Showing posts with label hijab. Show all posts
Showing posts with label hijab. Show all posts

Friday, May 02, 2008

Beauty is not skank deep

For traditional Christians and modern Westerners, it's not a difficult task to find areas of profound disagreement with Islam and then beat those divides into gaping chasms of civilizational conflict.

particularly would be true in the years since violent jihadists flew jetliners full of innocents into skyscrapers full of innocents in a bid to poke a finger into the eye of the Great Satan.

That, however, does nothing to help us -- as Christians and modern Westerners -- come to the difficult realization that, in so many ways, we are the Great Satan.

Or, at a minimum, willing and enthusiastic dupes of Satan.

IN THAT LIGHT, perhaps it would be useful to explore one area where Christians and thoughtful Westerners can have common cause with thoughtful Muslims -- or at least ought to have common cause with those who profess Islam.

I would submit that the devil's greatest success among Western modernists has been in equating "freedom" with the grossest debasements of human dignity, which by extension are the most profound slurs against a Creator who made mankind in His image. The means of debasement are legion, but they all are rooted in denying the fundamental nature and dignity of -- and, yes, divine image within -- human beings by recognizing them solely as objects.

Not as people, but as things.

Satan's second greatest success among modern Westerners has been in convincing them to run right past the concept of "tolerance" into the abyss where what we profess has nothing to do with how we live.

As one who has toiled for a decade and a half as a volunteer in Catholic youth ministry, let me illustrate this concept from that vantage point.

It's not only possible but, indeed, probable to have large numbers of self-professed Catholic teen-agers -- teen-agers who have gone through Confirmation and made solemn promises therein -- to think nothing of dressing like hookers, defining a "good date" as one that ends inside the pants of a young woman, getting wasted every weekend or otherwise behaving in a manner indistinguishable from the most hardcore of nihilists.

THE STARK REALITY of what used to be known as Christendom is a spent culture in which belief is alienated from practice, humanity is alienated from its fundamental nature and, finally, humans are profoundly alienated from their Creator and one another. Its logical -- and inevitable -- end is Death.

I think that's a cultural critique that orthodox Christians and mainstream Muslims not only could both embrace, but also could see as grounds for cooperation.

Which brings me to "the Hijab Challenge."

The Hijab Challenge was the brainchild of a Muslim columnist for The Daily Reveille, my old college newspaper at Louisiana State University. Briefly, what Shirien Elmasraya did was, I think, brilliant --
an in-your-face throwing down the gauntlet to American society's notion of feminine "beauty."

DOES OUR NOTION of womanly "beauty" mainly involve who a woman is, or merely what standard equipment she comes with? Do we value what is divine, or do we prefer to turn a multidimensional imago dei into nothing more than a one-dimensional object -- a thing to be used for our own ignoble purposes:
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a column challenging University women to wear the hijab - or headscarf - for a day.

A handful of girls took on my challenge this past Friday. They came to campus adorned by the beauty of the hijab.

They went to class, hung out with their friends and lived their daily routine wearing something they normally wouldn't wear.

But anyone who didn't know them personally would most likely assume these women were Muslim, and they were most likely oppressed.

In the past year and a half I've written, I've probably gotten more hate mail and hate comments below my articles online than just about anyone else on
The Daily Reveille's

Some of those who would comment would regurgitate over and over again that women in Islam are oppressed, we are backwards and we need to be liberated from our hijab.

I, in turn, wanted to liberate the people who hold these views from the oppression of media brainwashing and prejudice by challenging them to wear hijab for a day and see what it is really like - the result?

None of those who accused me of being oppressed took on my challenge. They are so afraid of reality and so embarrassed to be proven wrong that they did not even bother defending their claim by agreeing to participate.

So let it be known that your words never did and never will hold any weight with me.

Half of my life, I didn't wear hijab. I was oppressed by society and beauty magazines who told me and my peers that less clothes means more beauty.

To me, the hijab is liberating.

One of the women who decided to take on my challenge was Melissa Breen, mass communication sophomore.

"In order for people to truly be open-minded, they must be willing to step outside of their comfort zones," Breen said.

Breen's friend Sarah Berard, English junior, also decided to participate.

"In order to truly love and respect other people, you have to try to understand them. So as a Roman Catholic, for me, the hijab challenge was an opportunity to come to a better understanding of Muslim women," Berard said.

Michelle Richardson, anthropology junior, said it was a special cultural experience.

"It helped demonstrate to the world and to myself that you are not any less of a free, powerful woman for making the personal choice of wearing the hijab," she said.
WE LIVE IN A CULTURE that makes a fetish of "edginess" and rebellion. What that culture fails to appreciate is that the only revolt here is against truth. Make that Truth, with a capital "T."

Otherwise, what we preceive as "edgy" is merely pedestrian slavishness to a warped and dehumanizing status quo, and what we perceive as "beauty" is predicated on appealing to some of our uglier impulses. Thus blinded, it's difficult for the modern American to appreciate Ms. Elmasraya for the revolutionary she is.

And entirely too easy to laugh and say "Look at the backward Muslim" instead of acknowledge the rot in our own self-mutilated culture.