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This blog is an honest look at what life is like for this particular American convert to Islam. We're taught in Islam to cover our sins, to not air them, for fear of lessening the severity of sinning. In this blog, I may relate past indiscretions from time to time. This isn't to make light of them, but in the interest of educating Muslims and non-Muslims alike as to the realities of life as an American convert, I present my mistakes honestly. I make no excuses for them, nor do I claim that they were okay to make. I am not perfect, and I make no pretenses as to that. If others can learn from my past, know that Islam, and religion in general, is open for people no matter what mistakes they've made, then I will gladly air my sins when needed.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Hijab treats a symptom; it's not a cure

Note: I'm not a scholar. All of my opinions are gathered from reading, researching, and my own personal prayers and contemplations - commonly known as ijtihad. I'm not a scholar. I just think for myself. If there is any historical inaccuracy in my posts, please politely let me know and link me to reliable sources. Thank you.

So let's talk about hijab, because the world doesn't talk about it nearly enough. I, however, have Very Strong Opinions on this, and it's my blog, so I'll state my Very Strong Opinions if I want to.

In a word, shut the fuck up about hijab. Shut the fuck up about how women need to wear it to keep men from being tempted by our looks. Shut the fuck up with insisting that women be the caretakers of men's desires and men's actions. We are not responsible for anyone's actions but our own - I am not responsible for your actions, dear reader, nor are you responsible for mine.

But I'm getting off track. To put it simply, hijab is not a cure for the hellish way that women have been treated by men since the dawn of time. Hijab is merely a temporary aide while men worked on learning - truly learning - to treat women with dignity and respect. You know, to treat us like human beings.

The Qur'an is a linguistic miracle. Each and every verse, each and every phrase, each and every word was chosen with precision and care - even the way subject matter is approached, how people are talked to, is deliberate. It's God talking to us, after all.

So let's look at what the Qur'an says about hijab:

"Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty: that will make for greater purity for them: And Allah is well acquainted with all that they do." (24:30 - Yusuf Ali)

Right off the bat, the Qur'an deals with men. In talking to men first, it places more importance on their actions - otherwise it would say "Say to the believing men and women ..." if it were placing equal importance on the actions of both genders. But the Qur'an doesn't. It very specifically addresses men first. In a society where men could have any number of wives they wanted and weren't required to provide for any of them or for any resultant children, this new religion suddenly said no, you can't have any number of wives, and you have to take care of the ones you do have. It suddenly said no, you can't deny women their property or children or free will in marriage or any other affair. It suddenly said hey, guys, women are people with the same rights that you enjoy, so you can't treat them like property anymore.

The Qur'an addresses men first because it was (and still is) the behaviour of men that needed to be corrected. Men needed to be called out for not controlling themselves and for harassing women. Men needed to be reminded that they were responsible for their actions, and they alone; not women. And while the patriarchal culture was doing a complete 180 ...

"And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers, their husband's fathers, their sons, their husbands' sons, their brothers or their brothers' sons, or their sisters' sons, or their women, or the slaves whom their right hands possess, or male servants free of physical needs, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex; and that they should not strike their feet in order to draw attention to their hidden ornaments. And O ye Believers! turn ye all together towards Allah, that ye may attain Bliss." (24:31 - Yusuf Ali)

Then and only then does God turn to women and instruct them to be modest and lower their gazes, as well. The implications of this that I read are "Men, start treating women as actual human beings with liberty and justice and free will and bodily autonomy. Don't catcall, don't harass, don't treat them like slaves or objects or animals. Women, while men are working on changing a cultural mindset that's a thousand or more years old, ease the process a bit."

The Qur'an is not placing the responsibility of controlling men's sexual desires on women. It is not declaring that women covering themselves will magically cure rape and oppression and harassment - it didn't then, and it doesn't now.

Hijab is not a cure. It merely treats a symptom while men are (supposedly) curing themselves of the mindset that women are, by dint of existing, the property of men, to do with as men please.

1 comment:

  1. This article made me so happy. I've been a reader on your blog for a while and I adore everything you say. I'm not Muslim (I'm an atheist and a Unitarian Universalist) but I did adopt the dress code nearly 7 months ago. When trying to explain my reasons especially to my fellow feminists I always find it difficult to explain that I dawn the veil as a treatment for a symptom, not a cure--as you said. It's my way of protesting the unfair standards placed on women and how men often treat women. I think the woman walking down the street topless for topless rights is essentially conveying the same message but in a different way and to each woman her own means of fighting the power. I think wearing the veil and covering one's body is a powerful statement and I hope that in time it comes to be better understood.