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Vatican on Hijab? Huh?

The Vatican is again itching for trouble.

For the record, let it be known that I do not favor women donning the frightening Saudi-style garb (variously called the Niqab, Hijab, Veil, etc.) in the name of Islam -for all sorts of Islamic and aesthetic reasons. Anybody knows that the prescriptions for Hijab in Quran do not pinpoint the level of discomfort and social self-ostracization that women should go to. As my wonderful aunt says, if these women are so bent on veiling and protecting from the non-privy eyes, they should stay in their own homes in their countries. I agree that the demands of life in an open society as that of Western Europe necessitate the relaxing of some rules, and I repeat, relaxing the rules on Hijab does not and should not mean abandoning Islamic presciptions on Hijab and modesty.

Hijab is an Islamic prescription, that much is true, but its specifics are up to the person, and some carry it to rediculous extremities. As citizens of Western liberal democracies, Muslims in the West need to learn to take a more active part in the civil-political lives of their home countries. The dark face-cover in question is a tool for social self-ostracization, or as Tariq Ramadan would say, “self ghettoization.” Between that extreme (that some Muslims are the West are bent upon) and the other extreme of no Hijab at all (which most European governments are calling for), there is a middle ground. I propose the headscarf, for those who choose to don it. You decide on the length, embroidery, color (the French tricolor and assorted European flags optional), but get rid of the gloomy, scary, face cover that is ever-so-present on book covers in the West as the definitive image of Muslim women (Read Veiled Babes).

Come on! Even the nuns have a more elated choice of colors -and they have cause for mourning -they are celibate for chrissakes!

All the same, Vatican is itching for trouble. Barely out of the Pope’s comments episode, with fresh wounds and scratches everywhere, the church decides to dive headlong in the continent-wide debate about Hijab. Somebody should tell them that the sensitivity of the matter really necessitates them keeping the hell out of this. The Vatican, of all people and places, especially at this time, is really bereft of authority and credibility and goodwill than to opine on this matter. As I said, I agree with what they say, but messaging and perceptions are as real as anything in our world today, and the Holy See does not seem to get it. (And it really does not help their case that today, after waiting for months, the Da Vinci Code came out ion DVD and I have just watched it -awful movie, awful book, but intriguing message.)

For what it is worth, I hope my brethren and sisters in faith do not oblige with another round of frenzied protests.


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