Out here in flyover country, a disturbing trend is presenting itself – the niqab, or Muslim women’s face covering is appearing more and more. To see it in a country where women are encouraged to consider themselves the equal of men and valued in our own right is rather jarring whether we agree with the notion or not.
The United States is not a Muslim theocracy where women HAVE to over themselves from head to toe everyday just because the mullahs say so. Tough for those who think we are no longer Christian, too.
In trying to find out how it is that Islam insists on this practice as there are many women who only wear a headscarf for modesty, a little research was in order. In the process, an even more jarring factoid about Muslim women’s attire surfaced – outside of the hard-line theocracies, wearing a niqab is a woman’s choice.
These women hide themselves.
Women wearing a niqab in the west choose to present only their eyes to the world. Why? Because presenting their visage to the world leaves many of them uncomfortable as they feel immodest and vulnerable when men view their faces. At least that’s what a good many of the blogs out there written by women who wear a niqab say about the matter.
It is not required, but what does merely offering the option say about a religion? God, in the case of Islam is called Allah, made women and by the rules of the “religion” they are permitted to go into the world participating in it and hiding at the same time. As if they exist and don’t exist simultaneously. And what does that say about Islam’s collective opinion of God’s largesse. Hide away what God has made?
In Christianity, we believe that we are made in God’s image. Every time we face another human being, we are looking at God’s creation, whether the person has fallen from grace – or modesty – or not. We are all individual. No two are the same, even people who are identical siblings, having split from the same zygote in the womb. This is a celebration of God’s goodness.
We Christian ladies are encouraged to embrace our femininity within the bounds of modesty. There are those who flaunt the rules, but at the same time, there are many who leave no doubt that they are female while leaving a little mystery for the eye of the beholder. We enjoy it – and we enjoy the difference between men and women. More importantly, the men of Christianity are taught to respect women. Well, they are supposed to be taught that. We’ve all run into dirty old men, guys that use females and creepy priests who need to go to confession. But the basic teachings of Christianity treat women as people to be cherished, not hidden away, and certainly not choosing to hide oneself while in the world. (Women in cloisters do not participate in the world, so there is no comparison with contemplative nuns.)
Standards of modesty have changed over the centuries, but one thing has not – Christian women face the world – literally. At various times during history, our hair has been covered as St. Paul instructed and tradition at marriage has women presented to their new husbands with veils removed BEFORE the vows. But there is no tradition of the face, the self, being hidden from the world, choice or not. We do not disappear simply because we feel threatened by the world or because men make us uncomfortable.
From personal experience, I will say that Muslim men are far more obvious about their fascination, admiration or otherwise staring at women. Yes, it is very uncomfortable. You can almost see these guys licking their chops. Christian, Jewish and athiest me are far more polite about it.