Thursday, June 08, 2006

Well, well, well . . .

What a shocker! "Muslim Women Don't See Themselves as Oppressed," reads the New York Times headline.

When asked what they resented most about their own societies, a majority of Muslim women polled said that a lack of unity among Muslim nations, violent extremism, and political and economic corruption were their main concerns. The hijab, or head scarf, and burqa, the garment covering face and body, seen by some Westerners as tools of oppression, were never mentioned in the women's answers to the open-ended questions, the poll analysts said.

And don't you know, the hijab has everything to do with it. The article even has to mention that the Gallup poll's strategic analyst wears one. Thanks for telling us, guys--it certainly makes a world of difference.


At 3:29 AM, Anonymous Nas said...

i've heard this said several times in the past few years since 9/11 called the whole religion and it's followers into question.

the problem is not that everyone sounds surprised when they hear this...

the problem is they figure that these Muslim women are stupid. like the woman whose husband beats her up and she tells everyone she fell down the stairs or even that she deserved it because she angered him. thats how they see Muslim ignorant to their own "oppression"

At first it pissed me I just enjoy it.

Ive found there's nothing more relaxing than watching people make fools of themselves. let ignorance flourish.

At 6:39 AM, Blogger Reem said...

Thia has been a topic to be discussed lately around me with my colleagues at work...

I agree with them on something: I dont beleive in those polls and surveys. I dont beleive they cover all muslim women. I think they are driven to show such result and data is analyzed to convince us with whatever they want us to beleive.
Lina has once discussed this. And I can't approve more with what she wrote. Check the article:

At 8:18 AM, Blogger forsoothsayer said...

about the hijab and the burqa...they're not oppressive. why? because the lascivious sexual harassment prevailing in the streets of many muslim countries make them seem like a needed measure, justified by the apparent need to protect oneself from men's lustful eyes.

of course, there are those who would say that the hijab and the segregation of society is precisely what causes this deprived lasciviousness in the first place. whatever the reason - the hijab is merely an occupational hazard of living in the middle east. maybe if these women were able to walk around without feeling every eye for miles devouring them, they would start to question it.

so..i'm not saying they're stupid, that they clutch the chains of oppression closer. i'm saying it's the assholes who make it feel needed.

At 12:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jack Shaheen pointed out that one of the worst sterotypes of Muslim and Arab men is that they are looked upon as sex starved pimps who oppress women.

To say that the hijab is needed in the Middle East because them men over there cannot control themselves is a baseless assertion.

You didn't say that the hijab was needed in the West, but look at how a great number of men view women over there. Look at how prosperous the sex industry is. Look at the psychological effects of the body image problems in the West. Look at all the countless social ills resulting from the objectification of women there. See how women are only used to sell products:

All men need to put their instincts in check. Thats one of the most beautiful aspects of Islam - self control; the higher organs (the heart and intellect) asserting themselves over the lower organs (the stomach and genitals) - this is something that all men and women need to struggle with, in the Middle East and in the rest of the world. Muslims look upon others as the creation of God and as people with the potential to become Awliya and greater than angels, not as mere tools for sexual gratification. At the same time there is an appreciation of reality that people reach those stages gradually and we have instincts and urges that need to be put in check through various means (like lowering the gaze - which God commands men to do in the Quran before He commands hijab - and the veils that women wear).

Lets not make these insulting, racist assumptions about men in the Middle East and come up with our own biased analysis of thier customs in the absence of context, lets try to see how these people view thier own culture and the beautiful lessons we can all take from it. I believe it is God's wisdom, a mark of a society where people struggle to purify themselves, and a great symbol of our Ummah.

And All praise and thanks is due to God, Sustainer of the Worlds.
And may Peace and Blessings be showered upon Sayyidina Muhammad - a Mercy sent to the Worlds.

Was Salaam,
Abd al-Haq Mohamad Alameddine
California, USA.

At 1:17 PM, Blogger Cairogal said...

