Wednesday, December 08, 2004

The Veil Was Torn

I’m going to pick apart this news story Is Islam Endangering 'Europeanness?' by ABC. When I first started reading it, I thought I’d just comment on it. But as I kept reading, I had too many comments to make. So I’m going to pick apart the entire story. Not to the journalist’s detriment, but to the public’s interest. The sentiments I express are not unique.
As chairwoman of the Stop the War Coalition in Birmingham, England, Yaqoob was in Paris to talk about the backlash against British Muslims sparked off by the war on terror during a session titled "Dimensions of Islam." But it was her veil, or hijab, that turned into the subject of an acrimonious dispute.
Some questions that a lot of us non-Muslims ask about the hijab are: What purpose does it serve? Why do they have to wear it? Why can’t they show their faces?

Differences in cultures, customs, and languages can cause misunderstandings that sometimes, unfortunately, end up in tragedy. The inability to understand one another usually leads to frustration, which causes stress and, if not checked, becomes anger. (My psycho-socio-logical explanation.)

But let us look at this hijab thing with reason, can we?

The Islam culture requires women to cover their faces. Why? (If you are a Muslim – preferably a female Muslim - and can answer this question, please do. Hit the “comment” button below. No anonymous posts though.) The women need to know why they are wearing the veil and be able to defend their position if they continue to wear the veil. That is, if it’s a choice. HOWEVER, if they are forced to wear the veil – then that is an entire story all on its own. If the women do not wish to wear the veil, but are forced to do so because the norm of their culture is to bring a stigma on them -- bring some kind of scorn and shame on them -- for breaking some traditional way of life and/or religion that’s been known and practiced for centuries... then that is an entirely different story. In that situation, it would appear to me that Arab girls are born into a family and are automatically taught to wear the veil. And if the veil is a religion thing, then it means they were automatically born into a religion. They had no freedom to choose. Again, it’s a force issue. And if that is the case, then it may explain why Arab people (including girls) could become so passionately angry about change. All their life, from the time they were born, they were forced to live a certain way. They had no choice in the matter. And if they had questions, they they were probably shot down with an answer of an angry look or an answer indicating that the question was foolish or even with an answer that is intended to bring fear and intimidation to the questioner so they never bring up the question again. Let alone think about it.

Progress. Awakenings. Enlightenments. Inspirations.
These things happen -- in time and with time -- and they create changes. Sometimes change is unwelcome because it is uncomfortable. People don’t like to adjust to new things. They are happy with the familiar things in their comfort zone.

If an Arab woman (or man, for that matter) is forced to serve Allah because they were automatically born into the religion, then does that mean the woman or man automatically genuinely loves Allah? In serving God, one should love God... or whatever name they call Him. But if they are forced and know religion as a way of life, then a love for Him is not necessarily a pre-requisite to serving and living for Him. Being born into existence would be the pre-requisite. However, I do not believe that religion is a relationship with God. Religion is a practice of rituals. A love for God develops a relationship with God. Then doing things for God, out of a love for God, does not thrust someone into a form of bondage ritual. To me, that sounds like a force issue. And I have a big problem with that for several reasons.

The God I know gives us a choice to love Him. He is a Father to anyone who would receive Him and acknowledge His gift of love. He knows who He is and doesn’t need gangs of murderers killing people “in the name of insert God’s name here” or “in the name of insert religion here”. He is. Period. Whether or not we like it. Whether or not we accept that. Whether or not we know about Him. So, whether or not we choose to love Him is up to us. He gave us that choice. He does not force things. He does not force us to love Him and He does not force us to serve Him. If He wanted us not to have a choice, He would have made us all angels. Built to serve Him continually. And if He can make a whale swallow a man; make a virgin conceive a baby; hold the waters back for a nation to pass through to the other side; flood the Earth and kill off practically all living things...If He can do all these things and more... Then as powerful as He is, if He really wanted to, He really could force the issue that once we are born into this world we automatically serve and love Him.

But the God I know is not like that. It’s something we have to come to a realization of for ourselves.

Which brings me back to this force issue. My Bible tells me that when the first man and first woman covered up their nakedness, it was because they discovered what shame was all about. Before they knew shame they were innocent. Shame comes from “a strong sense of guilt, embarrassment, unworthiness, or disgrace”. It comes from “an awareness of inadequacy or guilt.” Suddenly, being naked was embarrassing and they felt inadequate so they covered up with fig leaves. (I’m paraphrasing.) The story continues that when God came to talk to them, they heard Him walking through the garden so they hid. He asked the man why he was hiding and he told the truth: “I heard You in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked so I hid myself.”

They were ashamed.

How does this compare with a woman’s need to cover her face constantly when she is out in public or in the presence of men who are not of her family?
Simple: Why should she be ashamed of her face?

If the purpose of the veil is to prevent another man from lusting after the woman, then that is something the man needs to deal with himself. If in his heart he chooses to think certain things, then that is not the woman’s fault. And she should not be shamed for his actions.

What another person does is not in your control. The only control you have is over yourself.

I don’t think it is really about Arab men lusting after unveiled Arab women. If that were the case, then Arab men would not go outside of their country where it is safely littered with veiled women. Going to other countries would be a big burden for Arab men because they would encounter women of all cultures whose faces are seen. They would be better of staying inside their own countries, burdened by their own religious rules.

Purity is not found in veiling a face. It is found in revealing an honest heart.

If this is a religion issue, then I go back to the story of the first man and woman. The God I know was upset that they “veiled” themselves... clothed their nakedness. How much more would He be upset that women choose to cover their faces??? Or that men force women to cover their faces??? Did not God make their face? Should not an Artist’s work be presented for others to admire? An artist does not create something of beauty only to hide it away, unless he is ashamed of it. I hardly think God is ashamed of His craftsmanship. He created us and we are all unique individuals: Vessels of clay made by the Potter. Why then should we cover up the face of the vessel?

If the lips are a problem, then why would God place them on a woman’s face for all to see? Do you think He made a mistake in placement that she should have to cover them up? Sure, lips can be a sensual element of attraction. So what? So can fingers. Should they be covered too? Let's just make a rule that women of God need to wear gloves from now on. That'll take care of that problem.

I am of the belief that God does not make mistakes. He makes purposes. To cover up the lips... or the nose... or the face in general... this would seem like a protest against God. Or Allah. Or whatever you may call Him. It would seem to say, “Dear, Allah. We believe You made a mistake here. You made a woman way too beautiful and so we all came up with this religious idea that she needs to cover her face. Because to look at her is to lust after her. We know You would agree. And so, not only are we going to make her wear a veil, but we are going to dress her up in all black – to remind us that if we touch her it will bring us death. That is something we learned. So to “protect” ourselves (which will then start a new way of life and create a condition of fear thanks to religion) we’re going to start enforcing this on women. Amen.”

Think about it.

And before I end this - I've got one more point from my Bible regarding the God I know (yeah yeah, I know - yer Muslim, you don't read the Bible or believe some things - but I'm going to say it anyway because it's a VERY GOOD POINT...aside from the one I made about the artist's work):
When His Son died on the Cross, a great earthquake occurred and the veil was torn in half.

The veil was the "covering" that prevented man/woman from entering into God's presence. If you know about the body being the temple of God, then look at this simile (comparison): If God would tear the veil to reveal man to God...and reveal God to man - to allow the two to come together "face-to-face" as it were and remove that restriction which was imposed upon man ("Do Not Enter")... Then how much more would God prefer to tear the veil from off the woman's face so that there are no imposed restrictions for her to walk in ("Do Not Look")???

I will write more from this article tomorrow.

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