Islam has always fascinated me. When I was little, I found the muezzin’s calls from the mosque near my house beautiful. I loved to just sit outside, close my eyes and listen. As I grew up, Islam had other significances. Islam was my friend, who happened to have ‘Osama’ as a part of his name and you can imagine the discrimination he has faced. Beat up by mobs, spit at and completely humiliated, he left America last year. Islam was my Hindu friend who found out that she was actually adopted from a Muslim family. She cried more because she had Muslim roots than because she was adopted. I slapped her across the face. My best friend. The poor girl. Islam was the most misstated in that ridiculous History curriculum I wrote of earlier. Islam is my friends from Pakistan, Sudan, Iran, Qatar, Bahrain and the list goes on. And of course I have Indian friends from all different religions. So what’s my point? That Islam didn’t make my first friend a bad person, he endured more than any human being could have and he still didn’t let go of his faith. Islamic roots didn’t hurt that Hindu friend, whose doing fine now and is actually thinking of converting to Islam. And those friends I have, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with them. Yea, I just felt the need to affirm their normalness.
I go to the mall once in a while with my friends. We’d be a group of girls just walking in the mall, sometimes loud and sometimes quiet, but no matter our mood or our noise level, we always seem to attract unwanted attraction. “Hey beautiful!” men, or perhaps I should call them boys, would yell and crowd around us, “Wanna come over tonight? I have a king.” No, I don’t. I can’t stand it. Sometimes I feel like I hate the other half of the population because of this. Sometimes I can’t imagine that there actually is a male who doesn’t do that, who doesn’t judge me solely on my appearance. Yes, I am oppressed. I’m oppressed that the size of my breasts, the tone of my skin or the shape of my lips hold more value than my intelligence or hard work. No matter what you say, here in the Western world or even in a country like India, even the most esteemed of women are judged by a sexual innuendo. No matter how we dress, how quiet we are, how hard we try to be unnoticed, the fact that we are female outstands all those efforts. On the other hand, I find Muslim women blessed and liberated. With the power of a burqa or a niqab or even a hijab, Muslim women are liberated from being judged only by the aforementioned. They can now hold a stand based on intelligence, piety and personality. That is true freedom.
On July 22, 2009, the French President, Nicholas Sarkozy, claimed that burqas are “not welcome” in his country. “In our country, we cannot accept that women be prisoners behind a screen, cut off from all social life, deprived of all identity.” Excuse me while I laugh. This ‘social life’ thing has been brought up before. Italy’s Romano Prodi said that banning niqab is “common sense” because it (niqab) makes social relations “more difficult.” Again, what do they think? Have they even talked to a Muslim woman before? If seeing a person completely is a requirement to have a social life, ban text messaging-we’ll see how long American teens can last. And phones, faxes, letters, emails, IMs and even radios. Social life, my foot; that’s the excuse to use when there really is no reason at all except pure ignorance and discrimination.
Sarkozy wants to liberate women. Who’d have thought that he’s today’s best Susan B. Anthony or Betty Freidan? What is liberation? Binge drinking, porn, casual sex and TV shows that demean the value of women to be only that of a sexual toy. Or, being respected for yourself without the barrier of a physical appearance if you choose. Being free from unwanted eyes, free from eve-teasers, free from those aspects of womanhood in the modern world that I hate. I don’t know about you but I choose the latter. To Sarkozy, “fermez la bouche! Vous ne savez pas que vous dites.” (who’d have thought 5 years of French would actually be useful?