Friday, October 20, 2006

The issue of the Veil (Comments)

Maggie wrote in with the following, regarding the post about Jack Straw urging Muslims not to use the veil as a point of separation with other Brits. My response to her is included and while I agree with what Straw (and Maggie) are saying, I certainly do not agree with why. Both comments are included in the original post, if you'd care to check them out. But it seemed an important point/ counter-point to me, so I thought I'd reproduce them as their own post.

If I may share another perspective as to why someone like Jack Straw might feel called upon to address the subject of the veiling of females in British society: there is another reason why this is a problem. It has nothing to do with Islam or Muslims. It has nothing to do with conforming, fashion, or racism. It has nothing to do with freedom of expression. It has nothing to do with the individual wishing to live separately from the prevailing customs in observation of their religious beliefs - for example, the Amish in America are deeply respected, though they deliberately reject dress norms, electricity, telephones, conveniences. Here's what the problem REALLY is:

It is deeply offensive to the most fundamental feeling of people in free societies to see other people openly oppressed. We know it happens in various ways to many people in many places, including our own, but when it happens it upsets us. To see degradation of another human being worn publicly and held up as a virtue of some sort is simply sickening to us.

It may be a cultural norm elsewhere to mutilate the genitals of little girls, and considered a virtue; that is not the case here. The custom must be observed elsewhere, not in this society. It may be a cultural virtue to sell off daughters in marriage to strangers, but that is not the case here, and it becomes something that people must do in private -not on the street. It may be a cultural norm for men to have four wives - but polygamy is unlawful here, and disgusting to the majority of citizens. People may freely engage in this sort of arrangement elsewhere. It may be perfectly acceptable to beat one's wife (wives) or kill one's daughters ("Honor" killing, I believe the term is) but here these things are crimes - assault and murder. They may not be practised, accepted and excused here.

Imagine if you will some reversal of experience regarding the veiling of females: what if people, for religious reasons, wore men’s clothing designed to expose the testicles, that women's clothing bare the breasts? Would we not all find this appalling? If you were forced to see it on the streets or in public transportation or to know your children were exposed to it in schoolrooms from their teachers, would you not, finally, no matter how much you wish to be sympathetic and tolerant, say something?

The dehumanization of women is an obscenity to us. To deliberately throw it in the faces of one's neighbors does more than separate - it's offensive. If you are in our countries, you are free to act as you wish in your homes - something that is not the case, I believe, in many of the countries that promote the subjugation of women as a virtue. If people are going to emigrate to free societies, they must understand that they are guests and conduct themselves accordingly, at least in shared public life. Or, live elsewhere. I cannot help but wonder what it is that attracts immigrants to places for which they have such contempt. Please, be happy, perhaps somewhere else.

Jack Straw finally said something. It's worth listening to. If it is unacceptable, perhaps it would be better, and people would be happier, occupying some country whose customs towards females are more in keeping with their comfort zone.

My response is as follows:

Hey Maggie, thanks for writing in. I agree, for the most part, with your comment. I did have some problems with your characterization of what may or may not be acceptable to Muslims.

For instance, you say:

"It is deeply offensive to the most fundamental feeling of people in free societies to see other people openly oppressed"


"To see degradation of another human being worn publicly and held up as a virtue of some sort is simply sickening to us."

My own personal beliefs are that veils are unneccessary and Burqa/ Niqabs are unacceptable. That said, a lot of communities (including the Amish and the Hasidum, here in NY) insist on a dress code for women that emphasises modesty. You seem to have inferred that a veil or a niqab is synonymous with subjugation, which is simply not true. I have a couple of cousins who turned to the niqab of their own volition, as adults and believe this is how they're supposed to live. Their husbands are certainly NOT oppressing them. On the contrary, they wield equal power and, in the privacy of their homes, the dynamics of their relationship would be difficult to distinguish from a western one.

This link that you draw between the niqab and female oppression is, I'm afraid, a knee jerk one and while it may be true for burqad women in countries like Afghanistan, it is less likely to be so in a country like the UK or the US. You may not be able to grasp this, due to a cultural bias (which we all have), but the situation is much more nuanced than how you appear to have understood it.

