Let’s start this discussion with the difference between race and culture. Race, as defined by the FreeDictionary:
A group of people identified as distinct from other groups because of supposed physical or genetic traits shared by the group. Most biologists and anthropologists do not recognize race as a biologically valid classification, in part because there is more genetic variation within groups than between them.
Bolding is mine. And there is a reason for that… which is obvious. Scientists don’t recognize race, because as humans, there is only one race. The human race. We are all genetically related, as humans. Now, are there some adaptations, stemming from where our ancestors developing originally? Yes, of course. Form follows function. Africans developed an immense amount of melanin in their skin to compensate for sun that they were exposed to. The same can be said to the Aborigine tribes of Australia. The emphatic folds to the eyes that are shared by the Asian people and the People of the tribes in America, speak to the fact that they are related.
BUT – what separates all of them, is… CULTURE. Each of these groups of people have separate and distinct cultures. Culture, in this case, the beliefs, habits, and traditions of a people, place, or time are all different, depending on the people, place of time. Even if a group of people live near another group of people (say two tribes of Peoples) live near each other, their cultures may be similar, but different.
OK… we’ve defined race and culture. Let’s talk about war. People go to war, usually, over four things – greed, revenge, resources or land. Now, you could say that resources, greed and land are all rolled into one, but that’s not necessarily so. You could want the oil/gold/uranium UNDER the land, but not want the land itself (resources), because if you take the land, then you must take the people that live on it. Greed figures into it, because you want the resources, yes, but again, there are some mitigating forces – how to get to the resources, how far are you willing to go, how long are you willing to fight, et cetera.
But revenge? Revenge is an incredibly motivating reason for a war! Someone brought up the Tutsi-Hutu war. That was a revenge war. Culturally, the two tribes were the same. Literally, the same people. “The Tutsis, also known as Watutsis, were a nomadic people who began arriving in the Great Lakes region from Ethiopia some four hundred years ago. Eventually, the Tutsis settled amongst the Hutus – adopting their language, beliefs and customs.” (PBSNewsHour, 1999)
“In Rwanda, the Tutsi and the Hutu are the same people. They are all people–large grouping or communities which go from seven regions of Cameroon to Uganda–all the way to South Africa, in the same culture,” Izangola said. “People used to be Tutsi or Hutu, depending on the proximity to the king. If you were close to the king, you owned wealth, you owned a lot of cattle, you are a Tutsi. If you are far away from the king, you are a cultivator, you don’t own much cattle, you are a Hutu.” (2)
But the power vacuum left behind by the Belgians, when they left Rwanda/Burundi/Uganda in 1963, left the majority Hutus hating on the Tutsis, because they were given preferential treatment by the Belgians. And…. You get revenge wars…. Get it?
Or the war between the Muslims and the Christians in Bosnia. Centuries of anger and hatred boil over, and WHAM! Ethnic cleansing.
The United States waged war on the indigenous peoples. Manifest Destiny, anyone? What do you think that was? A picnic? Happy days? A ride west? For the American Indian that was genocide. That is what the Indian Wars was all about.
OK… war covered.
On to headgear –
Someone mentioned that going to Iran meant that her sister-in-law was forced to wear a head scarf – The laws in Iran are specific. It is a THEOCRACY. the government is run by the Ayatollah, a priest. Therefore, the law says that women MUST wear a head covering. Now, if you go a country and the law says that you MUST wear a Mickey Mouse shirt, are you going to NOT wear a Mickey Mouse shirt? Or are you going to follow the law? I mean, let’s get real here. Yes, I get it about the “purity police”, and the beatings. But again, that IS the law. And these laws aren’t any harsher than the laws that they replaced under the Shah, when the Secret Police was arresting dissidents.
Now, do women feel oppressed about wearing a hijab, niqab or burqa? Well, I suppose that all depends on who you are asking. If you are asking women who don’t wear one, the answer seems to be an unequivocal yes.
But the women that I have talked to personally, on campus, where across the street is a beautiful mosque, in London, where I stayed in a predominantly Muslim neighborhood, complete with a Halal sushi bar (yeah, that threw me too!), or anywhere else in my travels, I should say, not really. They wear them mostly out of respect for their religion, out of respect for their culture, because of modesty, because it makes them feel closer to God, or many other reasons.
“While some women might choose not to wear the hijab, most Muslim women agree that it is a woman’s choice whether she wears the hijab. Many Muslim and Arab women who have chosen not to wear the hijab are often staunch advocates of a woman’s right to choose to veil.” (What is the Hijab and Why do Women Wear it?, n.d.)
So, let’s explore some more…
There are women who chose to wear it, but take it off, because there are way too many hassles, in today’s society, in wearing one . And then there are those who feel pressured by their family to wear the veil. There are women who have been attacked for wear a veil who are not Muslim, because there are other religions and cultures that expect women to cover their heads. There are men who have been attacked and killed because they “look like Muslims” (whatever that means).
But one thing that I have noticed throughout this entire conversation… is that most of the people that object to the hijab… are male. Funny, that.
So, here’s my take on the whole thing – As a feminist… I firmly believe that if a woman wishes to express her belief in her Deity by wearing a hijab, a burqa, or giant ostrich feathers…. More power to her. It is not my place to tell her that she is being oppressed, until she herself tells me that she feels oppressed. Not anyone else.
Oh… and before I forget…
To the gentleperson quoting the Bible and “Jesus said…”
1. The Bible was written 60-100 years AFTER Jesus was killed. Those aren’t direst quotes.
2. Deuteronomy is the OLD TESTAMENT.
3. 2Peter, Thessalonians, Galatians and Timothy? Those were letters, written by Paul to various churches – they have nothing to do with Jesus.
But nice try.
PBSNewsHour. (1999, October 8). Retrieved from PBS: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/africa-july-dec99-rwanda_10-08/
What is the Hijab and Why do Women Wear it? (n.d.). Retrieved from Arabs in America: http://arabsinamerica.unc.edu/identity/veiling/hijab/