I have lived in Egypt and the UAE and can say that I have almost never come across a woman in hejab who felt oppressed. Occassionally, a female college student might complain about the hijab and abaya. Statements such as "If I didn't have to wear this, I wouldn't" are not completely out of the realm of possibility among younger women in the UAE. Oppressed? No. A right of passage for many, in my experience, but not oppressed.

I can also say that while living in Egypt, I was quite modest-never exposing anything above my forearm or above the lower calf on city streets. My clothes were not tight. I was not exceptionally friendly towards any strange men, and I made a point of not making eye contact with men. Was I harassed more than in the US? Absolutely. Then I realised that Egyptian women, even those who wore hejab, suffered a similar harrassment.

I don't think all Muslim men are sex starved maniacs. I encountered a countless number of well-mannered men who respected me as a woman in Egypt, but even moreso in the UAE. Emirati men (high school students not in this category)generally would not place themselves alone with me in an elevator out of respect. Doors would be held open for me, but no eye contact would be made.

Saying all of that, I do think something happens when a woman seems forbidden. While I was treated with respect by many men (Muslim and non-Muslim alike) it was the men who rarely saw or interacted with women (particularly western women) who had some Hollywood notion of who we were-regardless of how we were dressed. Indian labourers in the UAE who lived a very different life from western expats rarely saw white women, and would stare. This stare was a cross between "You look like the movie star Julia Roberts" and "I've heard Julia Roberts likes to have sex with men she doesn't know." When I was harassed by men in Egypt, it was typically the man who seemingly had little or no interaction with foreigners on a personal level.

I recall some Palestian students of mine in the UAE. They were 18 and 19 years old, and somehow we got on the topic of the famous Egyptian belly dancer, Fifi Abdou. I don't think a day went by that one young man didn't talk about how beautiful she was. I finally had to equate Fifi Abdou with his grandmother in years to communicate that it was unusual for a young man to carry on about a woman of her age.

I recall an Egyptian film about five years ago about a newly-married couple who went to a counselor regarding their marital problems. There was a lot of discussion about sex, so the content was 'racey' by some standards. At the same time, a Nadia Algendi film was playing. Nadia Algendi was a sex kitten in Egyptian films many a years ago, but here she was, age 60, still playing that same role. Which film do you think young men lined up to see? The one with the former sex kitten, of course.

I suppose my point is that men can be made even more aware of their sexuality (and perhaps women, too) when you take away the obvious reminders of sex, and if a 60 year old ageing actress or belly dancer is all you've got to work with, well that's all you've got.

For me personally, I don't think the veil could have made me less forbidden in most incidences cases once I was detected as a westerner. I think once a man decides he knows 'what kind of woman you are', then it doesn't matter if you're covering your head or not. A good Canadian friend of mine veiled and wore an abaya-only her piercing blue eyes showing. She later took the veil and abaya off. Seemed that got more attention as the foreigner wearing a veil, than as the Muslim woman she was, hoping to command some respect.

I think we often forget that a woman covering her hair was once practiced by Christians and Jews, as well. I do not believe the veil is a measure of a woman's piety. There are loads of veiled women who are hardly examples of a good Muslim just as there are countless numbers of unveiled Muslim women who are the truest and kindest Muslims I have encountered.

Final comment before I stop rambling (and I'm sure this might stir up some dust): In my studies of Islam, I have been told time and time again that the Quran does not actually tell women to cover their hair-only to be modest. That modesty extends to men, as well. The veil, in my experience, can be a symbol of many things: culture, politics, family preference/influence, recent is not always about religion.

At 1:18 PM, Blogger Cairogal said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 3:13 PM, Blogger ramansour said...

I just want to add a quick thanks to the posters here for their thoughtful and thought provoking comments. I'm an American woman of Christian Lebanese descent and I really appreciated hearing your perspectives on wearing the veril. I can honestly say that you've relieved me of my own false stereotypes.

I'm adding this blog to my watch list. I look forward to reading more!



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