Saudi Arabia: Am I in the East or West?

east meets west

It is certainly true that one knows whether they are immersed in an Eastern culture or a Western culture.  This issue came up recently with some interesting comments on the American Bedu debate page recently.  I have found some of the recent dialogues between readers to be very interesting and enlightening, especially the perceptions between East and West.  So much so, I have chosen to copy some of their comments here as I believe they can stand alone as a post.

One regular reader chose to post a satirical poem written by known Saudi activist, Wajeha Al-Huwaider:  wajeha

Re: Plight of the Muslim Ummah

Here’s A Satirical Poem by Saudi Author Wajeha Al-Huwaider In Which She Laments The Conditions in the Muslim World http://www.aafaq.org

You Are In Muslim Country WHEN ….

When you cannot find a single garden in your city …
But there is a masjid on every corner
That’s when you know you are in Muslim country!

When you see people living in the past …
With all the trappings of modernity
Do not be surprised …
That’s when you are in Muslim country!

When religion has control over science ….
That’s when you can be sure you are in Muslim country!

When clerics are referred to as ‘scholars’ …
Don’t be astonished that you are in Muslim country!

When you see the rulers transformed into demigods …
Who never dies or relinquishes his power
And whom nobody is permitted to criticize …
Do not be too upset that you are in Muslim country!

When you find that the large majority of people …
Oppose freedom and find joy in slavery
Do not be too distressed that you are in Muslim country!

When you hear the clerics saying that democracy is heresy …
But then see them seizing every opportunity provided by
The same democracy to grab high positions
Do not be surprised that you are in Muslim country!

When monarchies turn into theocracies …
Republics into hybrids of monarchies and republics
Do not be taken aback that you are in Muslim country.

When you find that the members of parliament …
Are nominated by the rulers or else that …
Half of them are nominated and the other half
Have bought their seats through bribery …
That’s when you are in Muslim country!

When you discover that a woman …
Is worth half of what a man is worth or less
Do not be surprised that you are in Muslim country!

When you see that the authorities chop off hands …
For stealing a loaf of bread or a penny
But praise and glorify those who steal billions
Do not be too surprised that …
You are in Muslim country!

When you are forced to worship the Creator in schools …
And your teachers grade you for it
You can be sure that you are in Muslim country!

When young women students are publicly flogged …
Merely for exposing their eyes
That’s when you are in Muslim country!

When the teens do not learn about their own bodies
And the changes it undergoes in puberty …
Then they roll out their magical prayer mats and beseech Allah
To help them deal with their crises …
That’s when you are in Muslim country!

When Eid is more important than human beings …
That’s when you are in Muslim country!

When covering the woman’s head is more important than …
Corruption & Embezzlement & Betrayal of the homeland
Do not be astonished that you are in Muslim country!

When minorities are persecuted and oppressed …
If they demand their rights are accused of being a fifth column
Or a Trojan horse Or an Apostate Or a Foreign Mercenary
Do be upset that you are in Muslim country!

When women are seen as house ornaments which can be replaced …
Bemoan your fate that you are in Muslim country!

 

When birth control and vaccinations and family planning …
Are perceived as CIA/Mossad/RAW conspiracy plots
Do place your trust in Allah that you are in Muslim country!

When at any time there can be a knock on your door …
And you are dragged off and buried in a dark prison cell
That’s when you know that you are in Muslim country!
When fear constantly lives in the eyes of the people …
That’s when you can be certain that you are in Muslim country!

 

life in america     In response to the above, another long time American Bedu reader wrote the following rebuttals:

 

If you share an elevator with two young women who couldn’t be older than 12 and overhear them talk about how they have to cut down on carbs, you are in the West.

If there are 31 United States senators who vote against the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women act, face it you are in the West.

electronicglobalradio.com

 

If you see stories about Hillary Clinton’s hair, makeup, clothing but never see a single story about U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta’s hair or clothing, you are in the West.

If we are told the reality television programs that consistently portray women as conniving, unhinged and erratic are simply a guilty pleasure, and not a destructive misogynistic form of entertainment, aha you are in the West.

If women have to face street harassment (a.k.a. cat calling) that makes them feel unsafe, humiliated, and degraded, and as long as people wave off this harassment as “boys will be boys,” check! You’re in the West.

If there are magazine covers where a “bachelor” gets to smile and enjoy the limelight, while the women in the cast are portrayed as crazy, cat-fighting maniacs, you are rightfully in the West.

If people say “You must be on your period” to women and men when someone is either a.) speaking their mind or b.) happens to be in a bad mood, you are in the West.

If people (including women) keep using “pussy” to indicate weakness, you are in the West. Yes, it’s a big deal to continually refer to a woman’s body part in a derogatory way to indicate weakness in anyone or anything.

If you happen to read one of those glossy girls magazine and see articles like “Best Hairstyle to Attract Him” or “Top Ten Guys Turn Offs” , rest assure you are in the West so all hail feminist movements.

If women are theoretically given the same rights as men but not so in practise, thats the West for you.

If thousands of untested rape kits languish in police departments across the United States, allowing thousands of sexual predators to go unprosecuted, rest assure you are in the West.

If 1-in-4 college women will face, according to the US Justice Department, an attempted or completed rape, thats the Western World for you.

If pornography is acceptable simply because of adult consents and not seen as men’s ideal of superiority over women seeing her just a little bit better than a mating animal (is it better or worst) , rest assure you are in the West.

If you read headlines of “Muslim Terrorist” but never “Terrorist Attack at Connecticat School” for the sheer reason of linking terrorism solely to Islam, rest assure that we are in the West.

