Covering Your Head

16 Mar

I covered my head for five years. I wore a kippa/yarmulke on my head and… it changes the way the world perceives you. So I have some sympathy for women who wear the veil. But just like any civil liberty, there are limits.

Just to be clear, I wore the whole Modern Orthodox Jewish kit, tzitzit/fringes were hanging out of my shirt. Save for the black coat and hat, I was publically well identified as Jewish. Why this came up for me this morning was because Sri Lanka is proposing banning the burqa. They would join fifteen other countries–mostly European–and for roughly the same reasons. Opponents would say that it’s just another law targeting minority Muslims, That it’s blatant racism against a religious practice. Proponents say it’s a national security issue. Terrorists can (and have) used the burqa to disguise themselves and carrying weapons in plain sight.

Neither issue I want to debate today. My problem is one of choice. We focus on the burqa because it was the veil popularized by the Shia in Iraq and Afghanistan… where Americans were shooting at other Muslims. However, that is only one interpretation. Many Muslim women do variations on the veil; some only wear one during services. What kind of veil usually depends on where your family came from, what level of observance you perform, and what your social status is. For example, our former babysitter had moved from Somalia. Her veil was really tight around the face and she covered everything else up. Our Persian neighbor didn’t wear a veil at all, unless she went home, and then it was rather loose around her head. Of course, our babysitter was a college student who lived in a really crappy part of town and our neighbor was a medical researcher who spoke six languages. If your whole family was Somali immigrants that you lived with, the pressure to conform is higher.

But it comes at a price; everyone looks at you funny. I had several men come up and witness to me about the saving power of Jesus Christ (only once since I took off the kippa). Only once did someone ask where a kosher restaurant was. What ends up happening is that you have to explain it a lot to people who ask (which happens a lot).

So why did I do it? Because I wanted to fit in. My wife wanted to attend an Orthodox shul where some of the men wore the black hats and coats, some women wore wigs and long dresses, but you didn’t have to. I wanted to identify with them. And we did for five years. But then we had a falling out with that synagogue and we moved to a conservative shul… and I stopped wearing that get-up, because I didn’t want to be identified with them any more.

The point was… that’s my choice. I didn’t hurt anybody with it. It was a pain in the ass and Muslim women who lives as a minority in a country probably get the same hassle. What I’ve been told is that they feel liberated from feeling like a sexual object, but honey… men are gonna look at you anyway. They might also say, “People are going to see the color of my skin and judge me anyway, so why does it matter if I wear a veil?” Valid point.

But we’re getting away from the point. The burqa specifically is a step too far. Not only do you have the security issue (because naturally, you can’t be photographed for a driver’s license), but it’s also saying, “I need to keep a distance between me and everyone who is not my family.” It might be your choice, it might be your husband’s choice, but if you have to go to those extremes… then why bother living in a Western state? Maybe that’s not your choice either, but it puts you in such a bubble that the rest of us can’t help looking at you as the other. Not us. And in many cases, a big threat. That’s calling “fire” in a crowded theater… and that’s not where you want to be.

I should go into a tirade about bubbles, but I’ve hit the end of my word count here. But what do you think? Do I just don’t get it? Am I perpetuating the patriarchy? Or is this a perpetual problem throughout history? Let me know in the comments below!

And while you’re at it, if you like my writing, get one of my books! But if the $1.99 is a hurdle too high, download one of my stories for free! You’ll be glad you did. 😉

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