Brandon’s Orientation Reflection: Mixed History and a Head Scarf

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Throughout this orientation class for our journey to Spain and Morocco, my mind has been opened to a variety of new and challenging aspects of transnational history and the misconstrued western perspectives of Islamic society, especially in regards to women. The first historical idea that grabbed my attention was the idea of trans-nationalism or the idea that multiple peoples that share a common history. Spain and Morocco have had their histories intertwined for several generations and it seems fitting that we will be traveling to both of them. In several of the historical documentaries that I watched in the orientation class for the trip, I have seen that there have been years of pain and division among the Spanish and Moroccan people. The Spanish used cruelty and torture to subdue the Moroccan people into obedience, used chemical weapons to create fear, and when all that was done, had Moroccan civilians join their armies yet denied them Spanish citizenship. One example of the Spanish use of violence that was mentioned in one of the historical films was when Spanish soldiers demanded that the narrator’s father to give them all of his weapons and ammunition. When he had given them all that he had, they ordered him to get more. When he refused, they took him to a public square and publicly whipped him to death. This made a horrific example for the Moroccan people: Obey or suffer the consequences. Though the history between Spain and Morocco has been horrific, there is still a bond between the two nations. Many Moroccans today are crossing the sea to go into Spain in order to find jobs. These two nations on different continents share a past, a past full of violence, destruction, and cruelty, but also a present.

Another prominent idea that we discussed in this class was the way in which Western culture views Islam as a faith, Islam as a culture, and Islam as an identity. One of the aspects of these talks that stood out the most to me was the idea of our view of Muslim Women. We talked about how Muslim women, especially those living in Muslim states, are often seen as oppressed and submissive because of the veil. Western society often views the veil as an object that separates woman from the world; it is viewed as an oppressive piece of cloth that keeps women “in their place”. However, through the book Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits by Laila Lalami and a video about Muslim women living in the Pacific Northwest, I realized that the veil is not a cloth to hide oneself under, but to purify. It is a choice. It is a choice to humble oneself in the presence of God and in the presence of the world. In Lalami’s book, a liberal, wealthy Moroccan girl becomes friends with a radical Muslim woman. Over the course of their friendship, the liberal girl, against her father’s will decides to veil because she wants to honor God. This narrative showed that veiling is a choice, not a command. It is an article of clothing that symbolizes humility and devotion; it is freeing not captivating.

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