Modesty

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I’ve never been a proponent of modesty, either physically or intellectually. Its been a journey for me to cope with the culture of modesty which has been forced upon women by religion and cultural misogyny. Historically, most religions stress modesty as a virtue for women implying that the blame for sexual temptation in men should fall on the exposed female body, not on the the unbridled lust in the minds of men. But Islam seems to carry that blame to an extreme, requiring women to cover their bodies from head-to-toe which offends many in the West and for years offended me personally too. In 2009 French President Nicolas Sarkozy flirted with a law forbidding the hijab being worn in public. This was to curb the outward manifestations of the growing cultural incursion of Sharia on French society. It was seen as both cultural intolerance as well as an effort to free Islamic women from the oppression of Sharia in a western society, but surprisingly most Islamic women fought to preserve their right to wear the hijab and felt it was their right to freely practice their religion, or at least their cultural traditions. There was even an intellectual argument put forward that the uniformity of the burqa yielded a condition of equality for women in that the advantages of greater beauty were neutralized and the hassle of the distraction of men’s amorous attentions were removed in the workplace and all public venues. Many of us can’t help but feel these are rationalizations and that Muslim women are in reality yielding to the pressure and threats from men in Islamic society whose true motives are subjugation and oppression. If only we could free our Muslim sisters from that dominance. I thought that myself for years, but then someone pointed out that women like me are never vocal about freeing Catholic nuns from their habits. That was true, and made me reconsider the personal offense I took at the burqa and what I thought it represented.

There is controversy among objective scholars of Islam whether or not the Quran overtly requires women to cover their heads. Many say the restrictions on women’s attire come more from Middle Eastern culture than from literal Sharia. That culture deriving from Quranic scholars interpreting the Law too broadly to reenforce the dominance of male supremacy rather than from the literal word of Allah as written in the Quran. The pertinent verse 024.031 only defines a woman’s physical “ornaments” which she must veil as her bosoms. This is re-enforced by a later reference towards the end of the verse stating that a woman may not strike (stamp) her feet in a way to draw attention to her ornament, meaning obviously making her tits jiggle. Stamping your feet does not physically affect any other part of a woman’s body other than her breasts after all, so it seems clear that the intent of that verse is that the breasts are the focus of a woman’s modesty under the Quran.

The verse of the hijab which describes the use of a veil over a woman’s head comes from the Quran 033.053 and refers specifically to the wives of Mohammed, not Islamic women in general. So the tradition of Islamic women veiling their heads comes more from a cultural emulation of the Prophet’s wives, not from Sharia prescription itself. If this is a religious choice and a statement of cultural identity, then women who make that personal choice freely should be respected. Unfortunately, many have their religion forced upon them by their family’s expectations and the choice is usually coerced. Accepting the religion of our family and peers also entails the acceptance of the trappings of male institutions of subjugation which have contaminated nearly all religious faiths in the world today.

But we need to consider first principles and ask why modesty is a virtue at all beyond being a consequence of men historically blaming women for their own weaknesses. A few decades ago there was an epidemic of violent rape in Israel and Golda Meir’s cabinet ministers (males) recommended that the Prime Minister institute a curfew on women to curtail the incidence of women being victimized until the men committing the rapes were apprehended. Meir shot back, “Men are committing the rapes. Let THEM be put under curfew.” This is why we need more women as heads of state or even better, heads of everything! (Hillary 2016!) There is an ingrained male perspective on ALL of our social institutions, and it would be a healthier world if we tilted the scale towards the female perspective. Women are raped because of the weakness of men’s souls and the strength of their bodies. Instead of stifling women’s beauty under burqas, perhaps men’s strength should be crippled by debilitating counter-weights or other physically constraining measures just as women are inconvenienced now under religious customs devised by men.

Taking offense at the whole culture of misogyny by Middle Eastern men (and Republicans in America) is something I don’t plan to give up in the name of multi-culturalism and open-mindedness. Misogyny should be offensive to everyone. To me all religion is unnecessary and an age-old source of evil and conflict and I doubt there will ever be peace on Earth until it is eradicated. But… fat chance! To my thinking all religions with very few exceptions are tools of male dominance. Any other interpretation by women is wishful thinking. The irony is that the principles that most major religions of the world have in common are love, peace, tolerance, and harmony, which are feminine characteristics. Men have buried those honorable principles under endless arguments and hair-splitting which only separate people and stir up enmity. The profession and the reality of religion are two mutually exclusive things and it is predominantly the failings of the male personality which have made religion the bane of civilization.

So I reject modesty and the male institutions which have foisted it upon us.

(c) February 5th, 2013 Bethany Ariel Frasier

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7 thoughts on “Modesty

  1. So… if I understand this correctly. The Qur’an nowadays is abused by false prophets for their own purposes? For gathering power?
    May the mighty damn them!

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  2. Islamic scholars claim to be the sole arbiters where interpretation of the Qur’an is concerned, so all of Islam bows to their vision of the holy verses, but read objectively there is a vast difference between their conservative views which have kept women subjugated for centuries and the literal meanings of the verses they have misused.

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  3. REAL men do not need to lock away women. REAL men respect women as partners. Only weak and insecure males treat women like this!

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