To be continued…

 

And another reader added the following contribution:

 

The Muslim Village  muslim village

You know you are in The Muslim Village…

When you people call each other brother or sister
Instead of “Hey, you mister!”
When you see people rush to help you
And you recognise all – who is who

Yea, you are in Muslim Village

When you don’t see any poor or vulgarity                                                                 michaeltotten.com
Because of kind deeds and annual charity
When there are no signs of women’s cleavage
Well dressed and respected they are in this village

You sure know that this here is Muslim Village

When the mosques are full five times a day
When vendors do justice in how they weigh
And with a smile strangers greet each other
Black, white or brown, you are a brother

You know it can only be the Muslim Village

When leaders are elected and rule with consultations
And you see its mutual and there are no accusations
When slandering and backbiting tongues are in check
When you remove all traces of pride even a dust speck

Its no surprise, you are in the Muslim Village

Yes its no surprise!

 

During my marriage to my late Saudi husband, I felt like I crossed between East and West every day.  I did not feel like there were huge distinctions or barriers.  If there were, then I don’t think my husband and I could have had a happy and sustainable marriage!  But I will add that we both made a conscious effort to bridge building and understanding each other’s culture.

 

So in closing this post, I ask, what is YOUR response on the distinctions between East and West?  How far apart or how close are the cultures?

 

 

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90 Responses

  1. Very interesting reading – enjoyed the tongue in cheek humor. Thank you for sharing 🙂

  2. interesting post

  3. I don’t know about East and West but between Saudi Arabia and the US there is a great gap. Take beer and wine, a sin in Saudi Arabia, a mostly positive thing in the US (just think of how we celebrate the New Year with champagne). The Saudis regard the segregation of the sexes as a virtue, in the US social gatherings are not segregated by sex.

    There are many differences between the countries of the developed world, but virtually all of them would side with the US way dealing with drink and sexual segregation.

    That doesn’t make our way right or their way wrong, but there is no half way between them. And after this post I will pour myself a beer.

  4. Jerry:

    I think I will drink to that. Cheers. 🙂

  5. Unfortuanately, there is big gap between the East and the West due to cultural, traditional and religious differences. The East cannot understand why the West behaves so and vice versa.

    As the world gets smaller, the gap gets wider.

  6. Hehe thanks AB, Im honored to have my poem taken as your post.

  7. To be honest, I do not think there are that many differences in the East and West. We are all working hard to make an honest living (well most of us), we would all like to see our children grow healthily and happily and see them become smart, morale, well-rounded human beings who are selfless and do good in this world. Perhaps what makes us somehow different is the cultural aspect. What may be acceptable in the West may be a huge no no i. The East but that does not make one or the other wrong, that is how it is. For instance, walk into a western homewith shoes is considered the norm but do that here in the east and you might as well put mud on the host’s face. And then of course it is considered very disrespectful for Muslims to have alcohol served in their presence but then again it all boils down to understanding on equal parties. I wrote that poem about the Western society simply as a light-hearted “rebuttal” but it was not an issue that I simply made up but were plights I read from Western writers except the part about terrorism(most Westerners do seem to associate terrorism with Muslims, I believe, due to biased media).

  8. Yes, same here, AB. I am honored but a little shy too as mine is a weak attempt written in about 10 min while doing other works. Did not expect it to be on your post. Thanks.

  9. MrsB, on January 6, 2013 at 2:01 am said: I wrote that poem about the Western society simply as a light-hearted “rebuttal” …

    Sorry to burst your bubble! You did NOT “wrote that poem”. It was simply copy/paste lifted off one of a myriad of websites where it is making the circles. BTW, this same poem has been circling the cyberspace, for at least the last few years. Shame on you!

    Just google and you will find the same poem on many websites. Here is just one example …

    http://thecurrentconscience.com/blog/2012/04/30/on-the-status-of-women-everything-is-not-okay/

  10. Louise, Relax, maybe mrs B just meant she brought it to bedu’s attention.

  11. Ooh you caught me Louis Enakai,my long lost fan…as I said I wrote that poem which I did not simply made up but from Western writers except for many other parts about pornography, terrorist and girls’ magazine. What are you my stalker? Go take a chill pill,woman!

  12. Louis, how about instead of acting all stalker-ish, you bring something more profound to the discussion?

    Continuing MY poem

    If you have a cyber stalker hell bent on pushing her agenda on you..hello she’s from the west (Hawaii right)

    If your cyber stalker can’t read and understand your comment..she’s an angry Western lady.

    If only there were more nice people who aren’t out to hurt people because they’re Muslim or Jew or even Gnome Worshippers…the East and West will be enjoined as one but…Fat Chance!!

  13. If my poem offended anyone please do note that I’m just being silly. Western ladies aren’t all bad, I’ve been blessed to know so many of them who I call friends.

  14. I agree, it is easy to cross the barrier between eastern and western mentalities, especially if like me have lived for a substantial time in both.

    At times I think it is a little schizophrenic, but I survive it 🙂

    I guess in KSA there is definitely an eastern mentality with the trapping of the modern world in terms of technology.

    Nevertheless people are understanding to westeners and understand where they are coming from.

    I would also like to add in this cast the cross cultural children are the most represenative example of this cross culture especially if their parents have been considerate to show both sides of the coin in a fair manner.

  15. I loved the first poem although I do see lots of gardens in Saudi, not in neighbourhoods though which is very sad.

    The ‘rebuttal’ poems outline issues that are not confined to the west but are also issues in Muslim countries only they are kept ‘hidden’ but not hidden that well that we don’t know about them.

    In my mind a westerner should be writing about western issues as well. Can you find one of those, Carol?

  16. As humans, moms and dads we are all similar with the exact same goals for our families to be happy and kids to do well and succeed in life and be healthy and happy.

    Culturally we r diff, I was raised in the east and live in the west, I love both but IMO — my personal opinion I found patriarchy very strong in the east. Both in India and Saudi I found I was harassed by men for minding my own business, and trust me I was not dressed provocatively (as if that should matter). I have not seen it in the west with my daughter.

