Monday, August 01, 2005

A Poem for Women in Islam

I Could Scream: Examining the plight of women under Islam
Ah, the serendipities of Google. Yesterday, while searching for information on Mr. Michael Clarke, one of the featured stars in a previous post, what should pop up but the official website of Iran Radio. Like NPR , except for the real mullahs instead of merely their camp followers.

And on this website was a page for women, a page full of exhortation and an invitation to Islam's women to join forces. The organization is called Worldwide Islamic Network of Women; the acronym they use is WINOW. Cool, huh? And just like the NOW group here, it’s a page urging the faithful to follow the dogma and the drill, to convert and see the light -- their light, anyway. So now you have these two feminist groups, WINOW and NOW —the new Scylla and Charbydis for women.

The author of the following poem, winnowed from this same page, is anonymous. Somehow this piece looks a lot like the negative image of various feminist "poetry" devoted to the liberating joys of abortion. Same dubious aesthetic, too.

Be Proud of Hijab

You look at me and call me oppressed,
Simply because of the way I'm dressed,
You know me not for what's inside,
You judge the clothing I wear with pride,
My body's not for your eyes to hold,
You must speak to my mind, not my feminine mold,
I'm an individual, I'm no mans slave,
It's Allahs pleasure that I only crave,
I have a voice so I will be heard,
For in my heart I carry His word,
"O ye women, wrap close your cloak,
So you won't be bothered by ignorant folk",
Man doesn't tell me to dress this way,
It's a Law from God that I obey,
Oppressed is something I'm truly NOT,
For liberation is what I've got,
It was given to me many years ago,
With the right to prosper, the right to grow,
I can climb moutains or cross the seas,
Expand my mind in all degrees,
For God Himself gave us LIB-ER-TY,
When He sent Islam,
To You and Me!

Here is the exegesis:

You look at me and call me oppressed,
That's because you are, sweet-pea. Doesn't require a degree in engineering to recognize fear when I see it hidden.

Simply because of the way I'm dressed,
Who in their right mind would dress that way in the desert heat if they didn't have to?

You know me not for what's inside,
No, but I can take a good guess that you wouldn't dare step outside without that covering. And you don't know what's inside anyone who isn't forced to dress that way either. Your point?

You judge the clothing I wear with pride,
No, it's more that I judge the misogynists who force a whole culture to see women as so dangerous and men as having so little self-control that women have to wear bags over their heads.

My body's not for your eyes to hold,
Don't give yourself airs. No one's looking that hard.

You must speak to my mind, not my feminine mold,
Ri-i-ight. And if I speak to you without your father's, your brother's and your uncle's permission, you're dead meat. All because of your "feminine mold." Tell me, what is a prison of cloth like? Have you ever run through a field barefoot, or laughed out loud in public, or walked somewhere by yourself just to think?

I'm an individual, I'm no mans slave,
If you say so. But how come you have to ask permission to go out, to marry, to talk to someone? Or how do you define "slave"?

It's Allahs pleasure that I only crave,
Spare me your religiosity. You don't have to wear blankets and live under someone's thumb in order to please Allah.

I have a voice so I will be heard,
But you may not use that voice to sing, may you? And no talking to men either. Sure you do. You have a voice. Just keep telling yourself that so your vocal cords don't atrophy. How many times in your life have you used that voice to say "no" to something you felt was wrong?

For in my heart I carry His word,
So do millions of other women, but they don't have to muffle up in yards of blankets to carry His word.

"O ye women, wrap close your cloak,
So you won't be bothered by ignorant folk",

Yeah. Wrap up and make a spectacle of yourself.

Man doesn't tell me to dress this way,
And if I believe that you've got some property in the Sahara to sell me, right?

It's a Law from God that I obey,
You keep on believing that. It might make your plight less awful.

Oppressed is something I'm truly NOT,
Of course NOT…you're the exemplar for freedom, you are.

For liberation is what I've got,
In which particular corpuscle do you store all this liberation? And what are you saving it for?

It was given to me many years ago,
Liberty is not 'given' - it's A given, like life and the pursuit of happiness.

