_________ _________

Sunday, October 08, 2006
There's no accounting for taste. But personally, I find it stomach turning to see a woman in public, draped from head to toe in some black sack, and being policed by some young man, a brother say, in his sporty track suit or whatever western dress he thinks makes him cool. It makes me sick to live in a "society" that allows this. We (and it is We, all of us, who should be ruling ourselves, not deferring to PC bureaucrats and their patron-client multiculti feudalism) should tolerate no form of religion that does not tolerate the sight of women's beautiful faces or want them to know the feel of sunshine on a crisp autumn morning.

So what to make of the degrading fact that a British paper sees fit to publish a guide to de-humanizing wardrobe practices? At least now you don't have to worry about offending anyone by mistaking the difference between, say, a burqa and a niqab. From the bottom of the linked article on Jack Straw's troubles for criticizing the veil (can anyone give me a good reason why the legitimacy of forcibly - let's not pretend about most cases within the cult of submission - veiled women is even up for debate?) here's the list of shame, with its oh so flippantly coy pomo title:

HIJAB: Headscarf is most commonly worn in the West. It covers the head and neck but leaves the face clear.

BURQA: Most concealing of all Islamic veils with a mesh screen to see through.

AL-AMIRA: Two piece veil. Close fitting cap with a tube-like scarf.

SHAYLA: Long rectangular scarf wrapped around head and pinned.

NIQAB: Veil leaving eye area clear for an optional separate veil. Attracted Jack Straw's attention.

KHIMAR: Cape-like veil which hangs to waist. Face left clear.

CHADOR: Full body cloak with smaller headscarf worn underneath.

(HT: Pastorius)


MeaninglessHotAir said...

Not so sure about the "forcibly" here.

One of my neighbors is a British woman who had a friend in college who was Muslim. This woman liked wearing the veil because she didn't want any male attention from anyone except her husband. My neighbor sorta wants to wear one too. My neighbor is good-looking and gets unwelcome male attention and she would just like to turn it off.

I imagine that's a not uncommon feeling among women.

gumshoe1 said...

it's not uncommon,MHA,
until the male attention stops.

truepeers said...

MHA you force me to think through my gut instincts...

I think we could argue about who is doing the forcing/encouraging; yet in this situation, someone is - probably, there is encouragement/force from both sides of the Family/Islam vs. Western Culture wall.

But this is just to raise a hard quesition. What is the difference between encouragement and force? In this case, what is the difference between those who encourage or at least permit free public opinions as to their appearance, and those who would not, not that the veiled can completely avoid - whatever their religion's might - thoughts of the kind I've made here ("it makes me sick")?

I would suggest that opinion, however circumscribed, must ultimately take precedence over physical force (force comes after opinion and can only attempt to enforce it, not create it) - such is the paradoxical "force" of the primary human imperative to make and hold opinions about what is sacred.

Perhaps the desire to avoid others' opinion is a good definition of force, howevermuch force is ultimately vain in attempts to conquer opinion.

To shift the question slightly, why are some women uncomfortable with male attention to the point they would consider hiding from the world? Do they not ultimately defer to a certain understanding of the sacred or respond to an idea of the profane?

In whatever degree it is both, it ultimately comes down to their understanding of the sacred and its relation to profane desire, an understanding that may well be incompatible with mine, for mine is one that would widely open up opinions regarding the sacred, in order to liberate, to some socially sustainable degree, our desire and opinion.

And I would demand that people have opinions about public space and forever encourage the free production of such opinion, even when opinion seem to compromise "choice"; because, having no opinion is ultimately to concede the public ground to someone and allow their enforcement of some already established opinion or choice about public space.

When two incompatible understandings of the sacred meet, must it soon become a question of force, or a question of what opinion dominates, a domination that seems to the losing minority to be a ruling "force"? Can there be a third way out of the impasse into some indecisive multicultural respect "for choice"? In the longer term, on some questions, I think not, not if "choice" means a lack of a ruling opinion (an opinion that may be free-wheeling, but is nonetheless ultimately a ruling opinion for all its democratic market freedom), for it is our primary human imperative to have opinions.