    I think family makes there presence known and help known more in the east but again, my family practically raised my kids but my husbands Saudi family didn’t want anything to do with us.. So I don’t know guess its to be taken on a case by case basis.

    Food is a big deal on the east :-). Easier in the west ???? Again my perception.

    Liaison is thrust upon you in the east , whatever that legion may be, I find in the west it’s not so much.

    Fr us life in India (not Saudi) is definite more vibrant than the west :-). Again could be because we don’t have too much family he.

    I would say I loved being raised in the east and working in the west, it
    S more fair in the west and much much easier and we will tire in the east when we don’t have to deal with the mundane day to day living .

    We r very lucky our kids get to grow up in the west, it suits our family yet they can always tire in the east!!!! Win – win for us

  17. That was , ‘religion is thrust upon you in the east’. — not liaison

  18. And ‘retire’ not tire — sorry blame my new iPad , have to learn to use it I guess. A gift from my son

  19. While the issues mentioned in the ‘rebuttal’ poem do happen in Muslim countries, no where else is it as prevalent nor celebrated or even accepted as in the West. Take for example pornography, yes it does exist in Muslim countries but it is hidden (as it rightly should, digraceful to women’s worth) unlike in the West where it is elevated to the status of being normal and awarded at ceremonies. Next, the original poem by wajeha does not mention Muslim country but Arab country, huge difference there. And a few lines have been altered from the original poem such as When Eid is more important than human lives, the original line is When land is more important than human lives…And hen we come to the plights in Arab countries, they are far from being rare in Westrn countries. Corrupted rulers who are feared, a women’s worth is next to nothing (pornography etc), slavery is celebrated (many forms of slavery), briberies and ruthless politicians, those who steal billions are glorified, minorities being persecuted (France and hijabis people), all of these are still occuring in the Western countries. I read it all the time. Just yesterday my husband showed me a video clip of police brutality in America. I’ll try and find it somewhere and post it here. So maybe the East and the West is not that different but we share a lot too.

  20. Perhaps this link is something to think about http://www.globalresearch.ca/police-brutality-in-the-usa-americans-too-are-oppressed/23076

    I find the line “If americans ever find the emotional strength to acknowledge the oppression under which they live, they, too, will be in the streets” interesting. Europe is also not free from plights, they just got papered over.

  21. As MrsB pointed out the poem by Wajeha Al-Huwaider is about Arab country and if you search the web, you will see that it is “Arab country” and not “Muslim Country”. So this poem is not original and is misrepresented here. Not sure who changed is, the one who pasted this poem or the author of the site he got it from.

  22. AB: “So in closing this post, I ask, what is YOUR response on the distinctions between East and West? How far apart or how close are the cultures?”

    Carol, I’ve been to the proverbial “east” but only once and that is to Pakistan/Islamabad, for about a month, to visit my fiance who was stationed there at the embassy. I can’t generalize about the entire “east”, but would like to share anyhow, based on my own personal observations, about the differences and distinctions between “east” and “west”:

    There is no concept of forming orderly lines when buying tickets for just about anything. Like buying tickets for movies, buses, trains, etc; airports are a bit better. There is a zoo-like atmosphere with people trampling over others (including women and children) to get in front of the ticket lines. Well-to-do families send their servants to join the ruckus instead of themselves.

    Same riot-like stuff goes on for grabbing seats on buses and trains. People usually hire coolies to avoid the madhouse.
    Folks who can’t get in climb on top of the buses/trains to travel in open-air style. I am told that there are very few fatalities since they have grown up with it it culturally.

    Corruption is another thing that I observed which is rampant throughout their culture. Especially amongst the rank and file of the police and the judiciary. If you have the money, you can buy your way out of minor/major traffic infractions to honor killings to property disputes.

    Driving on the roads and thoroughfares is like taking life into your hands. While lanes are clearly marked with divider lines, everyone has this deadly habit of driving right in the center of the road. Drivers play russian roulette and only move to their side of the lane at the very last second before the approaching oncoming/incoming vehicle. Many people die or get seriously injured every day but nothing changes.

    Health/Workers Comp Insurance is pretty much non-existent, except for the upper rich. For surgeries/procedures in a hospital, they demand full payment in advance; which can run into thousands of rupees. Many die in the hallways and corridors, while waiting for their families to arrange financing.

    There is no set price for purchasing commodities. I learnt the hard way that you never pay the asking or “advertised” price. You have to haggle and barter and see who blinks first!

    All in all, I am so fortunate to live “here” and not “there”! As Rudyard Kilpling put it so aptly so many years ago in his
    opening and closing stanzas of “Ballad of East and West”:

    OH, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,
    Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God’s great Judgment Seat;
    But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth,
    When two strong men stand face to face, tho’ they come from the ends of the earth!

  23. From my experience many of these could apply to either East or West.
    MrsB, pornography is hidden where in the East? Is it more disgraceful to women’s worth than being forced to dress a certain way, to marry someone you don’t even know. Not to be allowed to drive or make your own decisions? I think not. Also, in France there’s no discrimination against Hijabis, everybody has to follow the laws(though some of them are questionable).
    Rosemary C there is bribery in the West as well. I know Americans love to think they have way more freedom etc than others, but it’s not always true. Grew up OH.

  24. Rosemary C … I totally concur with your observations!!!

    Mrs. B – believe it or not women also enjoy certain types of porn. It has been around since time began. The biggest selling book of all time right now is “Fifty Shades of Grey” which is porn for women. This is actually a trilogy. Women in countries where they are not repressed do not have to repress their thoughts and feelings either. Porn is not all bad.

