Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Covered Girls

It is difficult to understand the complexity of religions worldwide, especially if those are attached to orthodox perspectives. In her blog Women from Arabia, (2009, February 2) Wahidah presents some of the reasons why most Western people, especially Americans, have erroneous ideas of facial veils. She strongly argued that the mass media has created a bad image of this conservative society. So, what are the positive characteristics the veil is covering to the rest of the world? Obedience, the professional women’s roles, and the Western perception of freedom are just some of the key aspects that apparently the Western societies ignore.

Obedience is the main reason why Saudi Arabian women cover their pretty faces with veils. Apparently Mohammad, a prophet in the Islam religion, taught about the dignity every woman should profess. In El Salvador, there is a similar custom in a minority Christian religion which asks women to cover their heads with veils as well. They believe that women have to use veils as a manifestation of respect and obedience to their God. The salvadorean society, mostly Catholics, does not accept this practice because they think women are under men’s authority. Some others, like me, consider these kinds of “cover head” women as authentic examples of commitment and transparency to their own beliefs. Moreover, I have learned that you cannot judge someone for what he/she is wearing but, of course, you can perceive the good or bad attitudes no matter the suit, veil, or kimono he/she is wearing.

Fortunately some positive aspects, like the professional women’s roles, are flourishing in Saudi Arabia. They can have the chance to get academic degrees, take part in important places in society and of course, contribute in the political power of their country. Furthermore, Princess Lowowah, one of the greatest representatives of Women’s Rights in Saudi Arabia, is doing a great job in helping to change “little by little”, some drastic misconception of what women should or should not do in that society “without losing their traditions”. This is just one plus that should be applauded, but can these women have the opportunity to study majors that are considered “exclusively for men” (i.e.: Aeronautics, Mechanic Ingenering, etc)?

According to the Saudi Arabian people, the Western perception of freedom is most of the time “misunderstood”. If I were born in Saudi Arabia, for sure, I would have my entire faith in Mohammad, but that faith would not let me drive a car! I would not be allowed to play soccer, ride a motorcycle/bicycle, or watch a movie in a theater with my friends (boys and girls). Men in Saudi Arabian society consider that they treat women with respect and they work hard to give them everything they need. But, what if we could change gender roles for just one day? Will men be happy to be the “doll of the house”? I grew up and had a lot of fun in my childhood with a lot of boys, and it is nice to do whatever you want to do without being judged by your sex. For that reason, I do not know if I could survive in this conservative society.

As a conclusion, do women really need to cover their faces to dignify their life? Should they use veils to demonstrate their faith or integrity? Well, in the end, everybody is forced to respect and be flexible with other cultures. This is what makes our countries unique.


Wahidah Alsibiani said...

Hi Brenda,

As a Saudi girl, I have to say that what you wrote about faith and how it prevents us from driving a car, going out with boys, and playing soccer is completely not true, and you mixed between faith in prophet Mohammad( Islamic faith) and Saudi culture and traditions that were shaped through years of social interactions between society individuals. I can't blame you for not understanding the difference between the two things , religion and culture, but what I see is wrong is that you wrote about something without being sure about it!
Who told you that the faith in Mohammad is the thing that keeps women from doing the stuff you mentioned?

As I told you when I was talking to you today, and you agreed on that, traditions, social norms, and values are the ones that control our society ,especially in most of the things you mentioned that you wouldn't do because of Islam. lastly, faith in prophet Mohammad doesn't prevent us from doing other stuff, but it only puts the rules and tells us the accepted way to do them.

Wahidah Alsibiani