Secondly, your equation of veiling/ niqabs with genital mutilation or honor killings, is really distressing to me. Again, the link simply isn't there. One is a personal choice, the others are a crime against humanity. My own mother was circumcised and my grandmother was neither veiled nor a monster. It is due to ignorance that it happens, not part of a grand scheme to subjugate women. I'm highly critical of arab/ muslim societies but I believe you're judging other cultures based on your own cultural lens.

Thirdly, the subject of polygamy is a touchy one for most Muslims. That said, I don't agree with you that it's disgusting and really caution you against proclaiming people's customs as such, when a) there's a rationale behind them and b) the West doesn't seem to have the same moral judgement on, say, someone who has kids with different women and then shirks his responsibilities towards them. Which is what polygamy was designed to do: make men accountable and ensure that kids from different women received their rights.

Polygamy is not common among the educated, in the Arab world. If my dad tried to pull that shit, my mom would bobbit-ize him before you could say 'I do' four times. But I personally think it's more commendable than fathering children all over the place and then not taking care of them. Which is a very real problem here in the US...among the lower socioeconomic classes. Do you see the link?

Polygamy is like any other system: it has it's flaws and it can certainly be abused. But the reasons it was set up is not as distasteful as you seem to have inferred from the media. It would be like me saying 'Oh, Southern people sleep with their sisters' which may be true of some people in the South but not all. And in that case, everyone seems willing to chalk that down to the correct reason: ignorance.

Despite all that, I do agree that burqas have no place in a Western society...where the women wish to participate in the economy, the market and the legal system. The difference is that it's simply impractical and not 'conducive to the greater good'. But it can't be banned or anything since this would undercut the principles of freedom that western socieities are based on. Rather, the Muslims need to adapt in order to reach an acceptable compromise. But the West needs to do the same.

The last thing I take issue with, Maggie, and I must say, I found this to be quite an egregious statement and almost a betrayal of your personal feelings of nationalism and so forth:

"If you are in our countries..."

I think you'll find that this is their country as well. And while a modicum of integration and assimilation is the burden of any new immigrant group, it's also their right not to abandon their belief system entirely and to work with other immigrant groups, over time, to arrive at social harmony and cooperation.

I hope you're not offended by my response. The truth is all in the nuances and many times, I feel the nuances about Muslims are either not understood or not seen as being there at all.


Anonymous Lynn said...

I personally know veiled women in the US that are wearing it against their will. I don't think we could count how many there are in Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan. So, yes it can legitimately be labeled as a symbol of oppression even though there may be a vast majority of veiled women that may be wearing it voluntarily. You were raised with that culture so you may feel differently about it than someone who was not. You can't really tell them how their stomach should feel when they see what they legitimatly percieve as subjugation.

Female genital mutilation IS part of a grand scheme to subjugate women. The purpose of it is that the woman not get pleasure from sex and will then be assured to stay with her "master" rather than stray. Of course they were convinced that this was a religious obligation and it was for their own good. Of course they wouldn't know what they are being deprived of and then they go on to do it to their own daughters.

1:01 PM  
Blogger Basil Fawlty said...


Female genital mutilation IS a crime...I never said anything different. I'm against the veil but a LOT of women (my own mother and cousins included) aren't. To call it a "symbol of oppression" is not only hysterical and's ludicrously simplistic.

I know a lot of women here who are subjugated by men...and they're not Muslim or veiled. The crime is subjugation, not the veil.

5:14 PM  
Blogger jokerman said...