    Yes, there is bribery in the west but it is certainly not as rampant as elsewhere in the world where it is the norm. I remember talking to new Canadians from the Punjab who said they could no longer stand the bribery for every single thing including medicines in India. You will not see that in the west.

  25. Rahma, for your first question in most Islamic countries and even non Muslim countries porn are hidden and a huge shame. For example in Malaysia it is a punishable offense to own or distribute porn. As for your next statement, that applies only in Saudi since no where else are you forced to dress a certain way or can’t drive etc so that point is moot for me. plus I certainly disagree that being forbidden to drive is worse than porn, you must be joking. Wendy, i am aware that some women enjoy porn, that wasn’t the issue.

  26. As for France and discrimination against hijabis I advise you to rethink again. My friend was not allowed to join her child’s school trip as other mothers simply because she had a scarf on her head, not a black one or even niqab mind you. She even talked about it on her blog. But I’ll spare her the vile comments some people might decide to give her as her blog is mostly about Islam (the one that we follow not the one Moq and his friends wants us to believe).

  27. MrsB, I think people tend to be very hypocritical when it comes to porn. I am not defending that industry, but I just think so. In Europe, porn magazines are openly displayed where as in the States where most of it comes fom(I believe) it’s not so. My point about pornography & not being allowed to drive is really women having the right to choose. And it’s not only in Saudi where women are forced to dress a certain way. This happen even in Europe or the US. Your friend’s case seems to be discriminatory indeed. I see women all over France with colorful hijabs. I know they’re forbidden in public schools & so.

  28. Hijab is not forbidden, to hide your face is forbidden in some places and circumstances, which is only right. You cannot have people walking around hiding their identity. If a man is not allowed to hide his face by wearing a helmet in for example a bank, then why should a woman (or somebody claiming to be a woman) be allowed to walk in hiding their identity?
    In Tunisia it is not allowed to walk into government buildings in disguise.
    And in the Netherlands it is forbidden to hide you face when you want to be a teacher in a school which I think is reasonable.

  29. Aafke, I assume my friend’s case might be an isolated one but believe me as a woman who wears hijab (stylish ones but still hijab) we do at times face discrimination in the West. It is very unfair since we have no connections to any Islamic extremists but since the media played up 9 11 to the extreme, its unavoidable but I wish people would see that we are just living our life. Hoping for a better future…

  30. Carol, recover soon!

  31. All people can experience discrimination at some point somewhere. Fact of life. I do know that Americans go overboard with their fear of Muslims and sadly they don’t know how to distinguish who belongs to the religion which makes their acts of discrimination even worse.

    France allows nothing in public schools pertaining to any religion. They do not single out Muslims at all.

  32. Very wise, school is for learning, religion should be private.

  33. Sarah, I would like to compliment you on “The Muslim Village” poem that you composed. I liked it very much because you wrote it from your very own heart. It touched my soul to its very core. Thanks for sharing!

  34. Although I grew up in the States I am French also & spend quite a lot of time there nowadays. Hijab is not allowed in public schools in France period. Schools are laic, i.e. no religious affiliation whatsoever, public ones that is.
    Burqa/Niqa is subject to a fine & some women have been fined for wearing them. It’s the law. Just like wearing a black hijab usually made of synthetic fabric in 50 degree weather is the law in Saudi. Men on the other hand parade in shorts & tanks tops. Oh and now that it’s winter they have started wearing darker coloured throbes though in summer they done white ones.
    Back to France, there are some families who actually force their girls to wear hijab & the French authorities know this. Therefore, reinforcing these laws is a way for them to protect some. Not trying to defend the French Gov in no way. There are racist, prejudiced people galore in France too.
    Some do argue that the UK is way more tolerant which is actually true. Some do say as well that’s why they have more issues with Islamist extremists as well. Who knows?
    Wasalam

  35. @AA is hijab is forbidden to students on public school grounds in France. This law was voted in 2004 under Jacques Chirac, I believe. Also students wearing any items that show their religious affiliation such as Kipas, crosses, stars of David…

  36. And it is a very, very good law IMHO!

  37. Yes, the French have better laws than we have.

  38. It is a very good law for individuals who cannot tolerate anything different than their own narrow mindset and so called superior culture, really not that much different from the disgusting mysoginistic mindset of the Saudi law enforcers. The only true difference is those in Saudi are coward men trying to control how women should dress while those who support this French law..well…hypocrites who themselves are adamant to make sure people dress the way they assume appropriate. These kind of people should not disagree with the abaya rule in Saudi since law is the law according to them (no matter how awful the law is). Rahma, how about those who wishes to wear hijab on their own accord?

  39. Saudi abaya law and its supporters – considered to be mysoginists

    French hijab law and its supporters – definitely hypocrites and a kind of misanthropist (except for their own kind).

    On the other hand, those who are neutral to how men and women should wear on their own reasons and sane decision – a rare group of friendly peaceful non extremist people.

  40. Rahma, you mentioned that this outlaw of hijab has protected girls who were forced to wear them in the first place but don’t you think it would deny the rights of those who actually chose to wear hijab? Like me for example, would I be forced to strip of my hijab just like Im compelled to wear black abaya in KSA? I really dislike laws that forces women to dress a certain way or act a certain way. What if the hijab is just a ffashion statement? like J.Lo wears? How are these French able to past judgement on which hijab is for fashion or for religion?

  41. Religion has no place in schools. School is for learning. I think it’s best for children if they go to mixed schools, and I think it’s better if they do not wear blatant signs of their parent’s religious affiliation. I am also against putting children into a box regarding their religious affiliation. Children should not be forced to define themselves by their parent’s faith.
    Or be segregated in groups according to faith.

