She is Gold

by

“If you had gold would you keep it out in the open? No, you would keep it in a safe.”

“God gives a woman a special beauty that she should only share with her family and her husband…Women are very precious and highly respected. Her beauty should be protected like gold.” The Imam, dressed in a long white jellaba and a long grey beard explains to us through our translator, Imane a figure of a strong independent Muslim woman translating the words of the Imam. She also takes the liberty of adding her own answers, claiming the truth of her religion.stock-footage-portrait-of-happy-muslim-girl

He speaks seated on the side of the room, relaxed and leaning against the window. We are seated in the Imam’s house on cream cushions with blue embroidery that wraps around the perimeter of the room creating an open space where everyone faces each other and tables fit in the center of the room, perfect for the tea and cookies that they serve us in abundance. We sit in near silence, taking turns asking questions. I first listen to the Imam, trying to pick out bits of Darija, and then to Imane’s translation, which I write quickly down in my notebook, not wanting to miss a word that this man says. He is like a window into a religion that our American culture is content to keep curtains drawn over. We slap labels on Muslims without thinking twice, questioning where they come from, or examining their validity.

One of these labels is the one of the oppressed woman. Why is she forced to cover herself? Why is her body bad to show? Why is she ashamed? But these are questions asked about Islam through the lens of our own culture; there is a gap here. So I try to listen again.

When we start to understand why a woman chooses to dress modestly and wear a headscarf, we start to see that it is not because of shame, but lovefeminism-muslim-women-oppression-and-feminism-2 for her body. She is beautiful and her beauty is respected and protected from objectification and cheapening we often experience in the west as we undress our women.
As Christians we often hear the message of “cover up,” the reason given is so the boys don’t experience temptation and lust. Girls are taught to be ashamed of their bodies, vessels designed to lead others astray. I think we have it wrong.

What if the west, too, believed that women are to be respected, cherished, and their beauty preserved like precious gold, not like a corrupt object that must be hidden to protect the eyes of others. No, not for others, but for yourself.

Our western minds can nearly not comprehend why a woman would dress a certain way for her own sake. “She’s doing it for attention.” “You’re going out with him? Show a little cleavage, he’ll love it.” “You look nice, who’s coming over?” How a woman looks is assumed to be a result of others. How women dress is Islam is a reclaiming of their bodies, their beauty, and their gold. Not for others, for themselves.

Advertisements

%d bloggers like this: