President Sarkozy doesn't know how to dance, not with women anyway. How do I know this? Well, yesterday France decided to go through with their controversial and misogynist law banning the wearing of face veils that are worn exclusively by none other than Muslim women. Convincing me that, despite his Frenchness and all the chivalry that has been attributed to Frenchmen, the President of France is not adept in a good swing, dosey doe, and Lord knows he probably has never even heard of the Chicago two-step. Because if he was good at those dances, he would know that the best male partners are not only aware of and intune with their female counterparts; but they move with them, not against them. Which is what all good leaders should know how to do!
However, good leadership in this world is as rare and priceless as Michael Jackson's silver glove was. Yet, on the otherhand Muslim women are not rare. There is not a continent on Earth that we do not occupy. As the world watches our numbers grow all across the globe, as the world watches as we gain education, position, and prestige, for some cruel reason there seems to be this massive lockout on our original voices. News Media feel comfortable having non Muslim women "scholars" put together guides on Veils, giving spotlights to spiritually challenged Muslim youth, or when all else fails, relying on ex-Muslim women, the few golden children, to use their horrors as yardsticks for the rest of Muslim community. This is not only unjust, but it is oppresive as well. Opression from the West, imagine that?
My cellphone would not stop ringing yesterday. I talked to many of my writer sisters, (and shout out to the wonderful writers over at Muslimah Media Watch) some of my childhood friends, and even some of my elders who had all watched on television or the internet the brave French munaqqabah (face veil wearers) defying the French law. I felt proud, I felt saddened, but most of all I felt a sense of solidarity. Those who really know me, know that I freely decided to wear a niqab (face veil) when I was 14 - in the great state of Massacusetts. I continued to wear the niqab until I was 26. So for over ten years of my life, I covered my face while in public. Not because my mother did (she didn't), not because it was the custom of my tribe (didn't come from one) , not because I was married (I hadn't married yet), not because my friends did (they didn't)! I wore the niqab because I felt it empowered me. It reminded me of who I was and who I was connected to (the Muslim women who came before me). It made me fearless - can you imagine how much courage it takes to go sit in a college classroom in a predonminately White New England city with your face covered! But I did it and I never felt like my clothing held me back. In fact, because of my clothing, I knew I had to push myself harder. I raised my hand more, I talked more, I volunteered more. I went on more job interviews while I was in niqab, then I have gone on without it. I don't see much difference between Munaqqabah and women who don power suits with stilletos knowing they have to be on their feet all day; it's exhilarating and gives you an edge. However, there is one very important piece to examine about the niqab or face veil. And that is who gives the motivation to do it?
Catholic nuns live in convents or monasteries and they wear black habits as a sign of their consecration to God, to show their unity with other nuns, and to often demonstrate that they are free from the grips of the fashion industry. Munaqabbah (Muslim face veil wearers) also support these same ascetic ideas. When I was a niqabi (singular) I would have told you that first and foremost that I covered my face as a means to get closer to my Creator. However, there are actually less restrictions on the Muslim women who covers her face than on Catholic nuns. The Muslim face veil wearer only covers her face when she is around non related males or doing business outside of her home. In her home, or in her office, or when she is hanging out at her friend's home, she isn't covering her face. In fact, at most Muslim women gatherings that I have been to through out my life, the niqab AND the hijab are the first items to come off as soon as we get in the door. There is no restrictions on the face veil wearers in terms of where they live, who they marry (nuns can't get married), where they go to school, when they sleep, when they eat, if they should drive, or hang out at the mall - not from inside the religion, that is.
It's the the know-it-alls, the wannabe saviors who most likely have never met, talked with, or danced with a happy covered Muslim woman, let alone a happy Muslim woman who chooses to wear a face veil, who assumes that he or she has the power and the right to decide how she should live her life...... all the while making it easier for male run companies to steal the dignity, self-esteem, and power from young girls and women in the name of modern fashion and freedom!