  42. Granted school is for learning but isn’t learning to recognize people from other backgrounds and faith aother crucial learning process of what the real world is all about, to recognize and embrace our differences instead of pretending it doesn’t exist, instead of pretending that we are all bland. Aren’t we as adults responsible for exposing our children to all the different aspects in life that will eventually shape these young minds into being more open and tolerable. Instead of having them afraid of a lady in hijab, instead of having them fear anything that is different. It is too bad when the fear and prejudice of the adults/parents become translated into the children.

  43. @ Aafke: Let’s just assimilate everyone, according to your views. It is very sad that the world economy has affected the lives of people all over the world, forcing people to go emigrate from their native countries to foreign places for ‘opportunity.’ Again, they wouldn’t have to leave if Imperialism didn’t disrupt their traditional lifestyles, thereby forcing them into the world economy.

  44. School is for learning, religion should be private, children should not be forced to define themselves, and isolate themselves, by their parents religion.
    I don’t see why this is so difficult to respond to. If you want to respond to it.

  45. Teaching kids to embrace diversity, to be inclusive, to respect differences in others is a crucial life long lesson. Pretending that we are all the same will eventually damage the child once he/she grows up and live in the real world. Is it preferred for the kid to fear the lady in the hijab or the guy in the kippa?It is sad and unfortunate when the hate and prejudice of adults/parents are translated into the kids. And because kids always listen and follow, we as adults and parents should our own diversity deficiet. And to suggest that parents should not involve kids in the parents affiliated religion is silly, to say the least. As parents, it is our rights and responsibility to nurture and educate our children and that includes the spiritual aspect. If it’s not the parents rights, who do you suggest has more rights to educate their child?You? Strangers? Once the children are adults, that is a different story. Parents have the God given rights to nurture their children and teach them what they believe to be beneficial. I would not dare to judge another mother.on how she raises her kids or even tell her what she.should be teaching her kids, that is just sheer arrogance.

  46. It’s difficult because you are trying to teach parents how they should raise their kids which frankly is none of your business.

  47. Who said embracing diversity equates to isolating onesellf?

  48. Schooling socializes children, and indirectly teaches them the norms and attributes of the dominant culture (hidden curriculums). There are many aspects of schooling that serve to benefit some, while neglecting others. Sadly, the way the world works now, people can no longer retain their traditional, indigenous skills because their ways of life were ‘enlightened’ by modernism (capitalism). Why not make it less harming by allowing students to retain their cultural identities (and yes, religion is incorporated into identity for many cultures)??

  49. @MrsB, I am not saying this French is right or wrong. What I do think is that it should apply to ALL religions. And you’re right that with such law France is like Saudi. What usually happens is that girls wear their hijabs on the way to school & remove them once they arrive. Of course there’s a flaw in this law as French holidays are based on the Gregorian/Christian calendar. But it’s France’s history & I suspect they won’t change the whole culture to fit everyone in.
    France’s motto has always been that people(wether from former colonies or migrants etc) should assimilate & integrate, but in reality it isn’t the case.

  50. MrsB,
    Thanks for complimenting my poem. It is just my humble attempt.
    You are too sweet! 🙂

  51. So Sikhs from India where a kirpan, or knife, after a certain age. This is not something that should be in schools IMHO. No weapons of any kind. The Sikhs argued that children should be able to wear this knife in school and it’s caused all kinds of concerns and rightly so. One way to eliminate this is to ban ALL wearing of anything to signify religion in public schools. You can’t ban for one religion and not the rest. I’m absolutely behind the French law at the moment. What one wears or doesn’t wear does not alter diversity in the school room either. Kids still learn about one another.

  52. Firstly is hijab or even a Christian cross weapons?? Next, the Canadian court has managed to negotiate a win win case regarding the wearing the kirpan in school by having the kirpan sewn into the clothes inside a sheath thereby respecting the religious minorities in Canada. Im happy to see that there are still many open minded Canadians who are embracing diversity and respecting their minorities. What you are wanting to do is to abolish all signs of the minorities and its cultural ‘baggage’. I believe in the near future, the French government will come to its senses and lift the hijab ban. All it needs is more education as well as pressure from various groups. Children need these diversity and conglomeration of cultures and religion and ethnicity to make them less prejudice as their older counterparts and to better appreciate the humanity.

  53. It is not impossible that one day France and other countries will lift the hijab ban in order to allow the practice of religious freedom. Turkey has lifted the ban last year. Germany will soon lift the ban on male circumcision. The Zurich Children’s Hospital has lifted the ban on male circumcision. For far too long the French government has been poking its nose into religious affairs and people are not going to stand it much longer. If a dictatorship such as Mubarak can be overthrown, the rights of practicing religion through a democratic approach can be attain. Even rules in Jeddah is more relax in terms of hijab and abayas.

  54. Mrs. B – please do not confuse religion with culture. They are very different. Wearing the hijab is not mandatory in Islam, wearing a cross is not mandatory in Catholicism, wearing the kirpan is not an absolute requirement either. As a Canadian I embrace the differences but I understand totally why France has banned religious identifiers in public schools. It absolutely makes absolute and total sense.

    As to bans on circumcision … I wish the countries that banned it did not back down. I have always been amazed at how Islam talks about not altering the body but yet they do this major alteration on their males. Does not make sense. Let the boy make up his mind when he is of legal age and can make his own decisions.

  55. I agree with Wendy. Good comment.

  56. @Wendy
    By the way, hijab and circumcision (for males) are both mandatory in Islam.
    Yes, Islam forbids body modifications except five things that are considered “fitrah”, parts of human nature, or default state. As stated in the hadith: ‘Five things are part of the fitrah: removing the pubic hair, circumcision, trimming the mustache, plucking the armpit hairs, and trimming the nails.” (Reported by al-jamaa’ah)
    Other things like piercings for women, hair dye are controversial in small circles of orthodox Muslims, but largely accepted by the majority of scholars. Also, circumcision dates back to Abraham as it is narrated he was ordered to do it when he was 80 years of age and did so with an axe he had. So, Muslims are told to honor Abraham’s obedience by circumcising their newborns.

