Friday, October 20, 2006

although i meant to self-absorbedly happily babble about how the allende is a first edition and how that discovery sparked a thorough search of all other books to find two more first editions [i must be getting on with Goals of Life, one of them was to be rich so i could have many first editions and lo and behold, i'm mildly affluent and have three first editions sitting on various surfaces in my don't have to be rich to have first editions haha] but i'm distracted by this hijab issue that keeps cropping up these days. first it's jack straw. then it rushdie agreeing with jack straw. then kal it was pervez hoodbhoy calling the girls who wore a hijab/burqa in his class 'abnormal'. i notice that these are all men calling the veil oppressive. hoodbhoy and straw are both uncomfortable with completely veiled women because they can't gauge their reactions or know their facial expressions whilst interacting with them- and thus they are abnormal. straw also makes the veil an impediment to national integration. what i'm wondering is that if one is so concerned about community integration, shouldn't you be acknowledging that the composition of your country is a diverse one and so be working towards accepting difference instead of turning it into a point of conflict? jack straw doesn't give a hoot about "improving integration", he wants to effect an internal mini-colonization: if you want to live here, you better look, speak and act like us. so one could be a terrorist, but as long as one flipped their hair about nobody would notice? [am also recalling henry VIII and the whole separatist movement...sure, it was so that he could get his jollies legally but it was also about having the right to make your own choices about your religion. we have agnostics now but i guess being a king you couldn't not believe in some kind of God]

then there's hoodbhoy, whom i do respect, but whose vehemence mystifies me. are you calling the doctoral candidate in your class a moron because of her personal choices? are you automatically dismissing someone who is obviously not as oppressed as you think if she's sitting in your class with a bunch of boys, studying quantum physics? i don't understand- it sounds like he's judging a book by its cover. there isn't a woman alive who doesn't want to look pretty, so if she's choosing to cover herself there's a pretty good reason- and one that she's okay with. i'm sure there are lots of people who may be forced to wear a veil, but if one is doing it voluntarily, who are you to judge them as being oppressed because of your personal phobias? it's like saying that people who have strange piercings creep me out, and so if your face looks like metallic swiss cheese you're a self-abusing, destructive freak and a threat to society. which is balderdash, of course. the personal decisions i make have nothing to do with you, and as long as the swiss cheeser is not running after people with a piercing gun or a hot needle, what's it to you? isn't that what a democracy is supposed to be, a place where one has the freedom to do whatever the hell they want as long as it doesn't step on someone else's toes? we're down to fundamental ethics here, and very basic concepts of myfreedomendswhereyournosebegins, and also falling into the stereotype trap.

islam's increasing publicity [i.e public nature] is also something that continues to distract me. religion is a private business- nobody's wagging fingers at jews for wearing yarmulkes or going cross-eyed at christians for fasting at lent, so why is everyone after the muslims? one obvious reason is terrorism, that has sparked muslimphobia like nobody's business [the one man's terrorist etc debate is another issue]. methinks it's also got to do with putting religion into government, because that hoists it into the public sphere. which is not to say that there have never been religious governments before, but because of the terrorism all things muslim have been thrown into sharp relief. i'm not willing to believe that clothing is truly the issue. politics are. i honestly believe that a secular state is the only real way to run a government, because my religion and your religion invariably pokes each other in the eye at some point or another, and squabbling over witnesses and clothing and divorce is an utterly idiotic way to run a country. one needs to be concerned with health and literacy and libraries and sanitation and foreign debts more than how to punish fornicators. people will fornicate whether you like it or not, so it's probably in your better interest to make sure children aren't dying of diahorrea or there are no slaves labouring at brick kilns instead. concern for women is directed at them only when it comes to sex: what you look like, what you wear and what you do- your temptation factor, in other words. women who wear burqas are oppressed. women who don't are whores. women who fornicate are adultresses and women who do aren't supposed to like it [if they do then we loop back to the whore idea]. is nanga nachoing a symbol of my freedom? no, not really, just as my wearing a hijab is not the symbol of my oppression. what they are symbolising are stereotypes, and it's a shame that otherwise intelligent men and women constantly succumb to their lure.

hoodbhoy said that women who wear a scarf/niqaab are 'hiding' themselves. life is a series of masks, and wearing a niqaab is the least of them. we can be barefaced and just as inscrutable- e are. i don't know if i would ever have the gumption to get over wanting to be pretty and cover my head, let alone my face, but i do know that if someone chose to do it, props to them. they've got guts. and methinks we all need to learn how to be more tolerant of the choices people make- that's what 'integration' means: living with each other despite one's differences. being a german does not make you a nazi the same way being a muslim does not make you a terrorist. besides, hitler's the one who wanted a homogenous population.

Mina at 10:01 AM