By Sabeeha Rehman
Question: What do Saudi Arabia and Israel have in common?
Monotheistic? No. Well yes, but that is not where I am headed.
Children of Abraham? That too, but no. Keep going.
Guardians? Guardians of the Holy mosques, and guardians of the Holy Land? Close. Sort of.
I will give you a hint:
Scenario 1: He walked alongside me in the shopping mall, and turning his face away from me, called out. “Cover your hair.” A policeman accompanied him, ready to make an arrest. I quickly reached for my scarf that had slid off.
Where in the world was I? The Kingdom Mall, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Scenario 2: The guard stops a woman. She cannot enter the Parliament. Her skirt is too short.
Where in the world was this? The Knesset, Jerusalem, Israel. Read here
I will repeat the question: What do Saudi Arabia and Israel have in common?
Answer: Guards. Guards enforcing women’s dress code.
Take a deep breath. Let the outrage subside. Breath again. Better?
When I lived in Saudi Arabia, I had no problem wearing the abaya (black cloak) or covering my hair. I no longer had to worry about ‘what to wear’ or a ‘bad hair day’. What I did have a problem with, was that it was forced on me. But, I had chosen to live there, knowing well what the dress code was, so I had no business complaining. It was my choice to give up my right to choose my clothing.
But here is the difference: Israeli women (and men) protested outside the Knesset, loud and clear. It may not turn the ship, but they raised their voices. Saudi women have chosen to go along, some by choice and conviction, and others by choosing the path most traveled. But one day, they too will exercise their right to choose. I lived amongst them; I have seen the spark in their eyes. It’s only a matter of time. Just wait and see.Next question: On the beaches of France, you can get arrested for:
- Indecent over-exposure
- Indecent under-exposure
- None of the above
Answer: You know the answer. Its b. Indecent under-exposure. If you cover too much of your body—translated—burkini—it can incite unrest. Guards will force the woman to disrobe. You’ve seen the images. I didn’t make this up.
What is it with the world! This obsession over women’s clothing!
It’s too much – uncover it;
It’s too little – cover it up;
No entry – hemline too high;
No entry – hijab on head.
Guards cracking the whip … guards measuring the hemline … guards closing the doors … guards.
Last question: Will U.S. ban the hijab and post guards at public places?
Yes, because we are entering the Age of Islamophobia?
No, because this is the land of freedom of expression?
Answer: I am sorry. I just misplaced the answer sheet.
Sabeeha Rehman is the author of the memoir ‘Threading My Prayer Rug. One Woman’s Journey From Pakistani Muslim to American Muslim.’ This post originally appeared on the author’s blog.