Saturday, February 6, 2010

Are the Women of Islam Our Enemy?

America's conservative Christian Right movement would say, "Yes! They are the enemy. Their mode of dress is a political statement of non-conformity, non-integration into Western culture and a sure sign of Islamic fundamentalism." To complete this picture, the Muslim woman's mode of dress is considered as a gateway to extremism and viewed by many as an affront to gender equality.

There is an African proverb that says, "Until the lions tell their side of the story, the story of the hunt will always glorify the hunter." That said, Muslim women have a lot to say about their condition and position. Naheed Mustafa, in her compelling article entitled My Body is My Own Business says,

"WOMEN are taught from early childhood that their worth is proportional to their attractiveness. We feel compelled to pursue abstract notions of beauty, half realizing that such a pursuit is futile. When women reject this form of oppression, they face ridicule and contempt. Whether it's women who refuse to wear makeup, or shave their legs, or to expose their bodies, society, men and women, have trouble dealing with them. In the Western world, the hijab has come to symbolize either forced silence or radical, unconscionable militancy. Actually, it's neither. It is simply a woman's assertion that judgment of her physical person is to play no role whatsoever in social interaction. Women are not going to achieve equality with the right to bear their breasts in public, as some people would like to have you believe. That would only make us party to our own objectification. True equality will be had only when women don't need to display themselves to get attention and won't need to defend their decision to keep their bodies to themselves."

Oppression, which Muslim women face for taking control of their own bodies, comes in many forms. In the case of the two Muslim women pictured above, they were rejected from employment at McDonalds because they wear the hijab. These are not immigrants who society wants to integrate into American culture, but two Dearborn, Michigan African American Muslim women seeking employment. The McDonald's manager could not see beyond their hijab and discriminated against them on the bases of their religion.

Modesty is the "signature distinction " of a Muslim woman. The Holy Qur'an is very clear where Allah, the Al-Mighty says, "And say to the believing women that they restrain their looks (also in the presence of men who are not near of kin and so lawful for marriage) and guard their private parts, and that they disclose not their natural and artificial beauty except that which is apparent thereof, and that they draw their head-coverings over their bosoms, ..." (Al-Nur:32)

Islamic dress and Islamic norms of modesty can be easily absorbed within Western culture without the perception that Muslims are not conforming or integrating into society. The reaction toward the Islamic norms of modesty by the Western Occidental power-brokers may be illustrated by the judicial ruling of the Michigan justice system, which will allow judges to bar Muslim women wearing veils from testifying in court. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Religious and domestic violence groups joined to fight against the Michigan Supreme Court.

The West's response and subsequent reaction to Islamic dress and Islamic norms of modesty is puzzling to say the least. The very people who judge us as non-conformist, fundamentalist, extremest, who pose an affront to gender equality have a holy book which says, "But every woman that prays or prophesies with her head uncovered shames her head for it is one and the same as if she were a (woman) with a shaved head. For if a woman does not cover herself let her also be shorn; but if it is disgraceful for women to be shorn or shaved, let her be covered." (1 Corinthians: 11:5-6)

As explained from the aforementioned verses, the Bible treats the wearing of a veil as an inherently righteous undertaking.

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