The veil as a sign of oppresion is true in many ways but isnt the lone culprit. If you look at it, why are men so adamant & furious about the veil issue? You dont hear a similair argument regarding prayer or fasting or upholding rights, it is a sign of oppresion as many, not all, women are either forced or coerced into it. Coerced by means of the ancient Catholic dogma of guilt, by preaching its a religious obligation & many equate it with prayer. Its oppresive side is that it shows women are sexual creatures, not equals, they are possessions that are transferred from father to spouse who dont want other mens eyes running over them, but its inevitable, thats why there are clear verses in the Quran that calls for men & women to steer their eyes away from such sights, i dont mean not to look at the person but not to stare at a womans breasts or her butt for eg. Why do you think women cover their faces & wear black? Its a natural progression from the veil.
How many women do you think will still wear the veil if they were told its not a religious obligation? it started out as a cultural dress but then turned into religious by some backward men who want to control their women, if they wear the veil, they will obey mostly everything else.
As for Polygamy, Polygamy outlived its supposed shelflife, & in ISlam its only ONE, not 4 as many are misinformed. The Polygamy was allowed ina society that abhored limitation of wives, as many as 20 they could have, so 4 was to limit their apetite & later was to be one wife only, but again, chauvinists claimed that its their Godly right to marry 4 women which has strict stipulations & versed in a clear catch 22 situation that there cannot be except one wife!
Muslims clearly have alot to work on, as someone recently put it, we need a muslim Martin Luther.

6:05 PM  
Blogger Jester said...

First of all, FGM is a custom that predates Islam and has roots in African tribal culture. It is practiced in only some corners of predominantly Muslim countries and still in some parts of the African continent. There is mostly general consensus about its ills in Muslim societies, be they medical, social or psychological, in fact, the highest religious authorities in Egypt have condemned its practice and the government has taken real steps to eradicate it. The fact that many still perform FGM is due to ignorance, which drives this, as well as other equally detrimental social practices.

Now, while some of us here are fighting to expand dialogue on notions of nationalism and identity, the west ironically continues to speak with the tongue of extremists like the Mulsim Brothers who consider Muslim countries a single homogeneous bloc, completely forgoing the rich cultural diversity of over 52 nations sheltering over 1.5 billion people. In places like Egypt even elements in the Christian minority practice FGM, is that also Islam's fault? Consider if you will how Tunisia has banned polygamy, or how Turkey bans the hijab in official spaces of work. Are these not countries that continue to consider themselves Muslim? Yet the west chooses to remain conveniently ignorant of the diversity of Islamic interpretation and remain steadfast in its accusations of Islam as a terror wielding female oppressing religion. We blame ignorance for the spread of HIV AIDS in Africa and not a sort of cultural vice specific to Africans. When someone has the audacity to blame gang violence in America on an African American cultural penchant for violence we don't hesitate to call them racist, yet it’s become acceptable today to berate Islam, as religion and culture, and call it aggressive, irrational and oppressive based on erroneous and ill informed western constructs and perceptions motivated by xenophobia and intolerance rather than genuine interest and intellectual engagement as Mr. Jack Straw will have us think. The circular discussion over the veil represented for the most part by the equation “ religious oppression vs. freedom of choice” frankly bores the life out of me. The truth is, there are Muslims who consider the veil a “farida” (religious exigency) and there are others who don’t, and while it is taken for granted that unveiled women are more liberal than others, there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that the camp you choose determines the degree to which you oppress women or the number of your relatives who have flown planes into buildings. There are also far more interesting intellectual debates taking place in Muslim societies and some very progressive stances being taken, but the west, and the defunct religious pundits who make it their life’s work to reply to the their inanities, are completely blind to the dynamics of our culture which continues to shed skin and re-invent itself, finding new ways of expressing itself, like the phenomena of young veiled women’s fashion in Egypt, which circumvents prevailing conservative tendencies while still upholding their traditional values; because regardless of what the veil may represent or symbolize, at the end of the day people just want to fit in, women are no exception.

