Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Hajib, The President and Me

Days after the President’s speech in Egypt, a myriad of things are peeking in and out of my consciousness. Today’s thoughts were full of women wearing jilbabs and hajibs. I live in an area of Chicago where seeing a women wear one is not unusual. I thought I didn’t notice it but today this portion of the President’s speech stuck with me:

"Likewise, it is important for Western countries to avoid impeding Muslim citizens from practicing religion as they see fit - for instance, by dictating what clothes a Muslim woman should wear. We cannot disguise hostility towards any religion behind the pretense of liberalism."

Could my own liberalism be a mask for hostility? I would never think of imposing any of my beliefs or opinions on anyone. Still I felt that maybe some part of my liberalism masked something. Today I found part of that mask and in it I felt sympathy, some part of me reaches for the ridiculous notion that the woman inside one of these garments is somehow trapped. Now this isn’t a thought that rushes to the surface but rather stays below poking holes in my conscious mind causing me to mutter things like That’s got to be hot! and Thank goodness that Puritan phase didn’t last forever here. When I see an Amish or Quaker women covered head to toe I don’t react quite the same. But I do know that I have never received a Freudian inkling they were being forced to wear that getup.

So there it is my crime, my mask, my intolerance. I have no idea where it comes from but it’s there. My rational mind cannot seem to purge the idea that a Jilbab and hijab are restraints rather than displays of modesty. This may seem trivial and play completely into an intolerant stereotype but I tell you I am not intolerant, yet some part of my subconscious saw a bearded man strapping a hijab on that woman before she left the house in the same way you strap horses to a cart. That’s my confession and I’m putting it out there. I’m going to blame the President for bringing my folly to the surface and I have made an appointment with a sensitivity counselor.

Presidents speech link
Information about Jilbabs Hajibs

We recommend the following books related to Islamic culture
Does My Head Look Big In This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah (YA)
Infidel by Ayaan Hirisi-Ali
Sadika's Way by Hina Haq
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (graphic novel)
Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
Camile Ryerson is our new contributing writer. She'll post a weekly column on Wednesdays sharing her views on politics, world affairs, pop culture and of course, what she's reading. Her favorite genre is sci-fi.


Carleen Brice said...

I really liked the movie Persepolis and am now reading the graphic novel.

Color Online said...

Hi Carleen,
I haven't seen the movie yet. I heard it's very good.

tanita davis said...

Wow - this is deep, thank you for being so honest. I've gotta take a look at some of these kinds of thoughts myself...

Sandra said...

Great essay. We do catch ourselves sometimes imposing our ideas on others, if only in our heads, don't we? Only the brave admit it.

Camile Ryerson said...

Hello Tanita, Sandra
Thanks for stopping by to read, I suppose mistrust of hijabs isn't too big a sin to bear. No matter how color or character blind we think we are we sometimes need to examine our impulses.