Recently in Islam Category
In my work as a professor of social entrepreneurship, I often hear do-gooders express exasperation over the failure of government regulators and private companies to adopt measures embodying basic social values. The problem, of course, is that choosing among moral principles is a rather tricky business.
Consider the Modesty Survey, part of what is ostensibly a teen "rebelution" against poor social values. As publicized recently over at Sociological Images, the poll offers a revealing inventory of what Christian men deem to be immodest, from short skirts to prints on tights, decorated jeans pockets and a purse strap across the chest. Particularly noteworthy, given recent hostility toward Muslims expressed in opposition to the recent decision to allow a mosque to locate in the vicinity of the World Trade Center: The Rebulution's using an image of a woman under the veil to symbolize Christian moral virtue. (thanks Michelle!)
Meanwhile, the application of sharia law in Sudan has resulted in a court sentencing men caught in women's clothing and cosmetics to thirty lashes and a fine, while al Qaeda has called women themselves to become "holy warriors" in the "most important battlefield" -- namely, opposing the controversial proposal in France to ban the hijab and niqab.
Differing notions as to what constitutes social responsibility and fundamental values helped give rise to the secular state, and moral complexity has similarly shaped the limited moral rhetoric of commercial business. As Judge Vaughn Walker indicated in his landmark ruling on the definition of marriage, whatever the authority cited for one's particular worldview, there are clear pragmatic reasons why courts do not recognize "moral disapproval, without any other asserted state interest," as a rational basis for law.
HijabSkirt.info is a website dedicated to overcoming "rooted prejudices about women in the hijab as well as women in skirts." Founded by three journalists and supported by the UN, Hijabskirt notes that the split between hijab and skirt is stronger than the Berlin Wall, splitting the planet between East and West, but the site hopes to use communication, education and collaboration to help overcome the divide.
The latest entry on the site provides a fascinating reflection on how Benazir Bhutto embodied this cultural tension. The author: Sherry Rehman, Pakistan's former Minister of Information and a personal friend of the Prime Minister. As Rehman observes, a woman's choice of dress can be a profound moral act:
Whether a woman dons the hijab or miniskirt, that personal choice should be an absolutely free choice. It would be an injustice of monumental proportions if half of humanity is deprived of this right by subjecting them to fears, of being judged upon their appearances.
Unfortunately, both east and west are guilty of this.
How the western media howls when Angela Merkel appeared at the Oslo Opera in a Victorian designer dress or when Michelle Obama decides to dress a bit more casually. How the online Pakistani forums shot a fuse when Benazir was revealed to wear skirts and western clothing of her choice privately. What is common in all of those hyperventilating media reactions, is the self arrogated custodians of culture, religion and morals, who think they have the right to pass judgment on women, who have done nothing but exercised their personal choices.
Benazir Bhutto was my close friend. My beloved Bibi. She used to say that the best hijab is in the eyes of the beholder. . . .
For an inside look at Benazir Bhutto's perspective on the hijab and Western dress, read the whole thing.
(Thanks to Chankia Abitkar for the link!)
I'm still immersed in a couple major projects, but when I heard about The Infidel--a comedy about a Muslim man who finds out not only that he was adopted, but that he was born Jewish--I knew that I had to at least check out the trailer. And when I saw the trailer, I knew I had to see the whole movie, if only to confirm here that yes, the burqa dance scene at 1:31 in the video above is indeed an integral part of the film, one of several pivotal scenes that underscore the complex relation of style and self.
The Infidel--now playing in the UK, at the Tribeca Film Festival and on demand on several major cable providers--is a fun & thoughtful examination of spirituality, culture & identity. Not surprisingly, design plays a central role in the film, from the hair (or lack thereof) on the head of the stellar lead Omid Djalili to the subtle shifts in dress as the story unfolds. Equally important: the role of humor in promoting mutual respect--a theme that the filmmakers explore even further in their online feature on the quest to find the funniest religious joke.
The UK's Hijab Style continues to offer a fascinating glimpse at the dynamism of Islamic fashion, whose cultural significance is not lost on this emerging designer:
Muslim women can dress in line with both their faith and western styles according to an Essex fashion student.
Nadia Batool, from Leigh-on-Sea, has explored the subject as part of her MA degree project, 'Faith or Fashion'.