It is difficult for a person from the west to have access to locally brewed critical thinking, let alone grasp the multilayered nuances of the region's rich cultural fabric, yet it is no excuse for someone to insinuate that only people in "free societies", meaning the west of course, are offended by oppression as Maggie suggests in Basil’s post The Issue of the Veil. Let's look at this statement in light of a survey recently conducted by BBC which revealed that in Israel, where the largest percentage endorsing torture worldwide was found, the majority of Jewish respondents (53%) favor allowing governments to use torture to obtain information while in contrast, Muslims in Israel (who represented 16% of total responses in that country) are overwhelmingly (87%) against any use of torture. I wonder if people will now infer that Judaism encourages the use of torture…

Like the late Edward Said explained, the world today needs humanists who truly pursue emotional bonds with one another that transcend differences. It would do all of us a favor to pursue a balanced and critical understanding of the topics before launching vituperations that impact billions around the world who consider Islam their religion and yet (lo and behold) believe in justice, equality and compassion.

6:28 PM  
Blogger Basil Fawlty said...

Alright, I understand the points you guys are making. And I appreciate the amount of thought and passion you have for this issue. Believe me, any kind of oppression against women is distasteful to me, whether or not a veil is concerned. But I'm concerned that the baby is being tossed out with the bath water here.

Jokerman, whether the veil is a construct of religion or man, is beside the point. Simply because that point, like all articles of faith, will always be sacred to believers and ridiculous to non-believers. My point is that it is an integral part of many people's faith and has to be seen as worthy of respect.

The contentious point here is whether the veil is an oppressive instrument or a symbol of oppression. And my assertion is that it can be the former but has no place being the latter. Simply because to a lot of women, it is a voluntary choice based on faith. The oppression is the culprit here, not the veil. And the cause of oppression, in most cases, as Jester rightly points out, is ignorance.

Evil often springs from the most banal things, like ignorance, but that's not a popular, sexy solution. I've said this before, some of the worst cases of female oppression occur in Africa. Without a Muslim thought in sight.

In any event, your points are well taken.

11:22 PM  
Blogger Cairogal said...

Lynn, I personally know countless veiled women from living in Egypt and the UAE. I can say with total honesty that I never met one who felt they were wearing it against their will. Just because some cultures within Islam force the veil, it should not be applied to the majority that you stated wear is voluntarily.

As for circumcism, this has roots in Pharonic Egypt and is a social custom, not a religious one. You'll find more African nations of varied religions practising circumsision than other predominantly Islamic countries of the Middle East.

3:20 AM  
Blogger jokerman said...

this is where we differ.
You say the veil to these people is an integal part of their faith, but it is not!! covering the hair of a woman has nothing to do with Islam, so how can it be integral? this is the main issue...they consider it to be part of their faith so how the mix up? simply because of male chauvinism with the help of backward preachers & real ignorance on Islams basics. An integral part of faith to be respected is fasting, prayer or refusal to drink alcohol or eat pork for example, but when someone says the veil must be respected because its part of the Islamic religion, that is not acceptable because it isnt & further more, it has become a political tool for islamists to oppress & use women, as it was mostly a political slogan.
when you say its an integral part of peoples faith, i say those people dont know their faith & their ignorance does not establish exterior articles of faith that i must respect, otherwise any ignorant group can simply come up with an silly idea & claim it as integral to faith & everyone must accept it or else, soon the Niqab will be integral & the fGM too & demands for respect will rise.
the veil was never related to Islam, let alone an integral part of it but i think the real culprit is the trinity of ignorance, chauvinism & oppression.
What about the male circumcision, it will bebrought up but later i Judaism it is Integral but not in Islam. Is it male mutilation too? i dont think so as it doesnt affect the male like it does with the female...i feel very sorry for those girls who go through that experience. Who actually came up with that idea first time?

10:59 AM  
Blogger Basil Fawlty said...

Jokerman, I think our values and sense of what's acceptable and what's not are the same, but you're right, we differ there. As I mentioned before, the veil's not something I'm a fan of but a lot of Muslims see it as part of their faith. The Quran specifically asks for modesty in clothing for women (and men, too, but it's less restrictive) and that's been interpreted to mean veiling. It may very well be just that: interpretation. But perception is reality and if people perceive veiling as part of their religion, they won't take very kindly to being told that their beliefs are steeped in ignorance and misinterpretation.

