24 October 2006

Controversy over the hijab in Italy

I heard this on NPR today. The story is about, as my headline suggests, controversy over the wearing of the Islamic headscarf worn by some female practioners of the faith.

I feel very conflicted over this. As an American, born and raised, even though I'm embarrassed by that fact that I am an American from time to time by the bad behavior of my president or for other reasons that I don't need to get into right now, the belief that people have the right to express themselves however they choose is blood-deep in me. From an extremely early age, I was taught that if you wish to dye your hair purple, or wear orange and green together, that is your right. Freedom of expression is one of our most dearly held ideas. (And next in line is the right to poke fun at badly dressed celebrities such as on Go Fug Yourself. I'm kidding. Kidding!)

Freedom of speech means that you must work as hard or harder to protect the speech that you dislike as the speech you like. So the right of one of my Islamic neighbors to wear the headscarf is something I must work to protect even if I disagree with it.

But I'm not sure I do disagree. All I really know about Islam has been taught to me by popular culture and media, and you'll forgive me for being very skeptical that the media in America is the most reliable of teachers when it comes to non-christian religions. So I think that I know that some forms of Islam repress women, and it would seem that the repression is at least partially expressed by the hijab.

No one, however, is suggesting that female Orthodox Jews stop covering their hair, or that any other culture be forced to "intergrate" into Italian society.

I need to read the Koran so that I can have a better understanding of the basic tennets of Islam. More people practice that faith than any other in the world...

5 comments:

loolt said...

was googling hijab and came across this blog entry.. even though it is nearly a year old, I figured I would comment anyway.

I find it rather bizarre that you would disagree with a rule within a religion you dont believe in in the first place.. what is it that you disagree with? That Islam decrees that women should wear the scarf? that in Islam a muslim woman should wear the scarf? ... I have never though to disagree with something irrelevant to me...

A clarification is also in ordre, Islam does not oppress women (or repress them).. the is no 'form of Islam' that does so... people (men and women alike) contribute to the oppression of women... in fact, illetracy and ignorance of Islam lead muslims to oppress women... we (muslims/arabs) are emerging (albight gradually) from our dark ages... men and women alike are becoming more educated... and women are reclaiming their rights... and set down 1500 yrs ago in Mecca i.e. their Islamic rights.

Part of this reawakening, is the rising number of women who wear the hijab...when I was at school only 1 girl wore the hijab, now it will be more like only 1 girl does not wear hijab. It does not seem that hijab is a manifestation of oppression via Islam.

just my thoughts...

Lucy Arin said...

Hi Loolt-

Too bad you didn't leave a real name or any way to get in touch with you, I'd love to have a chance to discuss all of this. I am forced to simply quote myself back to you and suggest that you re-read what I wrote.

All I really know about Islam has been taught to me by popular culture and media, and you'll forgive me for being very skeptical that the media in America is the most reliable of teachers when it comes to non-christian religions. So I think that I know that some forms of Islam repress women, and it would seem that the repression is at least partially expressed by the hijab.

Careful re-reading of that passage will show you that I am in fact expressing supreme ignorance in all matters Islamic, and that I am sincerely doubtful that the American media has shown anything Islamic in a positive light.

I have a powerful curiosity about anything that has to do with Islam. Which is why I wrote this post in the first place. I am also very concerned with the rights of women, all over the world, which is another reason I wrote this post.

I wonder if you'll come back to see what I responded.

Francesca said...

Hi Lucy,

Just like the other person... your post came up on google when I searched 'History of Hijab'... make of that what you will.

Anyway, you expressed 'a powerful curiousity' about Islam so I wondered if your curiousity had been satisfied since you wrote that comment... or if it still burns. If it does, I'd be more than happy to email you about it. As a recent convert to Islam I can tell you what I learned before and after I converted, and also why I started to wear the hijab.

I'm spam-phobic so I don't want to leave my email here. But I'll check back over the next couple of days if you want to get in contact.

PS I saw in your profile you like Serenity. I like you already ;)

Lucy Arin said...

Hi Francesca-

(Lovely name, BTW.)

Thank you for your comment. It is always nice to have a non-confrontational chat about religions.

Many things have changed since I wrote this post, almost 2 years ago. I've been tempted to change the name of it to something else, because my IP tracker shows lots of hits for googling just like you did, and I am hardly an expert on the hijab.

Anyway.

The biggest change since 2006 as far as religion goes is that then I was still looking for some truth from any monotheistic faith. Now I am an atheist. (and that statement will probably end up getting me more flaming. *urgh*)

I appreciate the offer to hear more about Islam. I have an ongoing e-mail correspondence with a conservative Baptist pastor, which is as fascinating as it is frustrating, for both he and I. He makes me grind my teeth in irritation, and I agitate him to the same degree, but we carry on a very civil discourse about religion, pop culture, the media...
I enjoy hearing his spin on things.

I would enjoy doing the same with you on one and only one condition. Know this. As interesting as I find religions, I am not seeking one for myself. Don't preach to me, because I've been there, done that before.

If you're still interested, knowing that I am not ever going to prescribe to a particular faith, then I welcome the dialog.

Me e-mail is lucyarin AT gmail DOT com.

If you're a fan of Joss Whedon's, have you been watching the Dr. Horrible series on the web that he's doing?

enso said...

These are my opinions and nothing more, for laws of the spirit can not be laid down by man:

Although the word hijab is mentioned seven times in the Quran it is never in relation to the dress of women.

There are several verses directly dealing with the dress of women, however the most apropos is 24:31 in which women are directed to use their cover (khimar) to cover their bosoms or cleavage.

So, in no place in the Quran are women required to cover their heads or hair. There are however cultural and personal reasons for doing so. Many women feel that it is a way to maintain modesty and submission to God (Islam literally translates into submission, but this is submission to God not to men). I think that in the west we often get confused as to whom is being submitted to when a woman wears a head scarf. We see it as repression in a patriarchal society, they see it as modesty and and act of faith.

It is not for us or any other wo/man to judge.

Peace be with you all.