort, but on other issues, Muslim women’s options run about the same as those of women all over the world. And in some areas of life, Muslim women are better equipped by their faith tradition for autonomy and dignity.

There are “givens” that I take for granted as a Muslim woman that women of other faiths had to struggle to gain. For example, it took European and American women centuries to catch up to Islamic law on a woman’s fully equal right to own property. And it’s not an airy abstraction; it’s a right Muslim women have practiced, even in Saudi Arabia, where women own businesses, donate land for schools and endow trusts, just as they did in 14th-century Egypt, 9th-century Iraq and anywhere else Islamic law has been in effect.

Khadija was the boss of her husband, our beloved Prophet Muhammad, hiring him during her fourth widowhood to run caravans for her successful business; he caught her eye, and she proposed marriage to him. Fatima is the revered mother figure of Shiite Islam, our lady of compassion, possessed of a rich emotional trove for us. Her daughter Zainab is the classic figure of high moral protest, the Muslim Antigone, shaking her fist at the corrupt caliph who killed her brother, her tomb a shrine of comfort for millions of the pious. Saints, queens, poets, scribes and scholars adorn the history of Muslim womanhood.

In modern times, Muslim women have been heads of state five times in Muslim-majority countries, elected democratically by popular vote (in Bangladesh twice and also in Turkey, Indonesia and Pakistan). And I’m not saying that a woman president is necessarily a women’s president, but how many times has a woman been president of the United States?

Yet even all that gorgeous history pales when I open my closet door for the evening’s pick: teal georgette, pink-and-beige plaid, creamy fringed wool or ice-blue organza? God, why would anyone assume I would want to give up such beauty? I love being a Muslim woman. And I’m always looking for my next great polka-dot scarf.