Today my boyfriend and I visited lots of local churches with his youth group, we visted a muslim mosque. The women had to wear head veil things, I didnt think they would make the girls in the group wear them but they did. I felt so uncomfortable about that, not from my religous background or anything (brought up catholic, made to go to mass but never really listened or cared) so i am of no religon. I just felt so opressed, i couldnt sit next to my boyfriend during prayer, which was okay with me but just the fact that i had to cover everything up except my eyes made me uncomfortable I wore it out of respect and I didnt want to make a scene or anything. I was the oldest girl in the group everyone else was like 10 and they thought it was "cool or cute" that they got to wear it. Later when the girls asked questions someone asked why they had to wear the veils and the boys didnt and I could tell the guy didnt want to make it sound like they were sexist or anything but he explained it like this " We come here to pray so we cant have any distractions from our sexual urges or something like and they could either not recognize the sexual pressure between men and women or recognize it and regulate it, so thats why we had to wear the veils and the men sit up front and they sandwhich the children in the middle and have the women in the back so they can control their sexual urges and really pray"
I dont know if i should feel weird about it or am i making too big a deal out of it or what. Later we went to a jewish synagoge and my boyfriend had to wear a hat thing (boy was he mad about that) and I know how uncomfortable that made him feel but the hat is a sign of responsiblity while the veil was something to cover women.
(The "hat thing" is a yarmulke, for the record. And Jewish women also often wear head coverings as well.)
In a word, going to the house for a different religion is a lot like being a visitor in a foreign country, or a guest in someone's home. Likely, you aren't required to go to any of those places, nor are the people whose those places are required to allow you in as a guest. But you go, and they do, and thus, you follow their rules when you're there out of respect, same as they'd likely follow yours.
Yes, the Muslim religion is not as forward-thinking from our view, and in some cases it's safe to say, in general, when it comes to women's rights and liberties, when it comes to sexuality, etc. as many of us may be used to (but then neither does much of Orthodox Judaism or Catholocism, or for that matter, the current President of the United States and most of his administration).
But head-covering, for men and women both, isn't anything new or outrageous, and it spans across many, many cultures. Understanding those customs takes more than a few minutes, and it's more complex than what was stated there. In fact, you could sum up veil-wearing and the wearing of the yarmulke (or a women's head covering, and some women wear yarmulkes as such) as signs of respect (not really responsibility) towards God pretty similarly.
But ultimately, I'm not sure what you're asking here. I don't think it should hae ben that big a deal for you, no. Nor would I count it as any sort of serious oppression: you went to where you did by your own choosing as a guest and could have chosen not to go if you objected (and done some research in advance to see what it might be like to make that choice). You feasibly went to study another tradition, and that involved very minor adaptations to your usual ways for a small periodof time so you could do that.
You're allowed to feel uncomfortable with traditions and customs that aren't yours, certainly. Anyone is, and many people visiting foreign cultures often do. That's pretty normal. Immigrants to the US from other cultures deal with the same thing.
It's important to recognize that cultural relativism is often more on par than the idea that ethics or morality span all cultures and communities, with what is good and what is bad, or what is oppressive and what is not, being the same. I give you, sometimes it's really hard to grapple with that, but to be aware that you find the veil oppressive, but that some Muslim women find it to be the opposite for them -- I've read some Muslim women who describe it as freeing for them, for instance, because they don't feel gaped or gawked at, they feel safer and less exposed wearing the veil.
something you mght find interesting is that in france, which has a fairly large muslim immigrant population,there has been a large amount of controversity about the government banning head coverings in things like photo ID cards and schools.
the muslim community -- particularly young, religious, female muslims, of which there is a HUGE number -- has been up in arms over this. they see it as an infringement of their rights not to be able to wear the veil.
And of course, one important issue to bear in mind is that Muslim women are as diverse in their views as anyone else.
Some wear the veil in one of its forms; some campaign against it. Some choose to wear it themselves, while opposing laws in various countries which would make it mandatory.