Look, the fact is any part of religion can be debated and reduced to a series of motives and outdated practices. But to people who believe it-who essentially see faith as a more rewarding discipline than logic-it's as true as the laws of physics and chemistry.

I think we're both saying the same thing, Jokerman, just that we've drawn different conclusions from it.

I tried dating a veiled girl once (well, with a view to marriage) and I wasn't thrilled about it. I mean, I liked her (she was a lovely person) but I have bad associations with the veil. I figured that whatever my feelings about the veil, she was a sweet and solid person and I could live with her choice, and respect it.

Unfortunately, I ended up not being good enough for her. She wanted me to stop drinking which, while I understand her not wanting to raise her kids in a home where alcohol is available, wasn't something I was crazy keen on. She was also worried that my liberal outlook would rub off on the kids:) I was open to compromise (e.g. I'd never drink in the house, she'd never have to experience being around it etc.) but she wasn't. To her, and to most religious people, faith is a zero-sum game: it's yay or nay, you either accept it or reject it but you can't dwell in the shades of grey.

Anyone who knows me, knows I'm the king of nuance and grey shades!

11:55 AM  
Anonymous lynn said...

Basil said...It is due to ignorance that it happens, not part of a grand scheme to subjugate women

I was just saying that it WAS to subjugate and it is a part of a culture that tries to subjugate women wherever they can. Women are not to be trusted. Hell is over flowing with them. It is best that they stay in their homes,but,if they are out of their homes they need to be covered. They are the property of the men in their lives that own them and no one should see that man's property because it is all HIS to enjoy or to keep clean and chaste so that he can be proud to get the best deal when she is sold. I mean married off.

Cairogal, I know that there are probably the majority of veil wearers that are doing it voluntarily but there are some (I know personally) that are wearing it forcefully either by parental orders or extreme peer pressure.

Maybe that is not the way you see it since you have been around that culture all of your life. But like I said, for people on the outside looking in, it is blatant subjugation and we don't approve of it even if she is brainwashed to believe that that is what she wants. Much like your grandmother allowing that horrible crime to be done to your mother.

Why do we always have to respect someone’s religious beliefs? What if that religious belief told them that they had to sacrifice to the fire their first born? Are we allowed to say that is repulsive?

1:20 PM  
Blogger Basil Fawlty said...

Lynn-you're allowed to criticize it all you want, to disapprove, to raise your nose, to campaign against it, to take to the streets, to pass out leaflets, whatever. I am talking about VEILING.

FGM is horrific and I take no issue with you seeing it as part of a grand scheme etc. In fact, I sort of agree with you.

What I do not accept is the implication that veiling and FGM are on the same scale. One is a horrible crime and the other is, however midguidedly, a gesture of modesty. Twist it or turn it, veiling never hurt anyone...other things do.

You HAVE to respect people's beliefs. As long as people are not killed or assaulted or violated or insulted. FGM falls under the latter therefore it is NOT something that should be respected. The veil is part of people's beliefs, despite your disapproval, and should be respected, no matter what your feelings are.

You're right, Lynn, having been born amidst all this, maybe I am making allowances for my people or am incapable of seeing certain patterns of behavior. But by the same token, I'm qualified to try, not to excuse or justify, but to hilight the nuances that you may not be aware of.

I'm not big on symbols, which is why I take exception with your characterization of the veil as a symbol of female oppression. I've seen oppression of non-Muslim women here in the US and all over the world, which suggests that the culprit is misogyny and ignorance, not the veil.

Sorry if this has disturbed your view of the world as a backward swamp that's waiting to be civilised by the west, or perhaps thrown a wrench in your feminist thesis about how all Muslim women are subjugated, even if they don't see it, but I'm only being as honest as I can about how I see this. You have very valid points but the equation of FGM with veiling (which is based on you going back on forth between the two, throughout your comments, branding them with an equal share of your ire) is ludicrous, condescending and, frankly, kind of insulting.

I might be wrong about that last assumption, so please enlighten me: are you saying that they're both as bad?

PS I still appreciate your comments! And I love being proven please don't take any of this personally, ok?