With the right to prosper, the right to grow,
Hmmm. You get to do it your way, right? And other women are just beating the door down for the chance to be like you, aren't they? And you never cry yourself to sleep at night, do you?

I can climb moutains or cross the seas,
As long as you get permission first.

Expand my mind in all degrees,
But how come you can't sit in the same classroom with those "Others" - the men - while expanding your mind with degrees? How come you all have to sit in separate classrooms down the hall and see the teacher on a monitor?

For God Himself gave us LIB-ER-TY,
He did indeed. And someone stole yours and put this pitiful sham in its place.

When He sent Islam,
This is received opinion to which you are most welcome. I'm just glad the liberty He handed me didn't include this part of your contract.

To You and Me!
Ummm..I don't know how to tell you this, dear heart, but it's yours, not mine. Wear it, with your various and sundry coverings, in good health.

*********************************

This is Persian poetry? Hafiz is rolling over in his grave. And I can feel an attack of the vapors coming on. Pardon me while I go lie down with a cool cloth on my forehead. Oh Lordy, the sentiments expressed here are making me positively vertiginous.

Now wherever did I leave those smelling salts?

20 comments:

Goesh said...

Too bad all the women killed in honor killings can't read this poem. I wonder what all the muslim women who have had their clitoris removed would think of this poem? It's beyond pathetic. The part of about being no man's slave just about made me puke. Like you said, they can't even go outside without a man's permission. It's gone from sad, to pathetic , to disgusting to downright revolting and dangerous. Someone fire up the stealth jets to take out their nuke potential before it's too late.

Newvictorian said...

Just put that poster up on the wall, "Freedom is Slavery," and keep saying it until it becomes true...

bigdaddybean said...

In talking to muslim women online, I'm convinced that they have to live in a 6th century mindset to keep their sanity. When Islam came and big "MO" stopped the practice of arabs killing female newborns it was a huge step for women's rights. They had the right to live.

But I compare this to when I asked my boss for a raise the other day. His answer was ... you ungrateful little bastard ... I gave you a raise in the 6th century.

Always On Watch said...

Muslim women are brainwashed! The ones that make me want to scream the loudest are those who happily send their sons off to wage jihad.

wildiris said...

I hadn’t really paid attention to the fact that I have been using the old spelling “Moslem” in my posts here. I guess that must date me. But in my efforts to reform my spelling practice, I found the following item on Wikipedia,
…Until recently the word was also spelled Moslem. Muslims do not recommend this spelling because it is often pronounced "mawzlem," which sounds somewhat similar to an Arabic word for "oppressor."…
Maybe I wasn’t so far off after all.

Dymphna said...

"Moslem" does sound rather Lawrence-of-Arabia-ish, doesn't it. Kind of exotic. Muslims, on the other hand, don't sound so hot. Familiarity sure does breed contempt -- somewhere about the 10th IED blowing up children.

New Victorian--

I'm confused. Should it be "Freedom is Slavery" or maybe instead "Slavery is Freedom"? It's definitely a brain cleanser, either way.

Dymphna said...

Goesh--
ah...sleath jets...yesss.Before the mullahs blow Tel Aviv.

Gavriel said...

One thing I don't understand about Islamic women is whether they yearn for themselves (or their daughters) to be one of the 72 competing with each other for eternity to please the taped together body parts of a shaheed, or if new virgins are made in heaven that never lived in a burlap sack down here first. It doesn't seem to me to be a great reward for faithful service, pleasing Allah all the time, but what do I know.

a4g said...

Gavriel -

I've been thinking of a particularly offensive bit of satire exactly along those lines for several weeks. Haven't pushed "publish" yet, as there is at least some shred of decency left in me that occasionally rises up to say "are you sure you really want to say that?" But you've inspired me to dust it off. I'll hat tip you (but absolve you of responsibility!), should I get the courage.

Dymphna said...

a4g--

Please, please write it. And post it. It's bound to be disgusting and over-the-top and we'll all love it.

Meanwhile, everyone go read his brilliant take on Mr. Peanut. I'm still laughing...