For some, it's a positive way of expressing their religious identity (just as wearing a cross might be for a Christian, for example). Some see it as a liberation from Western standards requiring women to be "on display" and judged by their looks all the time.
And some simply place it pretty low down on the list of issues facing them as Muslim women. Shirin Ebadi, the Iranian lawyer who recently won the Nobel peace prize, commented: "When we have solved our other problems, then let's talk about headscarves."
[This message has been edited by logic_grrl (edited 11-11-2003).]
speaking from the perspective of someone who has often seen people behave inappropriately at her house of worship, i have to say, i get offended when people don't dress modestly at the temple.
when i lived in berkeley, the buddhist temple had a sunday brunch thing where everyone is welcome to come over and buy Thai food (it's the temple fundraiser). a lot of ppl who would show up would forget (or just not know) that the place is actually a house of worship. so you'd get unwashed hippies wearing tattered clothes sitting on the lawn eating pad thai.
it's not like buddhists wear burqas or anything, hell, we don't even know the meaning of Sunday best. but my mother raised me to know that when i go to a temple, i should be neat and tidy and my shirt should have a back to it (generally, i wear a clean t-shirt and jeans to temple). I don't think i'm out of line for expecting others to do the same, even if it's just for brunch.
yeah, i've been to christian churches, and i dress properly for that, too. do unto others, y'know.
(What a fantasic quote, logic. I hadn't heard that before, or of Ebadi, who sounds completely magnificent, doing some digging round. Always an upper to be pointed to more inspiring women in the world.)
Posts: 68290 | From: An island near Seattle | Registered: May 2000
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"something you mght find interesting is that in france, which has a fairly large muslim immigrant population,there has been a large amount of controversity about the government banning head coverings in things like photo ID cards and schools. the muslim community -- particularly young, religious, female muslims, of which there is a HUGE number -- has been up in arms over this. they see it as an infringement of their rights not to be able to wear the veil." We've had that problem here too. I'm all for tolerance and diversity, but I have an issue with this. I know at one point, our gov't offered a compromise: wear the veil FOR THE PICTURE that doesn't cover everything but your eyes. And it was refused. I could understand being a little reluctant, but face it: it's a security issue. If you're wearing your burqa for your passport photo, that's a major issue. Heck, it puts YOU in an intresting position, cause most countries won't even hear of that. When I was applying for my South African work eprmit, I couldn't even wear glasses!
Posts: 433 | From: Canada | Registered: Jun 2001
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quote:We've had that problem here too. I'm all for tolerance and diversity, but I have an issue with this.
Are we talking specifically about photo ID?
It's worth noting that head-to-toe covering such as the burka, or veiling which covers everything except someone's eyes, is relatively extreme (although it's the norm in some countries like Saudi Arabia).
And as I understand it, it's not actually in any way specified by the Koran, which simply refers to headcovering and "modest dress" (and just as with much of the Bible, there's enormous debate within Islam about how literally this should be interpreted and followed).
For many Muslim women, a headscarf which covers the hair (the hijab) is considered entirely sufficient.
On the ID issue, since 2000, Home Office guidelines in the UK have stipulated that it's fine for women to wear a hijab in passport photos, as long as their face is shown.
i don't know about canada, but i know that in france the issue was not about burkas in photo id, it was about veils and headscarves. certainly that's different -- maybe it's still a security risk, but it's also being couched as a question of freedom.
In France, I believe the most controversial issue is veils and headscarves in schools (although there's also an issue of whether people must be photographed bare-headed for the national ID card). Various schools have been trying to force girls to remove their headscarves.
Personally, as regards photo ID, I can't see how a headscarf that just covers the hair could be a genuine security issue - any more than it is if people change their haircut or dye their hair after getting their passport photo taken.
But for some women, it isn't a requirement, it's a choice. WE're basically an immigrant society up here (and I love it!) and on the buses you see it all. I am sometimes surprised by the number of women choosing VERY modest Islamic dress, and yes, I've seen more than a couple of burqas. Generally though, they cover everything except for the mesh in front, but are made from a lighter material.
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