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Opinion

Half equal scare
The Muslim Hejab appears as a threat to equality and freedoms

By M. Barrett
March 5, 2004
iranian.com

I wanted to reply to Ms. Fahimi's article "What if I wore the hejab?".

Let me identify myself first by acknowledging that I am neither Persian/Iranian nor Muslim so consider my remarks "with a grain of salt" as coming from an "outsider" on the topic & probably "unqualified" to understand what wearing the hejab means to Islamic women in the USA and other Western civilizations as well as in Islamic societies. I am only an "on-looker" on the topic - a fly on the wall - a spectator to the issue.

I do have many Persian-Iranian friends. Some live in the IRI and some live in the USA & we have close and personal conversations and we enjoy mutual respect of each other's culture, religion, etc. We often ask each other those "delicate" questions that would be regarded as politically incorrect to ask. Instead of admonishing each other for asking the "unspeakable", we simply respond as best we can with honest answers. That's basically the foundation of our close relationship, to be respectful and honest with our questions & statements.

When I read Ms. Fahimi's article, I noted with some of my Iranian-Persian friends that it reminds me of the type of response many people have when they see the KKK in their white sheets. I am NOT saying Muslim people are members of the KKK. I am acknowledging that the response I have witnessed that many Iranian-Persian people have to the hejab is similar to the response many American have to the KKK -- A threat to equality and freedom.  

In the USA, the KKK is seen as an organization where one human is not equal to another - the Caucasians are considered superior in the KKK. It is my understanding that the KKK uses religious teachings in their "creed". I am not saying the KKK is a religious organization. I have never known anyone in the KKK so I cannot speak for the organization. I understand that the KKK holds little regard for particular ethnic groups (such as Jews, Blacks, other "brown" or people of "color"). I understand their "holy book" is called the "Kloran". It is also my understanding that the KKK does not consider women to be equal to men even if the women are Caucasian.

It is "speculated" that once an individual "joins" the KKK organization, they can never opt to leave the organization without suffering a great penalty (perhaps even death).   If this is all true of the KKK, surely one can understand why many Americans "shun" the KKK and are uncomfortable associating with someone wearing the white sheet robes. 

People may have their own personal prejudices and most people realize they are wrong and they try to keep them concealed and private instead of wearing a banner to acknowledge those ideas. But it is very un-nerving to be in close proximity to someone who embraces a doctrine that considers women to be half equal to men, or refers to Blacks in a derogatory term (weather that be "raisin heads" or a "niggers") and who teach to severely penalize members who want to leave the group (even if that means death).

Usually the penalty of death by disassociation is found in groups referred to as cults.  I have known people who acknowledge their ancestors "owned" Black slaves but they always try to "sugar coat" that confession by saying, "but my ancestors were 'good' slave masters.... they put a roof over the head of their slaves, and they gave them a "job", and they even "allowed" them to marry and "allowed" them to read and attend some type of slave school - which was more than many slaves received."!!  [Now wasn't that "mighty white of 'em"!!!]

It greatly distressed me that instead of admitting that their ancestors practiced horrible injustices, the greatest being to consider another human life less equal or worthy of the same freedoms they enjoyed, they would rather defend the actions of their ancestors and to sugar-coat their ideology than to embrace the principal of freedom and equality for all human beings.  [I wonder if they had ever heard the saying, "those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it". I sincerely hope the USA never experiences another civil war.... hopefully we learned that horrible lesson very well years ago.]  

I really don't care what organization one embraces, if they cannot boldly announce the teachings of that group, even those little embarrassing issues (sex with children or inequality among non- members, etc), then it must not be a doctrine worth proclaiming. Children have little secret clubs with childish rules and secret passwords.  But surely as intelligent adults we should follow a different code to try to create a better society and world for our children.  

I've always believed that both good and bad representatives can be found in all clubs/religions or organizations. Instead of "looking" to the followers of a "organization" to weigh its merits, I think it is more logical to weigh the merits based on the documented teachings of the group. If a person is connected with a group that doesn't regard all humans as being equal and, if one group is less worthy to be protected than another, then being near that person makes me wonder if eventually they will also consider my rights as being negotiable. Even if an organization performs great charitable acts and has a tremendous membership, if they do not openly and vehemently teach equality and justice for all people, then I would likewise shun such a group.

It is not that which is presented openly that is of great concern but rather what is concealed in secret that is so alarming. Surely this is one lesson we can learn from the great tragedy that has taken place in the Catholic Church today. It seems so much grief could have been spared to the victim children and to the Church had the renegade priests been swiftly identified and appropriately and immediately dealt with instead of "hiding" and "turning a blind eye" to such atrocities or simply administering a "slap on the hand" and allowing them to continue in their capacity and to bring harm to innocent children and soil the name of the Church.

Right now, it seems people are a bit skeptical of the robes of the catholic priests, and have always been skeptical of the white robes of the KKK and right now are skeptical of the Muslim hejab. If the impression many people have formed regarding the meaning or behavior associated with the people who wear these "garments" is false, then it will have to be the teachings and behavior of the group members to teach the world community the real meaning of these garments as prescribed by the "text" or "code" book of these organizations. Perhaps if I were an Iranian-Persian individual who had left the IRI after 1979, I too would feel uncomfortable being in close proximity to the hejab.

Thank you for allowing me to share my "2-cents-worth" as a spectator.

.................... Peef Paff spam!

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