  57. Yasser:

    Your killing me, one minute you go on about that there are items that are cultural then it is mandatory. Then you talk about Islams need for Ijtihad then you change your tune.

    Here is a source:

    http://www.islam-and-muslims.com/Berg-summary-hadith-criticism.pdf

    Mrs. B:

    First symbols (particular religious) in schools are a distraction and can create subgroups by association of such symbols. In many cases these children will often only associate with one another and in worst case senarios they will ban together and create problems. As an institution for learning it is therefore best to leave symbolisms which have meanings that can be offensive or used as gang identification at the door. If the practice of a religion depends on one wearing symbolisms at all times then it is not about a belief in God but associations. This is common in the military and sports and this is why many religious use symbols as a means to identify others of the same belief system and to use this association against the other in some cases.

    In other words, religious symbols are a distraction and they take on many meanings to many people. Example the head scarf, abaya, burka has the same meaning to many women as the KKK dressings (aka: hate symbol) to African Americans. There are many who find this symbolism to represent women as a sex object who has no business in the public as she is an external sex organ and who are deficient in intelligence. Therefore it creates an environment that is not conducive to learning but one of intimidation and harassment.

  58. Yasser:

    I and AB are still interesting in your report. Maybe you could provide it. I am extremely interested on your baseline, acount for variables and the population sampling.

    Thanks.

  59. Yasser, on January 12, 2013 at 11:28 am said: Also, circumcision dates back to Abraham as it is narrated he was ordered to do it when he was 80 years of age and did so with an axe he had.

    This is a classic example of cruel and unusual punishment from a supposedly kind and merciful allah. Axe??? Why couldn’t have Abe borrowed a smaller knife or something from his wife’s kitchen. 80 yr old? Did Abe even exist?

  60. Yasser:

    Here is another source for you:

    http://www.stopthereligiousright.org/exodus.htm

  61. @myronleonard2013
    My comment to Wendy was in the context of Islamic tradition. Of course, whether Abraham existed or not is debatable from an empirical standpoint similar to as whether Moses, Jesus or any prophet existed, performed miracles or even if God himself exits. I’m not arguing about that. It is clear from Wendy’s question that she was under the impression that hijab and circumcision were not mandatory. She also indicated she was confused about circumcision and the fact that Islam forbids body modifications. It was a very interesting post for me, so I wanted to help clarifying, that’s all 🙂
    I will refrain attacking or ridiculing any religious beliefs. But I will entertain some thoughts here and there about my personal dilemmas with theism if I find it suitable, provided I do so in the most objective manner. Right now, unfortunately, there is a tug of war it seems, and I don’t know for how long it’s been going on. I am not here to make enemies or take sides. Carol seems to be a highly intelligent, educated person who understands and has the capacity to respect cultural differences, and the role religion plays in Saudi Arabia and that part of the world. And her aim seems to be building a bridge between Western and Saudi cultures. I highly applaud her efforts thus far as no one can deny she’s done a great job. and the last thing I want is to allow the hate and prejudice of a few to ruin it for the rest of us.

  62. Yasser:

    Still waiting to here about your report. 🙂

    Curious minds want to know. 😀

  63. Yasser,
    Let me say first of all that I am not confused about anything.
    I totally understand that circumcision is mandatory. I am saying it SHOULD NOT be. Also if it was dictated by someone who had it done at age 80 then let it be done for all at age 80. Clearly by then they are old enough to make that choice. 🙂 It is a cruel thing to do IMHO and takes away some pleasure for a man.

    I also firmly believe, in fact understand, that hijab is NOT mandatory. It has been debated by Islamic scholars of course and it will be argued both ways but the general consensus is that it is NOT mandatory.

  64. Funny enough Wendy most Muslims says it’s wajib. If it isn’t mandatory as per your argument, it shouldn’t be a problem for the French would it if that friend of mine wore it simply out of a cultural aspect ir even as a fashion statement. Therein lies the problem..whether for religious reasoning, cultural or even a fashion statement as a democratic country the French has no right to ban the hijab. do you know that in Riyadh you’d find Nigeria ladies wearing their cultural turban or headgear without a problem? As for religious symbols being a distraction, I beg to differ as our children aren’t so susceptible as their parents but are rather curious and embrace diversity if only the adults would let them. I am aware that the concept if diversity is hard to grasp for many people here. Pity, I thought I could find this beautiful concept with Westerners as I assume they were more open minded than Easterners but seems not so.

  65. Wendy, thankfully the Germans and Swiss do not make their decisions revolving around what You think is appropriate. Believe me, my future sons will be circumcised not just out of religious reason but for his future health and sexual pleasures. It is too silly to claim circumcised male don’t have the pleasure enjoying sex. I strongly disagree, from experience.

  66. Wendy the French didn’t device the hijab ban because you decide hijab is not mandatory or that I think it is so. That’s beside the issue. The issue is, the French is interfering with people’s sole decision to dress how they please and that is wrong. If you agree that the French has the rights to make such a dresscode law then you should agree with the Saudi dresscode law.What the hijab represents personally is no ones business. Hell no one has business if a guy wears a Shirt with the words Muslim Sucks or Atheist are Stupid, it’s his shirt. Nowadays you will find the youth wearing shirts with the symbol of a swastika all over it. No protest there is there? Care to explain the real reason why you are so threaten by the hijab? Does it ignites the fact that your culture is no longer the only acceptable culture and that the world is evolving as we speak and that diverse of culture is taking over?

