This is me wading in on the controversy about Muslem women wearing the hijab. From 8 October 2006.
On taking the veil
I’ve been mulling over this since Jack Straw’s recent pronouncement on the subject of veiled Moslem women There have been some good comments on the subject already – my good mate Cavalorn puts Straw’s words into perspective quite nicely.
Firstly – Straw is a complete wanker. Let’s get that out of the way and move on.
Secondly – the only practical reason to ask such women not to veil their mouths is if one is deaf and cannot understand them without lip-reading.
Third – if removing barriers to communication based on facial expression is so important, why doesn’t Straw ask for sunglasses, Botox and beards to be dispensed with also?
Well, the short version is, “your rights end at my nose”. But as I’ve been thinking about this, my view gets a little… ranty.
Bear in mind this is just my opinion…
…I find overt displays of Christian symbols not only offensive, but nauseating. I feel that xtianity is a faith comprised of roughly equal parts hypocrisy, arrogance, blind acceptance of outdated dogma and whining passive-aggression. Speaking as someone who has never taken the easy path to spiritual belief – constantly seeking and asking questions of the Universe, altering my beliefs on the basis of life experience and trying to never assume that I have arrived at The Truth – xtianity is nothing but a form of moral and spiritual laziness, of unquestioning acceptance of contradictory and repressive ‘truth’… and it sickens me to the core. I truly think the whole belief system is dangerous and demeaning both to those who espouse it and especially those who disagree with it on any level.
And I can’t escape from these symbols. The hideous concrete cathedral down the road peals its bells whenever it wants. Xtianfuckwits wave their faith like a greasy flag on every online forum I belong to, from PDA users to Lost watchers.
I would *love* to pronounce that these wanton displays are offensive to me, or as Straw put it, “make me uncomfortable”. It would give me endless pleasure to rip crucifixes from their throats, graffiti their posters, hack their websites, render unwatchable their cable networks…
…but I don’t. Because that would be intrusive, unnecessarily aggressive and grossly wrong. It would be an act of intolerance, based purely on my emotional reaction to something I do not agree with. There are many people for whom xtianity is a worthwhile and nourishing belief – and some of them are friends of mine.
I find any belief system where you can’t question the dogma, choose to leave, or are severely punished for breach of clothing or other regulations, distasteful. But I am very aware that many find my beliefs equally odious.
Thus it is with women of Islam choosing to display their tokens of faith. You may not like it, you may even be offended by it – but you have no bloody right to order them to remove it.
I know some will say that “the veil is a symbol of women’s status as second-class members of Islam, of their spiritual bondage to a repressive patriarchal system” – and I agree they have a point. I am no fan of the extremists of that faith either. Having spent some years studying Sufi mysticism, I know that there are many paths to Islam (which means, let us not forget, ‘submission’) which do not repress women. Mohammed himself said, “woman is the twin-half of man” – not the lesser partner, but equal.
If they have chosen to take that belief – be that belief xtian, muslem or whatever – to that level, it’s their choice. It would be crass to force them out of their belief on the basis of personal distaste – and anyway, it doesn’t work. People inside a repressive belief system have to find their own way out. You can’t “rescue” them until they are ready. And you certainly can’t assume a lack of consent without very good evidence.
It’s interesting to compare this to BDSM – where the submissive chooses their lifestyle, defines their relationship with the one they submit to and expects to be treated within certain defined parameters which they accept and consent to. The key word here is ‘consent’. A lot of people find such dom/sub relationships highly offensive – many of them are xtians. But to me, a nun is exactly the same relationship, without the fun bit. If a woman consents to wearing a veil, it is her choice – and I am unsure that feminists would be on strong moral ground to argue otherwise. If the woman does not consent willingly – does so out of fear of reprisal, being outcast or even physically harmed – that is another matter entirely. I would hope that there would be ways for such to be able to leave that state… I know that it is hard to deny the ties of religion and family that bind them. But exactly the same is true of those bound to xtianity, or scientology or any other restrictive belief.
The only sensible path I can see is tolerance and honest communication. And if some of that communication has to take place through a veil – whether it be of cloth or of hardened mental attitudes – then so be it. It’s better than just resorting to hatred and war.