I was hoping to get back to the regular scheduled programming on this blog. I’ve never intended it to become a forum for intellectual discussion and critique of Islamic theology. It was just a blog with some pretty pictures and some soothing platitudes and it was my hope that it would enable Muslims to ponder the middle way and allow non-Muslims to see a “sane and normal” Muslim out there doing sane and normal things.
That is still my hope for the blog, I guess, but I’m not quite ready to return to that. Not yet.
There have been some comments regarding patriarchy and hijab that I would like to explore a bit further.
Taking off the hijab, has for me, been a liberating experience. Often times, women wearing hijab (including me) will make the statement that going out without their hijab is akin to going out naked. I’ve come to see that this is an extremely flawed viewpoint. To make that statement is suggesting that our hair and necks are somehow equal to the breasts and genitalia. While the breasts, and especially the genitalia, are linked closely to sex in both the psychological and physical spheres, the hair and neck simply are not. Or maybe perhaps this is purely cultural. In a society where a womans hair and neck are not regularly seen, such as Saudi (I hate using them as an example for anything!), maybe the hair and neck are sexual. But is this acceptable? It’s as if on one hand we are saying women are not sexual objects so we cover them because they are sexual objects. Do you see the circular argument and flaw in logic here?
Society and religion certainly have always dictated what is acceptable to reveal of our sexuality in the public sphere. In Islamic thought the concept of awrah, or what must be covered, is the primary concept dictating what can be shown to the world. For women it is only the face and hands, although the most conservative interpretations also dictate that she must also cover her face and lower her voice. The latter mysoginistic interpretation not withstanding, I’m coming to believe that what the Quran refers to as the “adornments” does not refer to the hair.
I’ve felt no shame showing my hair, although there has been some embarassingly self conscious moments that were tempered by humor. The most comical was me walking into a room full of workmates, who were, for the first time seeing me without my head covered. There were several double takes as recognition set in and then I recall hearing an uproarious raising of voices and even a few screams. A hilarious and memorable moment!
My interaction with the Muslim community has been somewhat less, but I have picked up my daughter from school and recieved a few dirty looks from women, but the men didn’t seem the least bit phased by my uncovering which is surprising to me.
Now back to this connection between hijab and patriarchy. While most would agree that the cloth itself isn’t inherently patriarchal, there are patriarchic implications to the entire matter. The fact that women’s sexuality truly is at the heart of the issue, and it should be covered in the most extreme way; the fact that the interpretations and body of scholarship which has deemed it absolutely necessary, even the 6th pillar, were all handed down by Arab men; the fact that the extreme pressure to wear it come from the masjid, the masjid still run by men. These are all considerations. But perhaps, the most troubling is that women themselves have bought into it, hook, line, and sinker. Certainly not all. I’ve been humbled by the number of women who have told me on this very blog that they can empathize greatly.
So that’s what I’ve been thinking about: How and why the hijab has become such a repressive issue for many of us and why did it ever reach this level intensity, given it isn’t even close to the most important aspect of Islamic spirituality. What is this obsession with women’s bodies and how do we cure it? Is it patriarchy looking to control our bodies and even our voice and thougths?
P.S. Comment moderation is off! I feel that makes for a better flow of dialogue. If you get nasty you’ll be deleted.