About Me

Friday, May 13, 2011

Hijab is not just for women

I work at an Islamic school in which the dress code for all the teachers as well as the female students from grade 4th and up is the wearing of the abaya and a head scarf. The abaya is an Arab form of modest dress which is basically like a long dress or overcoat that is very loose and hides the shape of the body. For the men and boys, there is no such dress requirement. The male students wear short sleeve polo shirts with cotton pants and the male teachers wear the regular business casual attire, pants and button down shirt. I have never in my life worn an abaya, since it is not part of my culture (I'm not Arab). When I go to the mosque I usually wear loose pants with a tunic that covers my arms and bottom and then a long scarf covering my head, neck, and chest. I had to get an abaya when I started working there. I was told that I could not wear the Indian type dress (loose pants and tunic  that I normally wear and which is considered modest by requirements of Islam). In the meetings some of the teachers have asked to be allowed to wear skirts and long shirt or other forms of dress that is not the abaya. However this idea was not taken because there is a concern that the women will start wearing tight skirts and tight shirts and the abaya which is basically a thin shapeless overcoat covers all that. What irks me about all of this is that the abaya or thobe (long dress like robe worn by Arab men) is not a requirement for the men at the school. One male teacher comes dressed in a tight short sleeve button down shirt that fails in covering his behind and he's usually wearing tight pants. I'm sure if he was to bend down his shirt would go up and his buttocks would stick out. However he like most Muslim men can get away with this even though that is an immodest form of dress. If the abaya is forced on the women then the thobe should be forced on the men. Even the Imam wears office attire with a tie and that is okay. This double standard on rules of Islamic dress for men and women is very frustrating. In the conversations within Muslims, the idea of hijab is all about women. The Imam always reminds the "sisters" to cover more and that hijab is obligatory on believing women. What I never understood is why there is a one-sided analysis of the "hijab"?  According to the dictates of Islam, believing men and women are both enjoined to lower their gaze and to guard their private parts (ie sexual acts outside of marriage) and to dress modestly. All Muslims, men and women have restrictions on the dress, the nakedness should be covered, this extends from the navel to the knees and for the women it is also the chest. However while this is strictly enforced by Muslims for the women, it is rather lax in general for the men. This is seen in the school where I teach and is seen in the society also. Muslim boys are allowed to wear short shorts when competing in sports in school even though it goes against the rules for covering for all Muslims, however this point is never brought up or is even an issue. Boys are allowed to wear shorts that barely reach their knees at times. However for many Muslim girls they have to give up partaking in sports all together because they will have to wear outfits that show off their arms or are bit too tight. Imams never remind the men to dress more modestly. There is never any lecture that says men, you should stop wearing muscle shirts and tight jeans or shorts that reveal the thigh. I've seen many young men coming out of the mosque dressed in this very manner. When will the discussion about hijab including all believing people, men and women. When will the discussion of hijab also include that it is not just physical covering but also covering of the heart and inner soul from the evil around us? I want to have a discussion about that. 

Monday, May 2, 2011

Reflections on the death of Osama Bin Laden

My sister texted me late on Sunday night as I was going to sleep, "go read bbc". I wondered what was so urgent that I had to turn on my computer which I had just put away, I kind of started to worry a little. In my mind the thought didn't cross that someone by the name of Osama Bin Laden would be dead and that it would become the hot news item of the week. Once I saw the news I thought how sad. Not sad because he was dead, that part was good, but sad that it took so long for us to get him and over the years we had forgotten that he still existed. Osama Bin Laden had become for Americans a bogeyman, the picture for terrorism, and the reason we went to Afghanistan after 9/11/2001. Over the years we failed to get him, at times I thought it was deliberate to keep the war going and to keep the fear alive in the minds of all Americans. Now 10 years later after that year, with countless battles and on going war in Afghanistan and Iraq, we got him. Now what? Is it all over? Is the war on terror won? I really believe that the idea that we have won is a fantasy, we have won nothing over the years and certainly not now. However we have lost and continue to lose everyday since the American government decided to pursue this action for the terrorism on 9/11. We lost our privacy, our morals, principles of freedom and justice, people Americans and others have lost their lives, countless civilians and soldiers are dead and along with them their families affected. We lost our credibility and respect. Why and to whom did we lose all of this? Well this man had a lot to do with it. We criticize him and others for the joy they take in the deaths of Americans, but that is what has happened here too. When I awoke this morning I listened to NPR and heard how people rushed into the streets especially in New York City to celebrate, as if we had totally won and everything was now right. However reading all the messages on Twitter, Facebook and blogs I realize people have a mix of emotions and there is an anti-climactic feel to the whole situation. It took too damn long for us to get him and there he was hiding away in a nice house behind tall walls, not a cave like we had all imagined. As a Muslim and American I am glad that he met his end, and at the end justice will be served and Osama Bin Laden who thought he was fighting for Islam has met his Creator and will answer for his actions.

Read this piece, expresses my sentiments:
"USA! USA!" is the wrong response: Bin Laden's death is a great relief, but by cheering it we're mimicking our worst enemies.


                                                                                                                     spring flowers by fana

 I do not love you as if you were the salt-rose, or topaz,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.
I love you as the plant that never blooms
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.
I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way
than this: where “I” does not exist, nor “you”,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.
-Pablo Nureda