Carter Compares Gitmo to Crappy Habitat House

Newvictorian said...

Dymphna,

I was using Orwell's 1984 formulation. They had posters with the slogans:

WAR IS PEACE
FREEDOM IS SLAVERY
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH

You know, now that I look at it I realize that ALL of them apply to some aspect of our enemy. The 'religion of peace' makes war while telling their women that the freedom of the West is slavery and keeping most of the population ignorant so that they won't rebel and that keeps the Islamic dictator state strong. That Orwell knew what he was talking about!

Fadilah said...

That bit of doggerel was most certainly written by a man. There may be women fronting the organization that calls itself WINOW, but I cannot believe that it wasn't brought into being by islamic men educated in the West.

PD111 said...

Muslims have been slaves for so long that a culture of institutionalised slavery has taken root. They now regard this culture as worth preserving.

Muslim women are the lowest in the pecking order in the "institution of slavery" that is now called islam, and the burqa is the sumbol of their low status. The worst part of this is our acceptance of the burqa in the West. This should never have happened. This acceptance is an acknowledgement, that we as a Western society, have recognised the institutionalised slavery of women in islam, as legitimate in the West.

Second, accepting the burqa as legitimate, is taking the side of the oppressor.

Dont be too harsh on muslim women; they have no choice but to do what they are told by their lord and master - the man of the house. It would be like castigating 17th century slaves for their docile behaviour. They, as muslim women now, have no real say in what is said in their name, and are likely to be beaten for no reason then that it keeps them in line.

DP111

Dymphna said...

fadilah--

I agree: the doggerel was definitely written by a Western-educated man. I should have thought to say so in the post. To me, it was a sham, so I took it apart.

And yes,newvictorian, Orwell was creepily prescient. But he got some of the larger things wrong. Would that he'd been able to conjure up personal computers and the general move toward decentralization and connection...

PD/DP -- I can sympathize with the plight of Muslim women. I was in their position for sixteen years. You begin to lose your humanity after awhile. But that doesn't mean it shouldn't be addressed in other than sympathetic terms. I also worked with traumatized women for many years; sometimes the last thing you need is sympathy for your situation.

Hirsi Ali strikes the right note, don't you think? And she didn't do it by herself. I mean, she did run away, but she found a Dutch woman who helped her and she made her way through the system. She sacrificed a great deal to accomplish what she has. Though I doubt he'd admit it, her father has been a support to her...

*Under*Cuver*Sister* said...

"I'm convinced that they have to live in a 6th century mindset to keep their sanity"
-He who judges is judged.

"Muslim women are brainwashed!"
-If brainwashed in this day and age is believing wholy in one true Lord, the words of the final messenger and what the Qur'an, the words of the Merciful tells us, then we all submit openly that we are brainwashed.


Im not here to tell you all that you are wrong. Allah has given us free will for a reason. I could get upset and highly offended, but where will that lead me. Maybe you all feel such hatred for muslims due to the way some of them may have treated you in the past, i know not. But picking on certain aspects of such a whole, perfect, peaceful faith, you are not helping yourselves.

Peace be with all of you.

JohnM said...

I can climb moutains

I like the image this conjures: The all Moslem Mountain climbing team make their assault on Everest ... wearing Hijabs.

LouLou said...

Hi Dymphna,

This poem was first forwarded to me by a woman at work a few months back. She has been trying to convince me to wear hijab.

Well am not convinced. Was never convinced by the argument that it is a religious requirement for Muslim women to wear hijab or for Muslim men to wear short djellaba-type things & grow long beards.

Went through a phase of wanting to wear hijab when I was 16 or 17 - mainly because a lot of people at school were getting into this whole religious fashion thing. The men in my family thought it was a very good joke. Their attitude was your mother doesn't cover, your grandmother didn't cover so what you think you're a better Muslim than all of them? My father's family claims descendency from the Prophet himself. They've been Muslims since the 7th century & are very proud of it. They have an elitist attitude to these new religious fads. They think that's for new converts & nouveau authority born-again religious types or its for peasants who are ignorant & live in backward, rural villages. That's the way things are in Morocco where we come from. So actually hijab is not something that would be viewed positively in my social circle at all. I'd still do it if I thought there was sufficient religious justification for it but so far no one has convinced me of that.

