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Spare Me

Reader comment on item: Ban Islam?
in response to reader comment: Poor Meghan

Submitted by Meghan (United States), Feb 25, 2008 at 22:15

The point is that people want to ban the Qur'an because they claim it preaches violence. It preaches no more violence than the Old or New Testament. Perhaps currently Christians don't happen to be actively killing in large numbers (although there are isolated incidents of that as well) - but Buddhist Sinhalese in Sri Lanka are slaughtering Tamils, yet no one says Buddhism should be erased from the face of the earth, despite the fact that many Buddhist stories and saints are very violent.

The Hindutva movement in India has led to the death of many Muslims, and Muslim anger because of it has lead to the death of many Hindus, but no one calls for an end to Hinduism, despite the fact that there is much violence in Hindu scripture and tradition as well. And many people ignore the fact that there are a whole lot of Muslims in the world who are not Wahhabist (the particular ideology behind Saudi Arabia, the Taliban, and Al-Qaeda), not fascist, not "Islamist," but just people who love God.

I am American by birth and Muslimah masha'Allah. I love this country and this land. I generally avoid getting involved too much in politics because I am a socialist and my views are usually dismissed outright, and I find the whole process discouraging on the whole, but were it not for the fact that I live in a country where church and state are mostly separated, I would not even -be- Muslim.

I was raised Southern Baptist and spent much of my life as a practicing pagan and Buddhist, as well as being very involved in those religious communities. I can fully appreciate the separation of church and state (as well as the limits thereof, particularly where Christianity is concerned) in our country.

As much as any Muslim, I appreciate the ideal of an Islamic state, but given the situation the world is in now, I think that such a secular democracy that allows, at least as much as is possible, freedom of religion and expression, is the best way - or at least the least harmful way - and I fully agree with you that the slaughter of innocent people is wrong, regardless of who is doing the slaughtering. So please do not liken me or my beliefs to Islamofascism, terrorism, or the ideal of an Islamic state as it has been currently realized.

I rarely like to speak on feminism because I was told for years that I could not be both a submissive and a feminist, and now I am told I cannot be both a muhajabah and a feminist, so I generally don't like to call myself a feminist because of how it's often defined in popular discourse, despite the fact that I'm fairly versed in feminist literature and have done some scholarly work in women's studies and gender and religion.

For me, the veil was the easiest choice to make, perhaps the easiest choice I have ever made. Having dealt with an eating disorder for eight years and having worked quite a bit in eating disorder and body image awareness, and experiencing what it means to be a woman in this society through rape, sexual harrassment, and sexism, I -love- the veil. I don't believe it's scripturally required (at least, from the research that I have done myself) and I think that forcing women to wear it is just as disgusting as forcing women to take it off.

I also think it's depressing that the first time I was ever actually looked at as a human being versus a college-age sexual object with breasts and ass was when I began keeping hijab, and I am not arguing that hijab is the key to women's liberation. Covering up our bodies can be just as oppressive as showing them, depending on the context, and certainly various forms of hijab have been used for centuries to keep women in a position of powerlessness, just as purdah has in India (but I don't see anyone railing against that as strongly as they do the veil).

I will be the first person to stand up and say that a male institution of scholarly interpretation has certainly been used to warp the teachings in order to maintain power structures. It happens all over the world, in every culture; the oppression of women is the oldest form of oppression in existence. But for me, not only did it help me to take my focus off of my own body and to appreciate my body for what it was made to be, not what ideal I wanted it to fit, it also allowed me to reclaim the boundaries I felt I had lost by being constantly harrassed. Now, when I receive attention it's normally either appreciative (because of the design of my jilbab), respectful, or at the worst, curious.

I would also like to add that keeping hijab is not about covering the hair; hijab is an entire code of dress and conduct for both men AND women, and many Muslim men keep hijab to one degree or another as well. For Muslim sisters, some cover their hair, some cover their faces, some simply choose to dress modestly, and many choose not to keep hijab at all (at least in my experience living in America).

You are absolutely right. The veil does not make me a feminist. :) I was a feminist a long time before I began keeping hijab, or perhaps, by many people's standards, I am not a feminist at all and I am just setting women back hundreds of years, or whatever. But for me, keeping hijab is my way of reclaiming my body, of fighting against the distortion of bodies in our culture, of fighting against the constant feeling of not having my own personal space. I don't veil all the time, I don't believe I'm going to hell if I don't veil. But for me, it is, I imagine, not too different from what a habit is for a nun - it allows me to take my mind off of my body and realize that there are more important things than how I look and how others see my physical shape.

If that makes me oppressed, or consenting to my own enslavement, Alhamdulillah. Thank you Allah. I will gladly be oppressed; it is far more freeing for me than being a slave to clothing ads and companies that make their garments in sweatshops and Jenny Craig ads and not being able to walk to work without being catcalled at and the constant preoccupation with looks in our culture.


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