  67. Wendy, I apologize, but your statement that something “does not make sense” implied confusion. If not, then it’s a misunderstanding on my part.
    I would like to see that consensus you mentioned regarding hijab if possible. Because throughout my studies, I was overwhelmed with the amount of evidence I found ordaining hijab. The only arguments that arose among scholars was between the Hanbalis who see that covering the face and palms is a part of hijab, and the Shafi’is and Hanafis who see them as optional/recommended. A classical contemporary example in Saudi was the refutations back and forth found in letters exchanged between Ibn Othaimeen, and al-Albani, which later on were published.
    If you think circumcision and hijab should not be mandatory. I wonder how you would approach Muslim scholars to convince them with your stand.

  68. MrsB, Schools have actually quite a lot to say about how all children dress. This is different for different countries and schools of course. Some schools have school uniforms.
    I think it very unlikely that any school would allow a kid with swastika’s on their t-shirt. Actually, I wouldn’t believe it until I saw it with my own eyes.

    I see only advantage in not allowing religious markers on children in school.
    They are, after all, just children. They should have a childhood with learning and playing and they should not be burdened with religions and religious divides. Time enough for all that when they are adult.

  69. Aafke, schools in Malaysia enforces its students to wear uniform at all time while in school premises BUT a Hindu kid is allowed to wear her bindi, a Sikh kid can wear his turban, a Chinese kid can wear her amulet etc etc you get the idea.

  70. Do these kids look distracted by religious symbols or do they seem to be happy studying and enjoying the diversity of culture and religion.

  71. However Aafke, I would it’s also like to stress that not only are the students ban from wearing hijab but it was the mother of the student who was not allowed to participate in her son’s school activity because she had a hijab on. This is beyond mad.

  72. mrsb, I agree with you, about your last comment, that is ridiculous and unfair!

  73. Mrs. B, the mom shouldn’t have been treated that way. Now lets talk about the hijab. You started out by implying it was religious and you were mixing religion with culture. Now you are saying the the hijab is cultural (I definitely agree with that statement) BUT it IS a major identifier of a serious Muslima is it not? Now what France decrees as proper attire in a public school is their right. I couldn’t go to a school in Saudi wearing a cross. Sadly in many parts of the world people are not happy with Muslims and there can be problems arise for Muslim children so the best answer is to have no religious anything in public schools according to France and that is their right.

    I live in a very multicultural country where people are encouraged to enjoy their culture and religion (within Canadian law). The only dress issue Canada is having right now is with the niqab and even that is going to be allowed in most places so please don’t say that people on this forum don’t understand or embrace multiculturalism. Canada is the posterboy for multiculturalism. We celebrate and embrace differences of all kinds in this country.

    As for circumcision … I have been involved in a group that would like it banned and I have heard stories of men who for one reason or another were circumcised later in life and who all said that their enjoyment of sex went down. This is a procedure that is not paid for in hospitals here anymore and for good reason. If being ‘intact’ were so bad then most of the men in Europe and the UK (other than Muslims and Jews) would be in very, very bad shape and they are quite healthy it seems. 🙂 I do not agree with mutilating children.

  74. Mrs. B:

    A posed picture does not provide any assessment of the environment of the class. Therefore you are unable to draw any verifiable conclusions. Next, I do believe that the face veil at least is not allowed in mosques or at the kaba.

    If the mom was given an option and knows the law then she chose to not to join in and she chose to not participate. She could have taken the scarf off but she did not. Thus she had a choice. However, the fact is she could have had the gear on that is forbidden and just lied to you or just lied you anyway to stir up attention. Frankly I don’t put this past the religious as they are authorized to lie and it is sanctioned by their manmade books(Bible, Quran, Talmad) of hate, racism, murder, apartheid, rape, etc. Deception and lies have always be tools of religion way stop now.

    As far as the rest I agree with Wendy.

  75. I think this is completely unreasonable. Schools can put up ”no religious markers” for the pupils and during school hours, I think that’s a good rule, but it should stop there too.
    At a school do when the parents participate they should of course come in their normal dress, if mothers want to wear huge crosses, stars of david, hijabs, bindi, that should not be an issue. That is ridiculous.

  76. AA:

    If they have a known rule then it is no different than anyone else having a rule. If the mother wants to take issue with it then she should have done so at a different point and time by going about the proper channels. Quite frankly unless it is written up by a veriifable source than I am inclined to believe she is making it up for no other purpose than to cause strife.

    It should be noted that she was going to participate in a school activity, not pick up her child, not watch her child in a school activity but she herself was going to participate in a school activity. In other words she was taken on being the extension of the school as in its position. If she was going to participate in a school function then they do have the right to determine the level of what they will allow as it is a representation of the school and its mandates. As it is a school function and they are in control of school functions to include the level of who participates in that role. In other words even if you volunteer for some function (selling tickets/manning a station/booth) the school or any other entity has the right to say thank you but no thank you due to this reason. I do not have to accept someone volunteering to help if they are going to wear something that has been strictly forbidden by students, teachers or representatives (including volunteers). However they are more than welcome to participate as guests to accompany their children to enjoy the event in that regard.

  77. This is getting too much ”if” ”if”.
    No religion in school for children is good, for activities involving parents it’s fre time and then it’s ridiculous to not let the parents wear their religious attire, they are adult,have made their choice, and are now stuck with it.

  78. AA:

    Yes but they are still involved in a school function on the level of a representative. That is the issue. No one is saying they cannot participate in the event as a guest just not as a someone as a volunteer. There is a difference. If it is an event that requires volunteers the volunteers must adhere to the same standard as teachers and students otherwise they can participate as guests to enjoy the event. The difference is that the event is a part of the school and its representation. As such the school has the right to determine the level of representation to include those who volunteer.