2:12 PM  
Blogger Cairogal said...

If we're to campaign against veil, what about the Orthodox Jews (women) who wear wigs or hats to cover their hair, as well as modest clothing? Is that not also subjugation? And what of Christian women in parts of Europe who opt for the veil when in church? Are they also subjugated? The Amish?

I do think that you're right about men controlling women, Lynn, to a degree. Egypt reminds me of American life 50+ years ago. We're not so far out of inequality ourselves. As for what the veil means, this is a loaded question. Yes, some families have a tradition that expects the girls to veil, and many girls in turn perceive veiling as a right of passage. There are also families that respect that it is to be the choice of the woman, and no one else. I've seen women put on the veil to signal to men that she's a good woman and ready to marry, and I've also seen women who wait to veil until they have landed themselves a husband (using her beauty, of course) and then veil as if to say, "I'm off the market". I've seen women veil to make political statements. I've seen women veil because they suffered some tragedy. I've seen young girls veil because that's what her friend(s) is/are doing. It's not always because someone expected them to do it.

A woman covering her hair predates Judiasm, and this tradition still lingers in Christianity and Judiasm, but is most predominantly practiced in Islam. I agree with Basil that its necessity is interpreted and probably by men! I mentioned this before, but I'll say it again, I don't think we, as a culture (Christians living in the western world) are so far out of the proverbial woods. Islam is a young faith relative to Judiasm and Christianity, and I think it is possible that change will occur, albeit slowly

2:47 PM  
Anonymous lynn said...

I do not put veiling and FGM on the same scale in any way. I only am pointing out that they both are derived from the same chauvenistic mindset. I do realize that FGM is not an Islamic practice. The veil is not the culprit at all. Rather it is a result of the culprit and it symbolizes the culprit. So, I think that what we were talking about here was how the non muslims
might see the veil as a sign of oppression. I think that it is legitimate for a non muslim woman to see it that way and you can't tell us that we shouldn't see it as such when that(subjugation)is the origin of it.

3:44 PM  
Blogger Basil Fawlty said...

Lynn-Cairogal summed it up beautifully so, as my old creative director used to say "I can explain it to you, but I can't understand it for you". If you didn't buy her explanation, nothing I say is likely to add anything.

And I'm not telling you what to think or not think. Actually, I recommend thinking, fully and often, but not just with one perspective. I find when you don't consider other points of view, you end up with the same point of view you started with...which means you could have saved yourself some time and energy.

4:28 PM  
Blogger Cairogal said...

In defense of Lynn's perspective, I believed, before living in the Middle East, that the veil was a symbol of oppression. I recall my first year in Sharjah, the Emirati women moving around like ghosts (I thought of the angel of death when I saw them) in their abayas, often only their eyes showing. It took meeting more Muslim women, making friends with them, hearing their reasons for veiling, their opinions on the veil and abaya, before I realised that everyone had different feelings about it. Some young college girls admitted that if they could they would remove the abaya and shayla, but their local traditions, not law, made that awkward. One friend said, "My grandfather died when I was 23. I never liked to do my hair, or wear makeup. It seemed logical." Another colleague believed she was closer to God, despite her husband not wanting her to veil (and this happens more often than one might expect). Another friend was going grey and simply didn't want to bother with her hair.

I guess my point is, had I stopped asking after the first few who had negative things to say (this is too hot for our climate!), then I probably could say that I thought it was oppressive and forced upon them. Are those countries male-dominated? You bet. So is Spain, where I also lived. So is India. So is _______. There are a lot of cultures where men have the upper hand (most cultures) but we just don't have physical evidence of it. It's very easy to point at the veil and say, "That's oppressive." Personally, in my 6 years abroad, I found Arab men to be generally quite polite, and I never once felt like a second-class citizen when interacting with them. I can, however, name some other cultures I dealt with in which I experienced extreme sexism.

11:00 PM  
Anonymous lynn said...

Basil, you agree "that veils are unneccessary and Burqa/ Niqabs are unacceptable."
Did you explain why you felt that way?