Having said all that though am having a lot of trouble placing the woman who sent me this poem into the mold you describe so elaborately. She's an IT consultant, a Turkish Muslim, twice divorced & a single mother of 4. She only decided to start wearing hijab herself about 2 years ago - at the age of 33.

Her reasons were very personal I thought so I never tried to contest them. She's a divorced woman working in a male-dominated field. This is a deeply religious culture & people respect religious symbols. Men will not hit on a woman who is wearing hijab. She feels it gives out the message she wants - that she's not interested in mixing business with pleasure. So it's working fine for her. You might see it as a symbol of female oppression but I mean who cares?You're not the one wearing it. She is. And what's important is how SHE sees it.

Lately she told me that she finds it beneficial because it's a means of suppressing her own vanity. She's a very beautiful woman btw. And she feels that this vanity sometimes made her do things that were incompatible with her religious beliefs. Again that's not something for you or me to anyone other than her to decide.

But that she can't go outside without her brother's permission?She's been living & working here in UAE for the last 4 years. Her father & her brothers are all in Turkey. If she asks their permission everytime she wants to go outside or talk to a male she must be paying a fortune in long-distance calls.:)

As for running in the sun etc..., most Islamic countries have beaches & parks & gymnasiums that only cater to women so hijab doesn't really stop them from being athletic if they want. I don't cover but I don't like to bathe in public either so I have a membership at a ladies club here in Abu Dhabi. So does she. We go swimming, jet-skiing, snorkelling etc....Same situation in Morocco & from what she tells me in Turkey too.

Don't really see what the relevance of female circumcision or honor killings is here. There's no reference to anything like that in the poem. But since you mention it, female circumcision is an ancient, Pharoanic, Nubian custom. It predates Islam by at least 3000 years if not more. And it continues to be practiced in areas which have been exposed to Nubian influence like Egypt, Sudan, Somalia & some parts of Yemen & Mauritania. In those countries, the custom is practiced by Muslims, Christians, animists everyone. The Islamic religious establishment in some cases was too chicken to go against such a deeply-rooted custom. And that's the gripe we have with them. Being the majority religion in all those areas it would have meant a lot of of progress in abolishing such practices if they'd been brave enough to oppose them. But they found it easier to go along with it rather than upset the tribal elders. So did the Christian Church & other religious establishments.

But female circumcision was not introduced by Islam, is certainly not an Islamic requirement & is not practiced by the vast majority of the world's Muslims. Infact most Muslims I know have never heard of it & get really shocked when I tell them. I only heard of it myself because I know a lot of Egyptians & Sudanese. They told me about it so I went online & did some research.

What Islam does require as far as I know is male circumcision.

shifa said...

Are you not aware, under this scarf that i wear i have feelings and i do care. So dont you see, that i'm truly free, this piece of scarf on me, i wear so proudly to preserve my dignity my modesty my integrity so dont judge when your eyes arent seeing.
Why cant i just be me?
You speak of democracy, yet you rob me of my librity and all i want is equality, why cant you just let me be free?
=) I'm the one who is free.

USpace said...

WINOW, WOW! Women, Join Islam Now! You'll Love It! We Promise!

Ya gotta watch out for that subversive poetry, it of course can go both ways...


absurd thought -
God of the Universe thinks
up ways to keep women down
.

Moamar said...

by MoamarDear All Commentor as you mostly Christians and have some enemity to Islam without reason despitr Jessus christ PBUH and His Mother is Hihly respected among muslims and No Muslim is a Muslim if didnt admit the existence of all prophits and May you all tell me please Why Nuns should wear Hijab also and this rule came before The Holy Quran legislation ....Be Just Please all of us have been created by One God only One so you are not able to forget your racism and could you tell me where is your liberty and which you loudly talking about as you are hurting others feelings, freedom, properties not leaving anything for something called humanities,