Thursday, October 19, 2006

Dance of the Seven Veils

I was walking down Bleecker St around Christopher a couple of weeks ago and I saw a Muslim woman wearing one of those black things that cover them altoghether, leaving only a slit of mesh for the eyes. So not only does she have to hide under a black tent in public, she has to look at the world through mesh. She was with a man, perhaps her husband, who was dressed in jeans and a shirt, as normal as any other human being. The sight of her shocked me, one, because it was quite unexpected, and two, because it looks really creepy. The first time I saw someone dressed like that, I was in a restaurant in Istanbul and even there, it was shocking. It's as if there is a mound of negative space, a black hole, where a human form should be. I think that to force women to do that to themselves is brutal and evil, but if that's what they believe in, do we have a right to stop them?
As long as they don't expect us to follow suit...
In Europe, some important leaders like Tony Blair are saying that the veil has to go. You know, I have tons of objections about the way Islam treats women, but somehow it seems to me that if they want to wear a black silo over their bodies, that's their problem. Nobody would tell a person full of piercings and tatoos, or the people who insist on wearing Ugg boots not to do that to themselves, so why the furor? Here, the ultraorthodox Jews wear whatever they want, the Muslims wear whatever they want and the punks in the East Village wear whatever they want. I think this is the way it should be. And as much as I admire the French obsession with secularism, I'm not sure if I agree with the fact that students cannot wear a kippah or a cross or a burka to public school.
The question is not whether Muslims should not wear the veil but whether their religious obligations are compatible with Western society. As long as they abide by the rules of the land, let them wear whatever they want.
So if their rule is to kill the woman who is suspected of dishonoring the family, no they can't do that here. They can do that in countries where there are Muslim laws.
And if phys ed at school requires girls to swim, they should swim or not go to public school, but to a religious school, where they don't have to.
Am I being overly simplistic?

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