12:21 AM  
Blogger Basil Fawlty said...

Hey Lynn, I sort of touched on it in an earlier post/ comment. The veil, to me, is an outdated concept that longer fulfills it's original directives: create a modest appearance and repel the gaze of men.

To me, the veil stands for a refusal to live life, to learn, to gain experiences and to nurture individual thought. Most veiled women I've met are like that; it weds women to a code of conduct that is extremely limiting, and I prefer women to be alive. As far as protecting women from being eyeballed, men are adaptable creatures who can just as easily develop a fetish for the parts they can see. And women are just as likely to ogle men as the other way round. Clearly, the system has outlived it's effectiveness.

I draw a lot of my opinion about veiling from my mother, who was a lovely young woman until she got veiled. From that point onwards, it became a cycle of guilt and apathy and desparation for her. I love my mom but I never liked what she became. The isolation of women from society, by way of the veil, seems to be a reason for women to lose interest in all that is worth experiencing in life: from meeting new people to exchanging points of view without a preset opinion to ambition.

I know there are exceptions to this, but my belief system revolves around life being all about the mistakes that you make and learn from. The veil, especially when a girl adopts it at an early age, stops women from doing the bare minimum of living (and hence mistakes) and in this sense, can be an impediment to development.

The burqa isn't even worth discussing. It's impractical, extreme and represents the worst kind of gender apartheid. It truly is a reprehensible thing, in my opinion.

So despite this being my opinion, the reason I don't agree with you is down to the principle of individual choice. I know women (and men!) who regardless of what my opinion is about their curiosity for life or their intellectual development, are actually happy with that kind of stagnation. I see it as a waste of life...but then again, my parents see my life in the same light, so I have no call judging them.

Like I said, it's a very loaded issue and as long as it doesn't hurt anyone, I'm ready to give the veil a pass. As far as I'm concerned, if I ever have kids, I wouldn't want them raised by a veiled woman. I want them to be open to life and the veil stands for the opposite of that, in my book.

2:52 AM  
Anonymous lynn said...

Basil, as I suspected you have the same feelings about this as I do. It seems where we differ is if I call it a "symbol of oppression".

Do you not agree that the original intent of it was exactly what you hate about it?

- The isolation of women from society, by way of the veil, seems to be a reason for women to lose interest in all that is worth experiencing in life

-The veil, especially when a girl adopts it at an early age, stops women from doing the bare minimum of living (and hence mistakes) and in this sense, can be an impediment to development.

Is this not oppression in your eyes? Now you want to talk about free choice then? Ok is it really free choice if there is the fear of God involved? Is it free choice when there is peer/societal pressure? How about parental persuasion? How about when it is a law (Saudi Arabia, Iran or Afghanistan)? How about the Christians in Iraq today that are forced to wear it for their own safety?

Now I don't get that sick of a feeling in my gut with hijab. I was speaking of niqab when I spoke of that. I would never (I don't think) protest against a woman wearing a hijab or niqab. I would vote for a law against the wearing of it in schools where there are impressionable children.

When I see a woman in hijab I don't get the same feeling as I would if I saw a Catholic Nun in her habit. The nun I see as a pious woman who has devoted her life to serving God and mankind. Even though I am expected to,I can't get that when I see a hijabi. For one because I have to wonder if she is wearing it by force or is she one that is wearing it, as Cairogal pointed out, to cover her grey or her laziness to brush her hair.

But the bottom line is I see it as a symbol of oppression because of it's original purpose just as I would see a burning cross as a symbol of racism.

1:46 PM  
Blogger Basil Fawlty said...

Fair enough, Lynn. I constantly struggle between your view of the Muslim world and Muslim's own view of their world. Maybe I sometimes give my people a pass when a swift kick in the butt would be better suited. But I like to think I'm simply viewing the Arab world from a broader context.

The thing is, the West wasn't that different in it's treatment of women until maybe 50 years ago (almost 100 years ago, women were pronounced medically unequipped to drive cars; 120 years ago, chastity belts were sold along with horseshoes). My point with this is that the development of a culture needs to happen at it's own pace, in an organic manner, and maybe my people aren't where they need to be, but they're getting there.

