It could have been almost anywhere, any place in the world. The woman stepped from her car and then looked both ways, walking into the store and looking for her items. She was wearing two types of clothing. The outer clothing was a large black robe that went from the base of her chin all the way to the ankles and almost covered the black sandals and black socks she wore.
Her tiny frame was dwarfed by the large building she had entered into and then come out of and her hands were just as small, holding a bag in each for her family. Stepping from the curb, she came closer to the car that I was currently sitting.
Her eyes scanned back and forth and then settled upon me and warmed, a slight squint at the corners indicating that she was smiling. I was for the most part the only one who knew such an intimate detail. After all, her face was covered.
My wife has been covered in this fashion the great bulk of our decade and a half marriage. The mother of my children and my help mate, consort, friend and adviser, it is this woman’s love and affection that I have treasured.
Words cannot describe the feeling that I have when I see these clothes that my wife wears. Those not familiar will often ask such dense questions as, “How do you know which one is your wife is a whole bunch of them?”
I know. I definitely know. It’s not just the clothes either. Even if she did not say anything, I would know my wife from a crowd of women with their faces covered. It is all in the eyes and also her tiny hands and the shape of the fingers and so forth. I know of no woman bearing these characteristics but her.
This issue is very close to my heart due to the fact that my wife and numerous women in my family also dress in this fashion. Thus anything that touches on that, threatening to remove, ban, outlaw or physically harm it or the wearer, automatically earns my attention and my enmity.
I am also dressed visibly as a Muslim and I think that this also helps my wife. There is not one day that I leave my home that I do not get some comment…either by some mutant walking by briskly or some carload of failed late term abortions shouting epithets my way.
I know my wife has had to bear much the same thing. The difference is she is a lady and I am a man. The natural reaction would be to want to protect one’s wife. This is natural for anyone that is truly human and the male of their species.
I went on alert in the year AD 2006, particularly Fri 6 Oct in the morning when I heard Jack Straw, a cabinet minister for the Blair/Brown government state that although he did not want to be prescriptive, he would like to see Muslim women abandon the face veil altogether.
This is the same dashing hero who was caught shaking hands with what was supposed to be the UK’s enemy, Robert Mugabe, at a summit after he had been declared persona non-grata. Not one to admit quickly to his mistake, then or now, he quipped that the room was dark at the time that the handshake took place
(translation: “It was dark and you know that I could not tell one of the nigguz from another. What’s a white man to do?”)
He was the same way about the issue of women covering the face, mispronouncing and pontificating his way through conversations on the matter and even trying to debate Muslims about matters of their faith.
“Listen, buddy. Do we tell you how to make Shepherd’s Pie? Well, then don’t tell us how to do our thing. Mind your business,” should have been the reply; but it was not.
Mr Straw went on to state proudly – while sniffing and driveling through his sinusitis that is exacerbated by fibbing fits and compound falsehoods strung together in interviews – that women that came to see him in his Blackburn constituency were advised to lift their veil so that he could identify them and speak to them properly.
A firestorm of protest erupted from bleeding hard liberals, kill-em-all-and-let-god-sort-em-out jingoists, conservatives squatting on the fence during their time in the cold under a Labour government and waiting to see which way the wind will blow the pollen so that they might follow,
all the way up to the Muslim who, striving to maintain loyalty to the Crown as well as to his shared “identity,” entered into mental gymnastics and was often left with dead air on the radio when making paper thin points.
Newspapers went running with it, publishing spoofs, radio programmes doing gags on women that were covered the same way as my wife and then there was my personal favourite: a picture that became ubiquitous in my area of a young boy trying to put a letter through the face veil of a Muslim woman and her squinting in pain.
Oh, what a chuckle that must have been for the 70 IQ pointers that thought up that little jibe. In all of their exertion, they must have reduced their IQ due to all the brain cells dying in the process of the brainstorm.
There was something a little bit different this time. By the end of the said year, my lovely wife suffered from more abuse and received far more eye rolling – the difference being that these people were now Muslims.
