"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Children and Veiled Women

"Children should be seen and not heard."

Does anyone else remember this saying from years past?

According to the idioms website that I found on a quick Google search, this phrase is a proverb
meaning,"Children should not speak in the presence of adults. (Often used as a way to rebuke a child who has spoken when he or she should not.) You may come out and meet the party guests if you'll remember that children should be seen and not heard."

Why do I have children and veiled women on the same post? Well, for some reason the other day this proverb came to mind as I was thinking of how some women are supposed to not be seen these days. Honestly I don't mind a woman who wants to dress modestly. I believe my country needs more modesty. The problem I have is when women are forced to dress in a way in which they are not comfortable -- whether that's being forced by a pimp to dress provocatively enough to sell your body or whether you are forced to dress in black material when you live in a desert region where temperatures easily exceed 110 degrees.

Yes, some will gladly do this "for God" and for the rewards they will get in the Hereafter, but when, for instance, a sizable number of Saudi women will remove their abayas and veils as soon as they leave the country's airport, please don't insist that all women cover completely for the sake of their religion. It's obvious not all of them do. They cover because Mama, Daddy, Grandma and/or the Religious Police make them.

I started a new book this morning. Not sure yet if I will finish it, but even in the first two chapters some things caught my eye. Naser is a refugee from Eritrea and was brought to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia at ten years old. His mother sent him and his three-year old brother to live with their uncle in order to escape the war-torn region near the Sudan. Naser remembers his mother with fondness and misses the closeness they shared in their village. His first impressions of Saudi were incredible -- such a lovely country when compared to the place from which he came. But then he noticed something that puzzled him. . . .

Alongside the men in their white thobes, there were figures in black which, under the streetlamps, looked like the men's shadows thrown against the white walls of the houses. . . . Because I hadn't seen any women in the street, I had worked out who these figures in black were.

"Uncle, can I ask you a question?"

"Yes, son," he replied.

"That's a woman, isn't it?"


"There, look, there." I pointed to the shadows.

My uncle smiled and said, "Yes. Oh, blessed childhood ignorance."

"Why are they covered so much? It is not cold here."

"The women are wearing abayas."



"Don't they get hot dressed like that? How do they breathe?"

"It's Allah's request. But He, the Greatest, will reward them in heaven, inshaAllah."

"So, will the girls in my school look like this, too?"

"You will be going to a boys' school. The girls have their own school."

I thought back to the small school in the refugee camp. All my friends there were girls. In fact the boys would beat me up because they were jealous whenever we played the wedding game because all the girls would choose me. I told my uncle the story.

"Oh ya Allah we ask your forgiveness. I will have hard work on my hands with this one. Listen, Naser, it is bad for boys and girls to mix."


"It's haram, son."

"Why is it haram?"

"Grant me your patience, ya Allah. Because ----" He stopped and looked away. After a few seconds, he added, "Because we are like fire and oil, and if the two of us come together, there will be a big flame and thus hell on this earth and in the afterlife. So you see, son, Allah is trying to protect us for our own good. Okay?"

"Okay," I said leaning against the window, not understanding a thing. (pgs. 19-21)

As a young man of twenty Naser was contemplating his life in Saudi: "It's true to say that I had no woman to share my life with, no woman to make plans with. In Jeddah there was only the unrelenting drudgery of a world full of men and the men who controlled them." (pg. 24)

Quotes from The Consequences of Love a novel by Sulaiman Addonia


Amber said...

I recall reading somewhere that Islam attempts to make women into perpetual children. They can't do anything without permission of their 'guardian'.

I can't count all the stories I've read on blogs about Muslim men who can't control themselves around women, who view them as objects, and then blame the women because they weren't in their houses, or 'properly' covered!

Freedom should include the freedom to *not* wear the niqab, hijab, abaya, jilbab, etc. if the woman chooses, without the fear of being molested, accosted, raped, and *then* blamed for it by the 'religious authorities' because she was a temptation to the men. Do they have so little self control? Are Muslim men really such animals that they can't *not* accost a woman who shows her bare neck? Or, God forbid, an ankle?

*takes deep, calming breaths*

Anonymous said...

Wow! I think I might like to read that book.

Achelois said...

The biggest problem with Saudi Arabia is that they confuse culture with religion. Half of the Muslim women population does not even cover their heads. To the Saudis, such women are infidels and their throttling culture is religion.
This summer something really strange happened. I was recalling how while once in Makah a member of the religious police harassed me to cover my face. I ignored him. I was near the Kaaba and during Umrah and Hajj a woman is not supposed to cover her face, yet he was harassing me. Then the same day I went to the Notre Dame and was telling my husband on the way that in the Bible Paul commands women to cover their heads in the church and men to uncover theirs. While going inside the cathedral I had a hat on. My husband took off his cap and I kept my hat on but as soon as I stepped inside, a volunteer asked me to remove my hat pointing to a notice that worshipers and visitors must remove their caps and hats.

I knelt down and prayed without a head-covering but I thought why this man didn’t respect the words of Paul. How would it have hurt him to let me keep my hat on (although I didn’t have religious reasons to keep it on; I had a bad hair day!).

Religion and culture may not have been intentionally harmonized in the early times but I think now in the West at least culture of a land has become very secular and has effects on religious practices whereas in the East culture is often confused with religion.

Joni said...

Achelios said "Religion and culture may not have been intentionally harmonized in the early times but I think now in the West at least culture of a land has become very secular and has effects on religious practices whereas in the East culture is often confused with religion."

What an ingesting statement. I will have to chew on that some more.

Sounds like an interesting book.

Susanne said...

Amber, I get the "perpetual children" impression about Saudi Arabia a lot! Oh, and also things I've read about Taliban rule in Afghanistan. I really, really, really hate it so much! I cannot imagine my sister having to get permission from her 7-year-old son. Hahahaha...it's ridiculous.

Yes, reading Muslim blogs has been eye-opening for me. I'm not getting this info from anti-Muslim sources, but generally from Muslim women (and sometimes men) themselves! I started reading out of curiosity and a desire to learn more about Muslims as told by them, and wow has it been quite a learning experience!

A long, long time ago when I was a tactless person *ahem* I had a talk with my Muslim Arab friend about the 72 virgins in the Islamic heaven. "Is this for real?! Do you know we joke about such ridiculous things in the West?" It became a rather, um, interesting and heated discussion when I told him I honestly get the impression that this makes Muslim men out to be like dogs in heat. *blush* So sometimes I say things I regret when I am passionate about something. Surprised?

Thankfully Samer is oh-so-forgiving of his American friend. :)

Susanne said...

Achelois, interesting story! I'm also surprised the man asked you to remove your hat. I know some people who still practice this where women wear hats to church.

I was talking to Samer recently how men will remove their hats for church and oftentimes for prayer. For instance about a month ago my uncle came to visit from Florida. When we had prayer before eating our meal, he removed his hat. Quite different from Muslims - I believe - who often cover their heads with those white hats when they go to mosque. Samer and I were discussing this cultural difference. I find all that stuff quite interesting.

Joni, Achelois often has such interesting things to say. I met her on her blog about a year ago and often found much to chew on. She's a real thinker.

Good to see you both. Thanks for your comments.

Achelois said...

Joni and Susanne, thank you so much :) *blushing and batting eyes*