Author Topic: A modest proposal  (Read 723 times)

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Offline Mstislav

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A modest proposal
« on: November 14, 2007, 12:46:11 PM »
Shamim Hunt | Saturday, 10 November 2007

When I used to wear the hijab as a young Muslim woman, I thought it was pretty cool. I felt protected, modest and feminine. I no longer do so, as I have become a Christian and have seen with greater clarity the negative side of Muslim attitudes towards women. That's why I am surprised to learn that a number of Western women are turning to Islam and adopting not just the hijab, which covers the head and shoulders, but even the burqa, which covers the whole body, except for the hands and face, or even the niqab, which leaves only the hands exposed. "I've found it empowering to wear it. I love it. It's a statement: I am a Muslim and these are my beliefs," says one Australian convert.

There is nothing wrong with boldly and freely declaring one's faith by wearing a hijab. From that point of view, it is like a habit for Christian nuns -- an outward sign of purity. 

But the special garments worn by Muslims symbolise something more than a decent lifestyle. They are also supposed to protect men from the evil of women. Islam views women as awrah, a word defined by the Encyclopedia of Islam as pudenda, or female genitalia. Early scholars and collectors of hadith, or sayings of the Prophet, supported this. Imam Hanbal considered even the woman's hand and the face to be awrah. Ash-Shaafi’ee held that the showing of a woman’s feet is awrah and therefore should be covered. According to al-Tirmidhi, the Prophet held this conversation with his wife: "'Allah will not look at (on the Day of Judgment) the one who drags his garment out of boastful arrogance.' So Umm Salmah asked: 'What should the women do with the hems of their garments?' He replied: 'Let them lower it the span of a hand.' She said: 'What if their feet are exposed?' He answered: 'Then let them lower it a forearm and not exceed that.'”

Although not all Muslim societies treat women with this sort of disdain, suspicion is at the heart of Islam. Mohammad was jealous of his wives and would not trust them because he himself could not take his eyes off other women. He said: "I am indeed a jealous man and none is free from jealousy save one whose heart is degenerate. The only way to avoid jealousy is by having no man enter upon her [the wife] and by preventing her from going into the marketplaces."

Hence he mandated that his women should live in purdah, or seclusion. "Wives of the Prophet, you are not like other women. So, if you fear God, do not be too complaisant in your speech, lest the lecherous-hearted should lust after you. Talk with such people in plain and simple words. Abide still in your homes and do not display your finery as women used to do in the days of ignorance." According to another early scholar, al-Bukhari, the hijab was not meant for slave women but only for wives. But the hijab does not provide safety even within the home: it does not keep husbands from beating them. Mohammed allowed beating of wives, and he himself beat them, including his nine-year-old wife Aisha.

According to the renowned Islamic theologian, mystic and teacher of the 12th century Abu Hamid Imam Ghazali, women should not go out unless there is an emergency. In his book, Etiquette of Marriage, he suggests that “She should put on old clothes and take deserted streets and alleys, avoid markets, and make sure that a stranger does not hear her voice, her footsteps, smell her or recognise her.” Women are not trusted by Muslim men, and that is why driving or going alone by women is banned in Saudi Arabia and some other Muslim countries. My former  husband, a Muslim, would not allow me to even open the curtains in the house. I was not even allowed to go to do the laundry alone.

As a result of its beliefs about women, polygamy and concubinage became institutions in the Muslim world. Sexual slavery was a frequent occurrence, even among lower levels of society, particularly during the periods of the great Islamic conquests. Mohammad himself was not devoid of sexual immorality. He would attack the caravans that passed through Yadrib (Medina), and distribute the booty, which included women, amongst his followers. There is a twisted and self-contradictory view of modesty in Islam. Apart from the fact that Muslim men can have four wives at a time, they are permitted to have concubines as well according to the Qur'an. Mohammad's grandson Hasan had two hundred wives and replaced them four at a time. Muslim women do not just get used to it. They suffer and are jealous of other women in their husband's life. Even the Prophet's wives were jealous of each other. 
Winston Churchill wrote of the consequences of Muslim attitudes toward women in his book The River War (1899): “A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity. The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property -- either as a child, a wife, or a concubine -- must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men.”

But oddly enough, zealotry about modesty has not fostered societies which respect women as human beings, and not just as sex objects. In fact, the opposite is true. When I was growing up in Pakistan, I encountered a lot of sexual harassment. There was no redress. My mother just told me to be quiet and walk on, or else men would gather and gawk at me in the most humiliating way. Since I came to the US 20 years ago, I have not worn the hijab, and I have never personally had any bad experiences.

Although the United States is far from being a convent, I feel freer and more relaxed among the Christians here than I ever did among Muslims, either in Pakistan or the US. With all its failings the US still has a fundamentally Christian attitude towards women. Women are deemed to be different but equal and are treated with respect and dignity. Admittedly, secularism in all Western countries is changing our attitudes. Outward physical beauty is valued more than inner moral beauty; pornography is everywhere; extra-marital sex is becoming a norm. Abortion, divorce, and an increasing number of children growing up in single parent homes are sad realities of everyday life. But at least, in a worst case scenario, when passion erupts and the ideals of respect and dignity break down, the woman is not regarded automatically as the guilty party. This is not necessarily true in Muslim cultures. In Pakistan, where Sharia laws are legal laws of the country, if a woman alleges rape she is required to produce four men witnesses for the act, which is virtually impossible. 

What I believe is that respect for women is only possible when men acknowledge that women are children of God with the same rights and dignity. The normal Muslim solution to the inevitable sexual tensions of social life is segregation, or in the language of the Qur'an, hijab, a curtain that separates women from the company of men. It can be a garment such as the burqa or a separate room. But this does little to change men's hearts so that they treat women as persons and not as sex objects. 

So hiding behind a veil does little to foster modesty. It is like a pigeon closing its eyes at the approach of a cat. What I fear is that a number of Western women, sickened by their experiences in a sex-soaked secular culture, may turn to Islam so that they can live modest and decent lives. They will be making a terrible mistake. Clad in their burqa, they may not be ogled on the street by ill-bred louts, but they become part of a world of submission and oppression. The real solution to their exasperation is to return to their Christian roots in which morality, mercy and love flow from a purified heart.

Shamim Hunt is currently a PhD student in the Institute of Philosophic Studies program at the University of Dallas in Texas.
The satanic barbaric deathcult of islam spread like a cancer throughout the world, killing and destroying everything it touches. muslims are like the hiv/aids virus, subverting the societies of non muslim lands only to allow the cancer of islam to consume and destroy. muslim, I curse and hate you, your 'prophet', 'g o d' and deathcult.   

Because the West needs to be won again and the stakes couldn't be higher . . .