Ultimately one opinion or another must dominate the other on some questions: are those who veil themselves free (to do so), yes or no? Are those who take highly addictive drugs free (to do so), yes or no? Our answer may not be the same to both questions, but answer we must - howevermuch we first dwell on the paradox of how to define and outlaw "the choice" to enslave oneself - if we are to make a stake on the future of human culture.

Sometimes minority rights can be accomodated. But two incompatible understandings of the sacred can only be reconciled in a third if we can discover some new mode of the sacred that both sides can share, a mode that is really liveable and not the product of a well-meaning fantasy ideology. But this is often impossible and most ideologies of the "third way" are, in the end, fantasies, a fantasy within which the other's contrary opinion can seem like a force rather than an act of free-wheeling democracy about the nature of our public space.

Ultimately, opinion is not force; opinion is rather our primary human imperative. And if we veil ourselves because we fear others' opinions, then that is force whether we will the veiling on ourselves or our menfolk do it to us.

So, after thinking the paradox through a little, I agree that I cannot say it is simply a question of women being forced, or women forcing us to see themselves covered. It is a question of a ruling opinion - which, for those who don't like it, seems a lot like force and so must be resisted in the name of free opinion.

None of this will make sense if you are a hard-core liberal, but I'm saying that liberalism and its defense of the veil is a fantasy ideology that cannot withstand indefinite exposure to reality. It is rather a question of accepting either Islamic or Western understandings of sacred reality.

gumshoe1 said...

"None of this will make sense if you are a hard-core liberal, but I'm saying that liberalism and its defense of the veil is a fantasy ideology that cannot withstand indefinite exposure to reality."

tp -

don' let the gramscians
burn out your mind,bud.
(instead,why not give Stephen Hicks "Explaining PostModernism" a read)

they aren't looking for
dialogue or reason or logic.

if you haven't located the
consistency in their acts and behaviour yet,you're looking in the wrong places.

this cartoon sorta gives
the lie to this past week's nuttiness:


truepeers said...


Sorry, that comment needed better editing.

I'm not looking for dialogue with those who aren't up to it, of course. I'm only hoping to convert that minority of (probably younger) liberals who are still intellectually honest and will come over to our side when they see the unworkable contradictions, e.g. that being both a liberal and protecting the veil only works when the veil wearers are a definite minority. Once the forces of a competing non-liberal understanding of the sacred become influential in one neighborhood and then another, it becomes clear that there is a challenge, pitting incompatible understandings of the sacred. Either we have to leave this neighborhood, or we are at threat of being abused if we don't conform to the dress code, etc. Or, instead, we can fight back and insist on our dress code, even if we like to think we don't have a dress code.

The liberal hope and insistence that we can all get along and do what we want just doesn't happen in reality, howevermuch our betters insist we learn to make it work. Most people want to be governed by one form of ruling reason or another. In a sense, there is a coherent reason to both Islam and orthodox western culture. It is, as you suggest, multiculturalism that proves irrational and so requires arbitrary dictates from on high.

I'd say the consistency in liberal behaviour stems from a desire to have a guarantee of one's righteousness - hence all the self-denying that goes on. Am I right? - that's what the cartoon suggests, i think. I'll read Hicks, one day - too much to read not enough time. THanks.

terrye said...


Yeah well she will wake up one morning in her 40's and realize that all that bothersome male attention has kind of died away and then it won't seem like it was such a burden.

Syl said...

Part of growing up is learning how to deal with male attention, how to flirt (if you're so inclined) without giving the impression you're going over a line, how to read the males who are paying attention, all that kind of stuff.

You judge the level of what's allowed and what's not on your own. Your family is less important in this aspect than your peers are. And your peers include both males and females.

I mean it's just a part of being socially aware.

