21 October 2007

as i see it

The first time that I went to Saudi Arabia, I was struck with many things, one of which is the stark difference betwen the Saudi women and the Asian Muslim women. The Saudis called us Asian looking women, "Siti" for reasons I do not know. It must be a convenient form of salutation.

In Asia, we drive, do our shopping without our husbands tagging along, and more important, I think, work outside our homes. In the Philippines, where I was born, the Muslim women generally participate in political exercises, like voting, referendums, campaigns, running for offices, etc. I will not go to the extent of how the Saudi women might be wanting of liberties that we have in our lives. For all I know, they maybe a happy lot even without these "freedoms".

One other difference is how we cover ourselves. I have to admit, I was quite disturbed with seeing the swarms of women in black, faces unseen and unfathomable. While I saw some Asians (they are Asians, because of their heights and their sounds too) wearing the niqab or burka fully concealing themselves too, most of us wore our tudungs or hijabs which is less restrictive, but some would think as less pleasing to Allah.

A lot of us would do away with the hijab, too. My cousin, Shalimar, is very exasperated with her mom who does not bother covering up. This is another unique story and brings both of us to marvel about the eccentricities of people in our lives.

In airports, the hijabs we wear become problematic, when people stare and look at us like we were going to blow up some aeroplanes. More security checks and questions for us too because of our names. Hello!! Do I look like a suicide bomber tagging along my beautiful precious child to finish our lives just like that?

Hijabs, niqabs, burkas - we have our choices, let no one dictate us. We were always taught that our modesty is the responsibility of our fathers, brothers, husbands and sons, but let it be our own accountability too. We must be able to use our minds, do interpretative thinking, be real Muslims, fair and just and not imposing and intolerant. And if we choose to cover up (or not), then let us do it with dignity and without fear.