***Disclaimer: I was contacted and asked to write this piece on behalf of the individual at the center of the subject. After considering what I heard, as well as taking into account my own strong opinions in support of open expression, I agreed to do so. The person(s) shall remain confidential.
In Islamic culture, the Niqab is a headdress that is worn by women. One definition of its purpose is to resemble “hijab”, or “purity”. The Niqab covers all parts of a female’s head and face, with the exception of the eyes, and is accompanied with clothing from head to toe. Another explanation for its use is to keep women from exposing their faces in public – so as not to attract the attention of “unrelated men”. Some Muslim scholars would argue that women are held to a divine standard, which is why they are made to cover themselves as they do. But as Martin Pribble eloquently states:
“I see the Niqab as a symbol of all of the other oppressive behaviors perpetrated by men against women in Middle-Eastern cultures and the Islamic religion. The men claim it is there to stop women getting raped by strangers on the street. Likewise, the fact that in some Islamic societies, women are not allowed to leave the house alone, if at all, is cited as protecting the women from rape at the hands of strangers. You and I know that a society can and does operate quite comfortably without these kinds of extreme actions in order to “protect our women”. Even the idea that the women belong to the men, like some kind of pet or belonging is abhorrent.”*
The woman in this picture is protesting the Niqab, as well as the seemingly Draconian notions surrounding its use. She was born into Islamic culture and tradition. At the age of 15, she was married off to a 32 year old man. With no prior experience, she adhered to a lifestyle in which she echoes Pribble’s statement, and which was also sexually repressive. Ritual and custom reigned supreme and she didn’t have the chance to explore her sexuality and desires. But now, at the age of 40, removed from her husband, and dating a freethinker, she has had a chance to open her mind and get in touch with a side of her that had been suppressed for so long.
She is NOT a slave or a piece of property. She is a beautiful woman, and should be allowed to wear whatever she wants. She should be proud of her body and looks, in addition to her brain. She deserves the right to know what her options are sexually – whether she wants to be in a committed relationship, or partake in casual dating. Whether she wants to make love or just plain fuck. She deserves the right to be pleased, as well as please. And this does not make her a slut, whore or any derogatory word that is associated with women who are sexually expressive. No amount of tradition should deprive anyone of that right as a human being, and it is certainly NOT reserved for men only. She is taking her own personal stand; taking her life into her own hands. It is very dangerous to do so in the part of the word where she lives; but courageous to say the least.
I commend this woman for expressing herself and standing up for what she thinks is right. She is doing what many cannot, or will not. In a world where many cultures are still male dominated, yet advancements are being made in women’s rights, the point that there are now choices we can make MUST be driven home. While she no longer has to wear the Niqab, she hopes that one day more Islamic women will be able to either wear them as THEY see fit, or not at all. They deserve that right.
“It is ALSO tradition that times MUST, and ALWAYS do change my friend.”
~ From the Movie “Coming to America”
*Source: http://www.martinpribble.com – From the Blog entry titled, “Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Islam, Women and the Middle East – Some thoughts from the GAC”