Monday, May 3, 2010
a yellow iris
I can’t bare to look at that “cartoon” of the woman wearing a niqab that I uploaded to my last post. There is something really disturbing about how the Montreal cartoonist put the lock and bars in place of the eyes of a woman. It is so offensive in the context of the Islamophobia that is so rampant in some sectors of Canadian media and society today. It just screams intolerance and bigotry--by people who consider themselves fair-minded. Who feel themselves to be protecting Canadian values, you know. I guess intolerance is a Canadian value, too.
It seems that hate-filled comments are ok when directed against Muslims (e.g. recently US visitor Ann Coulter remarked on a university campus that Muslims should be banned from air travel). Replace the word “Muslims” with “Jews.” Would the majority of Canadians find it hateful to say Jews should be banned from air travel? I think so.
Where is the outrage? ho-hum. Missing. Why am I not surprised?
Why are we afraid to name hatred against Islam but not hatred against Judaism?
A female in Quebec wearing a niqab should not be an issue of debate (it is estimated that only about 25 women wear a face covering in all of Quebec) for Canadians. Do “we”, the self-defining promoters of freedom, choice, and democracy, tell her what she must do, just as a handful of patriarchal extremists (who do not represent the religion of Islam) tell her what she must do? If she chooses--or is convinced-- to wear a niqab after considering her options and decides for herself, is she oppressed? Should we, the supposedly free of oppression, rescue her from herself?
The niqab, which originates in the Gulf countries, is cultural apparel, not religious apparel. It is not traditional Muslim wear for the Quebec immigrant who is of Egyptian descent. She has chosen to wear it for her own reasons.
Don’t our fears say more about us than her?
If we are interested in helping Muslim and Arab women get their rights why doesn’t Canada – instead of supporting Israel– work on pressuring Israel to lift the siege on the Palestinian people of Gaza, which is preventing their practice of freedom? This would help bring much needed relief to 1.5 million people. Half of that number I am assuming are female, or perhaps more, as a disporportionate number of young males have been killed by the Israeli military.
Where is the outrage to go rescue these women? From the practice of unfreedom? From the militarized walls enshrouding Palestinian society?
Why doesn't the Quebec cartoonist draw an image of that?
The image above is a photo I took of a painting. The painting is by a Bahraini artist (name unknown) that was on display as part of an exhibit at the Bahrain National Museum when I went to Bahrain last summer with my husband. It’s funny, but I had never noticed the yellow eye peeking out of the painting. You can read the text of this image as talking back with a bit of humour to that black hood with the bars and lock.
While in Bahrain, early one morning my husband and I decided to go for a walk. It wasn’t quite 8 a.m. yet, but the temperature was only about 40 degrees or “not too bad” as we learned to say, and, as I looked out the window, I thought the wind that had come up, that was swirling through the streets, might feel refreshing after the previous day’s 46 degree ….smothering. So we went for a walk.
Well, wind in Bahrain is not like wind in Canada. The wind in Bahrain comes from the desert; I’m used to the boreal forest. We hadn’t walked too far when I wished I had a niqab on. A fine blowing sand invaded our mouths and noses as we walked towards Bab al Bahrain, the gate of the city. Reaching the narrow passageways of the old souq was a relief. The planners of these old urban spaces really knew how to build cities that worked with the environment. The narrow alleyways lined with small shops were a cool sanctuary, away from the sun, the wind, and best of all, away from the sand dust.
I learned a lot when I was in Bahrain. One of the things I was surprised to learn was the blessing of shade. The few date palms left in Bahrain are being uprooted at an alarming rate, making way for “progress.” I missed the trees of Canada. Oh, to walk encased in my own protective shade!