Wednesday, October 11, 2006

It's Not The Painted Smile

Salman Rushdie joins "veil" opposition

Salman Rushdie has angered Islam before - remember the "Satanic Verses" ballyhoo in pre-terror-infected times? Now, rightly in my opinion, he has taken the side of Jack Straw and others, citing the wearing of the veil as the issue it really is - the oppression of women.

The whole concept of head-dressing here is one of enslavement to men's desires and domestic fascism. It has no religious mandate and is a gross distortion of what was an ancient habit practised to protect one's face when travelling in a desert sandstorm. For those newly adopting the habit there can only be two intentions - a statement of "separation" or a device for the "disguise" of identity. It is not, in a million years, a "fashion statement". Indeed, it symbolises a refusal of communication that one associates more with retards like George Bush than civilised society.

This matter goes beyond predjudice against free expression through the use of headgear. I myself used to get flack for wearing my "director's" baseball cap in a corporate environment with the result I deliberately made a habit of it. There used to be opposition to men wearing the turban - let alone the other cultural headwear displayed by Arab (and indeed, African) cultures. Some were "fashion" statements, some were religious imperatives of a dubious nature and most were just cultural tradition. They were not used for disguise, nor were they used for the suppression of another's individuality.

The "hoodie" is commonplace in today's environment, but the expression will probably not last. It may have originated as a method of disguise for street gangs but it really has morphed into fashion statement and will eventually be subjected to changing trends. Nor is it total - in close proximity one can still communicate with the wearer. Indeed, we all wear hoods from time to time to protect us from the weather. For those who make the comparison, it is not remotely the same issue.

Anyone who hides their identity in a way that is designed to preclude personal communication with me is, where I'm concerned, offering me a direct insult. As such, they are not worth my attention. Yet, in an environment where there are those who would deliberately conceal themselves with intent to do me or my fellow persons harm, I am forced to give them my attention - not as individuals, but as a potential social menace. Thus, the issue becomes one of antagonism!

It may sound like an odd counterpoint and maybe it's not my place to comment - I am, after all, a male of the species. But here goes ...

In the women's liberation movement of the late sixties and early seventies it became a statement of freedom from oppression to "burn your bra". Despite the profusion of contemporary "high-tech" support wear and the difficulties of transition that detered those of what I'll dare to describe as of a "heanyweight" physique, the actuality of the rebellion has endured. It is no longer a social obligation to wear what many considered to be more a symbol of male demands than one of necessity.

There is no reason why women who are being forced to adopt the veil cannot take a similar approach to what many "western" women did back then. Throw off the shackles of oppression! The result won't be absolute, but the false imperative can be rendered into history. Best of all, such action would not even result in the temporary outrage of conventionial greater society - it would actually be seen as a positive force toward integration and assimilation. Anything else is actively promoting segregation and isolationism and will only do harm to the standing of the community that subscribe to such a futile cause.


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