I thought it was time for an update and to make a few things really, really clear.
This week’s episode is in Cairo. Presenter Armani Zain is quick to paint it as a party town from her experiences there as a student.
Armani gives a good insight into dress in Cairo, explaining that while wearing the hijab is becoming increasingly common, many women do not wear the hijab. Those that do wear it, often experiment with many different styles and colours, so there aren’t that many ‘women in black’.
Further on the hijab tip, we meet a female factory owner who makes hijabs. She happily explains that as a Muslim women she feels her religion doesn’t just permit her work, it helps her to work and make her own money, by viewing it as a form of worship.
Zain mentions that the veil has become popular in Egypt, not just as a religious act, but as a political statement against the avowedly secular government (Hmm). Egypt’s increasing religiosity is again mentioned in regards to it’s film industry. Egypt’s film were once as raunchy as their western counterparts, but Zain laments that increased censorship has made them ‘bland’. Any viewers vaguely paying attention at this point may have noticed a not very well hidden agenda begin to emerge. More about this later.
Zain says that she herself would have liked to have become an actress, but that her culture and family would not allow. She speaks to two different women outside of a cinema. The first states that there should be more hijab wearing women in Egyptian films, as many Egyptian women wear the hijab. The other women disagrees, stating she doesn’t like the hijab and most people who wear it are forced to do so by male relatives. This is a rarely expressed view, narrates Zain.
Now for the issue of plastic surgery, with the frankly ludicrous claim that up to 20% of Cairenes have had some form of cosmetic surgery. Not even any U.S city, would such a figure be accurate. The plastic surgeon interviewed is female. She makes the rather dubious statement that cosmetic surgery is a gift from God and to not use this gift would be sinful.
More statistics with the statement that most married Egyptian women have had FGM. Zain does point out that there have been fatwas and campaigns against this practice.
Next, we saw Zain watching Heba Kotb’s show, in which the sexologist dispenses Islamically orientated advice in a frank manner. Zain is displeased when Kotb advises against masturbation, describing this as “reactionary”, not mentioning that masturbation is indeed considered to be widely disliked under Islamic rulings (opinions vary considering the circumstances).
Meeting with Kotb however, Zain describes her as the first person to realise that there are references sexual etiquette in the Qur’an and Sunnah. This isn’t actually true, at all. Zain asks if Kotb feels such blunt discussion of sexual matters in compatible with Islam? Kotb explains that to be sexually considerate is in the Qur’an and Sunnah that she hopes to strengthen marriages through her advice.
Next Cairo’s party scene complete with alcohol is shown as the norm for many Egyptian women and Khaleji’s who want to ‘let their hair down’. This is not Islamic behaviour and while I know there are women who are Muslim that do this, a lot of us don’t and would consider it sinful and resent the idea that we’re all longing to ‘party western style’.
As seems to be obligatory for this series, there is some hair removal. A minor fuss occurs as the woman are unhappy to show their faces due to Zain showing her legs on film. Zain seems genuinely astounded that the women would react like this, stating that it’s an example of the tightrope Muslim women walk. Again I have problems with this idea that Muslim women are perpetually conflicted souls, especially in this programme which has just interviewed three women who feel completely at ease with their lives and their religion.
An Egyptian wedding is shown, which while typical, is actually about as Islamic as a pork chop (alcohol, belly dancing, lavish expenditure ).
We are told that Egyptian women are not as free as their western counterparts (remember that hidden agenda I mentioned before) and that this desire for freedom coupled with a rise in religious observance not only creates hypocrisy but a future clash of ideals.
Yes, clash, that quintessential verb that must be used whenever Islam and Muslims are discussed in a modern context.
Let’s look at things from a different perspective. People have been being Muslim for quite some time now, over 1400 years. They have neither faded into obsolescence, nor remained frozen in time. Empires have risen and fallen, wars have been fought, natural disasters endured and Muslims have remained.
As for Egypt, why is assumed that the modernity they seek is the right to ape western social habits? What was glossed over by the programme and it’s relentless focus on the upper class, is that a lot of Egyptians live in poverty. Illiteracy is high, poor housing widespread and the government manages to be both corrupt and draconian. Rising food prices have even lead to national strikes.
By repeating the lie that “They just hate/envy our freedom”, this programme isn’t unveiling anything. Instead it is just reinforcing familiar prejudices.
I’ve just watched the latest episode of Women In Black.
It was set in Dubai. Subhana Allah it was dreadful. Lots of shopping, lots and lots and lots of it.
Any spirituality? Insight has to how being interested in fashion fits into your religious life?
No. There were shots of the outsides of mosques but nothing more then that. They might as well have just been pretty buildings.
Which is odd when you consider that if I had a pound for everytime she said “Muslim women”, I would be able to do quite a bit of shopping myself.
