Monday, December 10, 2007

Islamic Feminist Theology for Dummies, by a Dummy

Okay, not a dummy, but certainly a neophyte, and my recent experience tells me that Mohammed wasn't a big fan of women.

Or Allah, I'm still trying to figure this out. See, there's the Qu'ran, or the prophecies as told to Mohammed (and written down later). But there's also this other text, the Hadith, that describes What Mohammed Did and dictates the Islamic law, Shari'a--a sort of 'WWMD' text for Muslims.

Some first-hand evidence: separate mosque entrances & smaller women's rooms, prohibitions on 'unclean' (that would be pregnant, menstruating or recently serviced) women entering the mosque, separate everything--schools, salons, clothing stores, taxis, wedding ceremonies--and then there's the whole covering thing.

In UAE, the 'outdoor dress' consists of the abaya, the black robe worn with the shayla or black headscarf. Both are adorned with glitter designs, sequins, or embroidery but I never saw any other color but black. These are different from the burka and chador. I can now identify a goodly number of countries of origin based simply on attire. Now that you're up to speed, you're probably wondering, like me, how you can wear normal clothes, sandals and lots of jewelry and then cover up all but your most sensual parts--your face, eyes and feet--in an effort to keep men from sinning (and of course protecting the woman and her dignity)? Granted, they likely need all the help they can get but is all this covering really a deterrent?!

Sure, I saw some women with uncovered heads and most actually did not cover their faces, but this was definitely the minority. And there's something to same-sex socializing, but that's when it's by CHOICE.

I spent a whole 90 minutes with my head covered, and that was about 90 minutes too long. It took my greatest concentration to not let a wisp of hair or my neckline peak out. Let me tell you, it was a full-time job. No wonder the women I saw were constantly flipping, tucking or adjusting their scarves. And then there's the peripheral vision question, especially for those who cover their face and drive! There's so much web information (our fav source) on both sides of this issue--some espousing the increase in veil-wearing and its positive impacts--but I have to say a weekend in Cyprus felt genuinely liberating for this non-veiled woman.

At least women can drive in the UAE, you say. Well, it's not that easy to understand, I'm learning. Women's rights don't mean a thing to a woman whose culture ingrains her in a system of permission-seeking. I can see how equal rights would be a foreign concept if it goes against the very grain of your everyday existence. I mean, if the question is, "Don't you want equal rights?" and the response is, "Let me ask my husband," there's a long way to go in this discussion.

Here's a great blog that presents a less blasphemous view of some things UAE:


Anonymous said...

OMG, is that IC in the photo? I can't tell! Also, I think we need to bring back the term 'recently serviced'. It is so much better than the language we currently use that I won't publish for CLC's christian eyes.

rebeckspe said...

I believe it is a mannequin (a/k/a "dummy")wearing an abeya.

IC, that is a wonderful and thought provoking blog post. As Republican as it may sound (eek), I darn near love America (and most of western civilization) when I hear about other cultural norms such as this.

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