Look, I don't know if you've ever been to Cairo or Dubai or Morocco (I know Cairogal has) but if you ever get a chance, jump on it. It may show you that oppression and subjugation are terms that are too harsh and misplaced. My people (men and women) are much simpler than that and their needs (freedom, democracy, self-expression and so forth) are not as sophisticated as their western counter parts. The veil may be holding them back, but it may also be something they're comfortable with, something they understand and, in many cases, something that makes them feel connected to their world.

Anyways, thanks for your input on this. It was very helpful. I'm sure both our views will be different in five years or so.

3:00 PM  
Anonymous lynn said...

I appreciate the culture that these women may be raised in and someone who wishes to dress that way in Cairo, Dubai or Morocco because it is a part of their culture they are raised in but I think that this discussion was started because these women are wanting to bring this culture here with them. As you pointed out, we have already gotten past that here. Why should we want to go back after all the long years of struggle to get where we are?

When I see a child born in the US that is being forced to wear it (despite her discomfort) because her family came from that culture I see that as wrong. When I see a non-muslim girl, born and raised in the US, who is young and impressionable being convinced that it is the right thing to do because someone she looks up to wears it and told her that she wears it so she can get to heaven. I see that as wrong.

I have not been to Cairo and I appreciate that it is up to the culture to change at their own pace but from what I have seen and read it appears as though the culture in Cairo is not advancing but rather stepping back in time as far as the covering of women. Is that not true? But, I don't live there so it isn't really my business how they dress. I only care if they bring it here and I have to look at a woman in a niqab in the grocery store.

4:14 PM  
Blogger Basil Fawlty said...

Don't believe everything you read in the papers, Lynn.

4:29 PM  
Anonymous lynn said...

Trust me, nothing I speak of is from any newspapers. It is either personal or from bloggers. Should I not pay any heed to any bloggers?

6:42 PM  
Blogger Basil Fawlty said...

Well, I'm a blogger too, Lynn. And remember, we have a president in the White House who trusts his "instincts" over experience and talking to people who have actually been to the places he's making judgements about.

There's no substitute to real live experience, so I caution you about forming cast-in-stone opinions until you've experienced various POVs. I'm sure you'll agree that until you've been there, it's hard to make a blanket statement about an entire culture and it's views, no?

I don't really understand what you're trying to arrive at. I don't agree with you but I do concede that you have valid points.

11:10 PM  
Anonymous lynn said...

I guess I just resent your inference that my POV was not derived from real life experiences and rational consideration of other's POV. I am the child of immigrants to this country and I live in an area where we have the greatest population of muslim immigrants. I have had many personal interactions with people from different cultures and I read blogs to get even more POVs. And bleh! please don't try to compare me to Bush! LOL

7:10 AM  
Blogger Basil Fawlty said...

Well, like it or not, you don't have any firsthand experience. Not that you're not entitled to an opinion because of that. There's a myriad of opinions out there and we tend to gravitate toward those that reinforce our own biases, especially if we know people who can vouch for them.

I think your facts are correct, based on the "research" you've done, but your conclusion is flawed; it's incomplete; it's probably not statistically representative either.

And, for the record, I wasn't inferring, I was implying (the listener infers) and I wasn't even implying: I'm saying it. You. haven't. Been. There.

Visit any Arabic country you want (the safe ones, of course), get to know some of the people and try and understand where they came from, not just where they ended up.

10:36 AM  
Anonymous lynn said...

You are confusing me Basil. We have the same opinion what is my "conclusion" that you have an issue with?

Are people that are just here to attend University not considered real live people from that country?

12:11 PM  
Anonymous lynn said...

BTW, you did infer, from what I had said, and maybe combined with your preconcieved ideas of what an American thinks or who they contact with, that I did not have first hand, open minded experiences with people from other cultures and their POVs. But I ain't no English major noways LOL.

12:32 PM  

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