She believes the requirement to dress modestly should not deny them from being 'positive' about what they wear.
"I think the younger generation are seeking to find a middle ground so they can incorporate their Islamic values with the western values," she said.
Hijab Style will be hosting a live chat on Wednesday, December 2 to answer reader questions & to provide "an opportunity to talk to sisters around the world."
Last year, Faiza Silmi, now 33, was denied French citizenship in part for wearing the niqab, bringing a legal judgment about personal dress into the home. In an interview with Le Monde, Ms. Silmi said that she chose to wear the niqab after her marriage, even if her own mother thought it was "a little too much."
"Don't believe for a moment that I am submissive to my husband!" she said. "I'm the one who takes care of the documents and the money."
Passions have been so high that when domestic intelligence issued a report saying that only 367 women in France wore a full veil, it seemed to make no difference.
For many French Muslims, the entire discussion is an embarrassment and an incitement to racial and religious hatred.
M'hammed Henniche is the secretary for the Union of Muslim Associations of Seine-Saint-Denis, a federation of non-government organizations. He is French first of all, he said, and he is appalled.
"There's nothing but confusion," he said. "What they're talking about is the niqab, but I think choosing to use burqa instead is not an accident. They chose a word that is associated with Afghanistan, and that spreads a negative, scary image.
"There are laws in France that force women to show their face, in certain situations, at the town hall, at the bank," Mr. Henniche added. "Women who wear niqab take it off when they must. But in the streets, everyone is free. They're spinning this story in order to stigmatize a community."
Even existing laws are misunderstood, he said, with a woman refused entry to a bank because employees thought a head scarf was illegal. "It's a dangerous slip, going from a ban in school to a ban in the streets," he said.
Hundreds of Egyptians took part Monday in the funeral of Marwa Sherbini, an Egyptian woman who was stabbed to death last week in the German city of Dresden in a crime believed to be racially motivated.
Sherbini, 33, was stabbed to death Wednesday in a courtroom as she prepared to give testimony against a German man of Russian descent whom she had sued for insult and abuse.
The man, identified in German media as Alex A., 28, was convicted of calling Sherbini, who wore a headscarf, "terrorist," "bitch" and "Islamist" when she asked him him to leave a swing for her 3-year-old son Mustafa during an August 2008 visit to a children's park.
He was fined and appealed the ruling. The two were in court Wednesday for that appeal when Alex A. attacked, pulling out a knife and stabbing Sherbini 18 times. He also stabbed her husband three times and attacked another person.
For the latest news regarding the tragedy of Marwa Sherbini as well as head coverings across religious traditions, check out the essential Those Headcoverings blog.
Iranians have reportedly starting protesting the Ahmadinejad regime by going to bazaars and not shopping.
However, that doesn't mean the rest of the revolution is noncommercial.
One popular item: t-shirts featuring Neda Agha-Soltan, the Iranian woman whose murder by Iranian security forces, caught on this YouTube video (more about which here), has made her an icon of the protest movement.
Pictured above: a Neda t-shirt sold on Facebook by an Iranian who pledges to give the proceeds to Neda's family if 400 shirts are sold, though judging from the comments not everyone is on board with this enterprise:
The CafePress blog has also noted Neda tee phenomenon, highlighting a link between commerce and political speech:
While the Iranian government prohibits Neda's family and friends from having memorials in her honor and tries to locally silence the voices mourning her, the world is talking. And from our end, a T-shirt is worth 1,000 words.
In other words, let a thousand Neda t-shirts bloom!
And yes, the last one really is a Remembering Neda Dog T-Shirt. The photo proclaims "Made in the USA", and y'know, I don't doubt it.
In a post-9/11 compromise, the New York City Metropolitan Transportation Authority allows uniform workers to have religious headwear provided that it is colored blue and bears the MTA logo.
Despite a discrimination lawsuit brought against it by the U.S. government back in 2004, the MTA insists that the policy is appropriate, on the grounds that "standardized uniforms assist our customers in quickly identifying employees if they need emergency assistance or just travel directions." The department does not see any problem in requiring believers to brand their religious garb, so it continues to cite Sikh and Muslim employees for failing to follow the policy.