  79. AA:

    Let me try to further clarify. If you are a participant such as a person in sports (ie student) or a volunteer (selling tickets) you are representing the school and therefore cannot where religous clothing. Let just say it is a basketball game. The players or students involved in the activity (basketball) cannot wear religious symbolisms/ nor can teachers or volunteers working the event. However if you are a student that is not participating but just there to watch you are allowed, along with your parent to wear religious trappings as you are not participating in a function of the school you are only observing or acting in the capacity as a guest. You are not respresenting the school in this manner but are just a spectator partaking in an event hosted by the school. See the difference.

  80. @Bigstick1,

    I think there should be a differentiation between adults who can make their own decisions and children who cannot. The goal of the law was to insure that religious affiliations do not interfere with learning and that parents do not force their kids into specific religious practices before they are old enough to make their own decisions. Requiring parents to follow the same rules seems to be discriminatory. Do you really think it is a good idea to push parents away from participating in school activities because they prefer to dress according to their religious practices?

    I am not for secular laws becoming as discriminatory as religious ones nor should these laws be aligned with an ideology. In this case these rules seem to align with an anti religion ideology. It is important for laws to protect the right of adult individuals to choose what to believe and how they live their lives, as long as these choices do not create harm to others. If the story mrsB relied is accurate then I think the rules are discriminatory and should be changed.

  81. Moq:

    You are trying to throw in a different realm (ie Olympics) which is not applicable to French Law for Zero Tolerance of Religion in Schools. I have provided an analogy based on logic and law. If there is a zero tolerance then at no time will a person while in attendance or in representation of the school support through any symbolism any manifestation of religion decorum.

    In other words, whether or not the law is discriminatory or not is irrelevant; it is applied equally to all parties at all times in this manner and is the law of France. I also stated that the individual should have taken it up through proper channels if they wanted it altered. At no time did I stated it was not discriminatory but only provided that it was being applied correctly in accordance to the zero tolerance policy of France.

    Whether I think it is appropriate is not the point. The point is, are they applying the law of zero tolerance in the schools for religion appropriately and the answer is “yes.” Based upon their criteria. The sports issues is valid in this case.

    There olympics has no zero tolerance laws associated with it so the analogy cannot be applied as the policy/law does not exist.

    Hope this assists you in your understanding of my point.

  82. well Bigstick it might be just a picture to you but I have actually been a part time teacher for a short time though but nevertheless, I have seen how different races and religion can co exist harmoniously and successfully. All I can say is I will agree to disagree with you as I have given up to much time discussing this issue. But mark my word, we are bound to experience difference in culture and religion at on point or another and I humbly believe it could be good fir children to experience this at a young age. My daughter was brought to this earth by a Chinese midwife and although she wasn’t Muslim, she advised me to pray to God in order to calm my nerves and I am forever grateful to her. If I was an extremist and had not experience such a rich cultural conglomeration then I might not have been the open person I am now.

  83. Moq:

    I find it interesting that the middle paragraph of what you sent is missing when I view it on the computer. My mobile shows three paragraphs discussing the Olympics and the sports analogy I provided not being a good one. However when looking on the computer version that is missing. What gives?

  84. Mrs. B:

    Good for you. Noble profession, however I saw a different story when it came to religion. So we will agree to disagree.

  85. Thank you Bigstick. And please accept my apologies for the last bickerings we had as I know I’ve been hard on you in order to dispel your rather aggressive debates. I’ve been reflecting lately and am frankly tired of all the bad things I’ve seen or come across. But, I ll still be giving my opinions time to time.

  86. @bigstick,

    I am not sure why that part of the comment made it to your phone. I removed it when I did my final edit as I realized I miss read your comment. I had to login using gravatar when I pressed post comment.

    Regarding the French laws, I am actually torn on the issue of not allowing children to dress according to their religious requirements. On one hand there are benefits, but also it is infringing on freedom of thoughts and believe. I also think it is very naive to think that the law makers were not targeting Muslims while making these laws appear religion neutral.

    In the case of school children it is close enough I can go either way. In the case of adults the law clearly goes over the line, where it infringes on personal freedoms and liberties. It does not matter if you ban a person from wearing a cross, the star of David, or Hijab, these rules have religious intolerance written all over them.

    As you know, I have no respect for religious ideologies, but I do not think we should go as far as infringing on people’s freedoms.

  87. Moq, I’ve had you all wrong. I take back my calling you an Islamophobe. I sincerely apologise. You seem to have a fairly just view on this issue. You’re one arrogant dude but lately I’ve seen some fair discussions coming out from you. I tip my hijab to you. But that’s not to say I won’t be defending my religion, just I’ll be more aware of where you’re coming from.

  88. MoQ:

    I agree on your points. I too don’t care if people believe whatever so long as they don’t force it on others. However, I think in school with kids it should remain neutral as K-12 they tend to form clicks and such. Once in college you are an adult so proceed as you will so long as you don’t impose your belief onto another, however, healthy debate is always a good thing.

    Mrs. B:

    Okay.

  89. @mrsB,

    No problem. Actually, this is not something new. I have very clear differentiation between ideology and people. I appose bad ideas, but I do not discriminate against people holding those ideas. You can see that in all my writings here. You just only noticed now because you agree with me on this one 🙂

    Regarding arrogance, I never get into a debate unless I know my topic well. I actually pass on may debates here and just read others comments to get information in areas I am not knowledgeable in. Now if I call people on their lack of facts or their circular politically correct arguments, you may form an opinion that I am arrogant. However, from my point of view it is confidence in my knowledge in the area and it is a tactic on your part to dismiss others by throwing names around.

    You doubled down on name calling, even when you wanted to apologize. I hope you can refrain from such behavior in the future as it is not productive.

  90. Actually I meant that in an affectionate way Moq but yes you’re right I should try refrain from name callings.

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