These women have no choice in the matter. They're not allowed to reach a comfort level of male attention because they're often blamed for ANY male attention given them. The range of comfort zone allowed them is almost nil.

So it's certainly understandable that many seem to choose getting no attention whatsoever. And if they are in a situation where being uncovered is allowed, they simply have no tools to deal with it.

Syl said...


To affect change re the veil the male has to allow it.

It has nothing to do with the sacred. In fact being veiled isn't even a part of traditional Islam. Head covering, yes, veiling no.

It's more social and tribal than sacred.

Syl said...


I don't know about Canada, but here in America if you want to where a veil, fine (except for your drivers license picture). If you don't want to wear it, that's fine too.

I don't know why you blame liberals for it. They're not telling muslim women who don't wear a veil to wear one.

Knucklehead said...

It's coming to this. Just the other day I took the mutt out to take care of some business. Lovely evening in our local park. I turned a corner and there, walking a respectful 10 paces behind some dopey guy with a scrufty beard and wearing some sort of knee length dress over his jeans, was a woman in what I gather, from the "guide" was a chador. Mouth went in gear before brain engaged and before I knew it I muttered, "Oh Christ! Moslems!"

They were out of earshot but it took some self-control to keep myself from walking over and telling her to lose the nuns habit and wear his dress instead. It's 2000 and freakin' six already. Cut the crap you two young morons and build a worthwhile life rather than playing stupid dress up games. (In the interest of diversity I have to admit I've felt much the same way when encountering Amish and Hasidim.)

truepeers said...


Blaming liberals is too easy, yes. It's a kind of shorthand for our desire to "tolerate" instead of confront what we really think is wrong. My real target is the ideology of multiculturalism. I'm all for a social diversity that stems from a shared understanding of a common, sacred unity, but many today ("liberals"?) deny any such unity.

If we deny the existence or need for any such unity we cannot have both diversity and democracy, only an imperial rule that arbitrarily defines, without democracy, who and what group has what rights - and in fact the diversity this will allow is less than what is possible in a unified democracy.

If liberal is today synonymous with defense of the multicultural empire at the expense of a nation with a sense of its sources of unity - e.g. the sacredness of individuality - then they are my fair target. If not, I'm guilty of rhetorical overkill.

It's more social and tribal than sacred.

-I'm working with an understanding of the sacred that goes beyond the sacred terms of the major religions. The sacred is basically any sign or any thing, that either re-presents (i.e. the sign) or is represented as (i.e. the thing), an object of our always sacred desire. Representation of an object, as an alternative to its immediate, thoughtless, physical expropriation and consumption, is the basic means of making something sacred. In this sense, some degree of sacrality attends everything we represent.

A veil does not simply hide, it represents the desirable person/object and says "don't look don't touch". In this sense, the woman is being made sacred - of course you don't have to agree she is so very sacred (i.e. you can say that women do not or should not have the power over desire that some men think they do), you can profane the attempt of others to declare women sacred. But I think women who declare men only think of them as either whores or Madonnas recognize something fundamental: women when excluded from male-dominated culture are basically only represented as starkly sacred or profane objects, black or white, with little of the grey that comes when one can be fully included within, and more highly differentiated witthin, a more mature culture - e.g. one can become a woman who is not just a woman, but also a teacher, home owner, soccer player, etc. As the culture becomes more highly differentiated the "sacred" charge that attends each and every represenation becomes less and less powerful. But it's still there to some degree. There is still something minimally sacred in a soccer game.

Syl said...


women when excluded from male-dominated culture are basically only represented as starkly sacred or profane objects, black or white, with little of the grey that comes when one can be fully included within, and more highly differentiated witthin, a more mature culture -

Well, wasn't that what I was saying too? I just expressed it in the context of social interaction to explain some women's reluctance not to veil.

truepeers said...

YEs, that's right. I can understand their reluctance too. If non-Muslims don't stand up against the veil, the Muslim women will veil/be veiled, howevermuch they share in the opinion that becomes a communal force.