Of all the various women she interviewed she didn’t ask a single question related to Islam. Sure the wearing of the abaya and shayla were touched upon, but that is just seen a ‘culture thing’. Besides we were shown lots of sparkly abayas and how to attract attention while wearing them. As that is such a noble quality in Islam. Likewise dating via bluetooth and Brazilian waxes (we are told again that body hair removal is an obsession for Muslim women).
In my last review I mentioned that a lot of Arab culture was on show. This episode, we find out that Arab culture is bad and Arab traditions too. They hold you back and stop you being liberated and making lots of money like Western people. As those are the ideals we should be following and all of the Middle East should be like Dubai. In fact the presenter states that “Dubai might come as a shock if you’ve come from the drabber parts of the Middle East”.
After viewing endless upper class excess during the programme, drab doesn’t seem too bad to me. I’d rather go to the Ummayyd Mosque then any shopping mall. To me that’s what being a Muslim women is about. Alhamdulilah, I can enjoy the halal things in life but I know that is not the purpose of my existence, worshipping Allah the Almighty is, and that really is a Muslim thing.
I wrote a big long review of this and Worpress ate it. This has never happened to me before and frankly, it’s just not cool. I’m already having to write this in IE as for some reason WP isn’t working properly in Firefox.
Here is a summary of my previous review.
The programmes starts by saying that Muslim women now comprise 10% of the world’s population. Yet they are seen by many as “Shapeless blobs in black”. Anyway this programmes aims to challenge that view by going, where else but, underneath the veil. Who would have guessed that under veil exploration would become more popular then undersea exploration, but with added exoticism.
Arab and Muslim are not interchangeable. Consult any dictionary for proof. Yet throughout this programme the terms are mixed and matched with little apparent thought to actual definition of either.
When the presenter (an Arab Yemeni raised in the UK) changes from jeans and a t-shirt into a black abaya and shayla half way through her flight to Yemen, she describes it as something many Muslim women do. Maybe so, yet many more have the same concept of modest clothing whether they are in Anchorage or Ankhara.
So the programme continues with showing how Yemeni women live, with a strong emphasis on how they shop and party. The male female segregation is presented as an Islamic act, despite that behaviours surrounding this segregation are often far from Islamic in intention and practice.
Irritation of a milder form, when the presenter describes sugaring as a must for Muslim women, although it is actually a practice of Arab (and Desi) women, regardless of religion.
If this programme marketed itself as an insight into the lives of Arab women, I would have no complaint. However, it is specifically presented as an ‘under the veil’ (groan) look at Muslim women, yet sadly Islam barely makes a cameo appearance. This is typified by a lingering shot of a niqabi woman drinking a glass of juice, which clearly shows her face. Such a shot is extremely intrusive and disrespectful of that women’s beliefs and boundaries. If a programme cannot respect these boundaries, how can it describe not only the beliefs that create them, but the people who hold those beliefs?
Just like many women, Muslim women like to look good, they like to have fun with their friends, they have hobbies and just like every woman, Muslim women are more then their pastimes. Is that so hard to understand?
I’m having WordPress Issues so this post is seriously lacking in links. My apologies.
Firstly, some wonderful news.
Sami Al Hajj has been freed after six years in Guantanamo Bay. No charges were ever brought against him.
Hijab flutter and link to Sunni Sisters, where you can see him greet his son who he hasn’t seen since he was 4 months old. May Allah Subhana Wa T’Ala reward them for their sabr and insha Allah bring and end to the ordeal of all those who have been unjustly incarcerated.
Red Ken lost. The new Mayor of London is not only a Tory *clutches soldily working class necklace (pearls are too sloaney)*, but one with a history of Islamophobic comments. My sympathies for the Muslims of London and for Londoners generally. Yusuf Smith has written further on this. (Click Indigo Jo on my Blogroll.
On to more trivial matters now.
My team has been relegated. They are now at their lowest position ever. I am gutted like a fish about it, which is ironic as they have been as much use as a wig on fish all season, hence their demise.
It goes to show that I haven’t been blogging enough recently, as WordPress have monkeyed around with the buttons and now I don’t know which button to press to add links. Not impressed.
I’ve just finished reading ‘Scattered Pictures’ by Imam Zaid Shakir. It’s an excellent read and probably the next best thing to attending a lecture by the man himself. I am about to finally, finally read Martin Ling’s biography of the Prophet (peance and blessings be upon him). I started reading it before but then moving e.t.c got in the way.
To use an Iman Zaid quote, I’m realising that I need to “put more weight on the bar” and try and put more effort into my ibadat. It’s funny how you can always find time for that which doesn’t benefit you.
Does anyone have tips on improving your practice? Insha Allah, it would be nice if we could share them.
Talking of things which benefit, I’m going to mop the kitchen floor now.
That’s football team btw for those not interested in the beautiful game. Those including Mr Outlines who did not know what relgation meant, or quite why I was looking so sad about it. I have a lot to teach him.