Sunday, August 24, 2008

As I Was Saying...

As I mentioned in the comments section of the post, "What I am Not," I also cringe at the idea that hijab is worn to protect women from men as if men are not responsible for their own actions, as if women are just walking bait for a man-fish to gobble up. But men are not supposed to be in this passive position---that is why the Quranic verse starts off with telling men what to do:

Al-Nour (The Light)

24:30 Tell the believing men to lower their gaze and to be mindful of their chastity: [36] this will be most con?ducive to their purity – [and,] verily, God is aware of all that they do.

Then the verse goes on to the women:
24:31 And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and to be mindful of their chastity, and not to display their charms [in public] beyond what may [decently] be apparent thereof; [37] hence, let them draw their head-coverings over their bosoms. [38] And let them not display [more of] their charms to any but their husbands, or their fathers, or their husbands’ fathers, or their sons, or their husbands’ Sons, or their brothers, or their brothers’ sons, or their sisters’ sons, or their womenfolk, or those whom they rightfully possess, or such male attendants as are beyond all sexual desire, [39] or children that are as yet unaware of women’s nakedness; and let them not swing their legs [in walking] so as to draw attention to their hidden charms [40] And [always], O you believers - all of you - turn unto God in repentance, so that you might attain to a happy state! [41]

And regardless of whatever translation is used, e.g. if the word "modesty" is used instead of "chastity," or "head-coverings" is used for "veils," or
"hidden charms," are used for "hidden ornaments," the fact is, the MEN are addressed and instructed first--but somehow people, even Muslims, lose sight of that and put all of emphasis on what the women should DO, i.e. the women should cover so the men don't have to see them, putting men in this passive position, but actually--men should be responsible for "their gaze" whether the women is covered or not. Muslim women do not have to cover up just because men "can't help themselves." And men do not get a free pass to stare at a woman just because she is uncovered.

And as for beauty versus sexuality, it makes more sense that hijab is worn to keep our sexuality private because people can continue to be sexual long after their so-called beauty has faded. And that is why, correct me if I'm wrong, hijab does not need to be worn in front of men who physically have no need/desire for sex, i.e. "male servants free of physical needs, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex (Yusuf Ali translation)", and no longer needs to be applied on a woman who reaches an age where she herself is so old that she no longer has sexual urges (or past child-bearing years). And there are plenty of instances when a woman who, when totally covered and totally modest, will draw the attention of a man who finds her face and/or demeanour beautiful--and that is not the fault of her lack of hijab or what not--in fact it may not be any one's fault at all. It may just be what it is. And as long as the man doesn't "stare" or make advances toward her (without the appropriate respectful requirements) then there's no problem in that situation, I think.

Well, since I'm not really a formally educated Islamic scholar I should stop the interpretation here. But you get my point, don't ya?

Another thing I mentioned was feeling anxiety going into a "ghetto" area. My definition of "ghetto" is anything of "low-quality," in this case, the area that the store was in is not so well-kept (OK, so it was a "DOLLAR GENERAL" store). I got a couple of comments mentioning African Americans in this regard and realized I must clarify. I didn't mean to imply it was a place where just African Americans are. Yes there were AAs there, as well as whites, hispanics, asians, etc. it was a diverse crowd.

The image I was trying to share was a place with young people (mostly so-called minorities), mostly single people who are often over-bearing in their friendliness, basically telling you like it is (keeping it real), not sugar-coating or being fake, sort of hanging out both in and out of the store, standing around, and I noticed that was the atmosphere that day at the store (it often is) and I felt nervous because I didn't want anyone to tell me what they think (even if was positive). And since I am a minority myself, I do think other minorities feel more comfortable around me and therefore they will ask questions or comment on things that catches their attention. But I just wanted to be invisible that day. And honestly I think I feel more invisible in places that are full of older (usually white) ladies (such as Steinmart) because they sort of look at me and then ignore me. And those type of places are usually fancy kind of expensive retail places. It really depends on my own mood and self-perception at the time as far as which kind of place I feel more at ease in. I guess "invisible" has different meanings too. Ugh.

And to comment on the comments, I agree, when I was in high school and most of the kids were harassing and making fun of me, it was several African American kids who were kind to me, my friends, and some who did not even know me would say "As-salam-alaykum" when they passed me in the hall.

Anyway I'm just rambling here. I don't know. It just goes back to not knowing where I fit in. Or just my paranoia that I don't really fit in anywhere.

Stereotypes. Culture. Labels. What a mess it is to figure it out. You'd think a 31 year old married mother of 2 would have it all figured out by now, but NO! I'm still uneasy. I think the headscarf does that to me--I mean, it's part of the Islamic culture I grew up in, but it's not part of the Pakistani culture I grew up in. (I mean, being Pakistani has nothing to do with my reasons for wearing a headscarf, whereas being a Muslim has everything to do with it).

Once, before I had kids, a friend of mine I were talking about Pakistani customs and I had an "I don't care," attitude and she said to me, "Well, what culture are you gonna raise your kids in"? And I said..."Muslim." She said, "but what CULTURE, Pakistani? American"? Hmm. But I still figured their culture could be Islam. Couldn't that just simplify everything? I think it does. Oh, no it doesn't. Well, I guess it's easier to know what you're NOT than it is to know what you ARE.

Still, I do have these images of people who must be very sure about it all, culture, religion, fitting in. Hmm...maybe they're just "mature adults." Go figure.


LisaM said...

oh, I missed this one - really good!

Megan M. said...

I don't think there is such a thing as someone who's completely secure in their culture/religion/clothing, regardless of where they are. All sane people seem to have a little bit of insecurity, even if they bury it. I know I still do, and I've never fit in.
A very thoughtful and accurate post...but then they always are!