There was even an incident in which I asked my wife to switch grocery stores as the ignorant Muslims there were worse than the friendly pagans another ten minute drive up the road.
After all, what my wife was doing was cultural…isn’t it? That’s the received wisdom that we receive in the newspaper and the local imam at his two cent soap box sermon with as much knowledge of the matter as I have of the entire catalogue of Simon and Garfunkel’s music.
When speaking with people about this matter – Muslim and otherwise – I sometimes find a daunting ignorance and a lack of understanding terms. When addressing unbelievers, I think about trying to get them to understand my wife like maybe how they should understand and want to protect their own sisters, but this is a mistake.
In the United States, Canada and the UK, brothers have laughed aloud or teasingly taunted their sisters – who have sex with their boyfriends at home near their parents’ room – for calling out during these passionate moments.
“Teach her a lesson for me,” he pats the potential companion for the night on his thigh. In the United States and Canada, they will often give a potential “night man” tips on how to “get lucky,” or “get laid.” So it is a mistake to approach it from this standpoint.
It also falls upon deaf ears to try to explain about women such as my wife from the standpoint of ladies in general…this will not do at all. Records such as L.G.B.N.A.F., Rump Shaker, Bump and Grind, Cherry Pie, 99 Problems, Me So Horny and a medley of other inspirational cuts that you might feel shy putting on at a retirement home or a Gloria Steinem event, clearly advertise the worth that women possess for these people so this is out of the question.
The only option would be to take something “holy” to each one of these groups and draw their attention to it and hope for understanding. So this is what I did on a few occasions and the results were pleasant indeed!
“You know when the Towers were knocked down and people were celebrating and mocking you, even in Spain…” or to a British colleague, “You know when the 2005 bombings happened and the picture of the woman was on the front of the paper holding a plastic mould to her face to keep it together and the tapes of the guys were playing and they were grinning…”
“You motherfu…” they would begin, the colour changing in the translucent skin and their blueish green veins filling with oxygen rich blood. The chest began to move up and down, the heartbeat quickening. One would think that either this American guy had witnessed the Steelers crash out of the Superbowl or this English guy watched Andy Murray, Amir Khan or England lose yet again when they were “so close.”
“Right, so that feeling that you have where you wanna get who did that and get after them? That rage that you feel when you think of that and the desire to stop anything like that from happening again? That’s the same way that I feel when people that you say are your elected representative do that to my wife, family and other ladies that I hold in high regard.”
Light bulbs and switches flickering. The blinking showed that the porch lights were not only on but that someone was indeed home. This would be the way to make them understand and to compute what it is I was saying and feeling.
Of course, the government was distracted with other things (like trying to win an election and economic woes) so they lost focus of the debates on full veiling and the arguments died down and the plans to introduce legislation on the topic were put on the back burner.
Now it’s back in the news. The newspapers are on fire with a new article regarding a woman who did not want to remove her veil in court. Judge Murphy, who presides over the case involving the Muslim woman, who is accused of intimidating a witness, offered concessions to the woman regarding showing her face in open court as well as stating that out of sensitivity to her religious mores, there should be no pictures of her drawn by the court artist.
This and a number of other agreements were reached although there were still some areas that were not hashed out as of yet. What the press – and some Muslims – seem to be harping on is that this whole sage is starting again. Once again, a Muslim is asking for special treatment for some “cultural custom” that is not necessarily even part of Islam (according to some “esteemed Muslims scholars.” Perhaps the same ones that have not tackled the heroin epidemic in Tower Hamlets in East London or Dewsbury?)
This deserves a consideration. Firstly, unbelievers have a right to ask questions but we as Muslims must also answer these challenges. Secondly, there are Muslims who have become more rabid than unbelievers in their hatred for this symbol of faith. It is my desire to try to treat this issue in some detail and maybe at the end of the series, Slaves of Allah will be that much more knowledgeable of what is on the table.