Thursday, July 12, 2007

Eyewitness to an Unveiling

I have an excellent memory of which I am inordinately proud - it's not photographic but pretty darn close. If it's written in print, then I can easily commit it to memory; however, if it's a facial feature, I'm screwed. This is how the gods have repaid my hubris. In fact, it's safe to say that when I meet someone for the first time, even engage in a lengthy conversation with that person, it's highly unlikely that I'd be able to pick them out of a police line-up three hours later. Undeniably, I would make the world's worst eyewitness.

Now this is not the most coveted quirk to possess if you are a teacher. I realize that students appreciate to be called upon by their names and be recognized in the hallway. By their instructor. And I try - I truly do. I have even developed several non-earth shattering strategies to make me less of a nob in class: I write down abbreviated descriptions next to the names on my enrolment sheets ('glasses', 'bald', 'scarf', 'mind-numbingly stunned'), I try to memorize seating plans (although students are wont to change positions on me, either capriciously or wilfully), I record their names into a portable cassette recorder and play this mantra back during my sleep through headphones. But for the most part, I can - at best - successfully identify by name 40% of my students by the end of term. In my defence, having 4 Fatima Zahra's in the same class at any one time doesn't help. Fortunately, they don't mind being numbered Fatima Zahra 1, Fatima Zahra 2. Fatima Zahra 3, and Fatima Zahra 4.

Let me add that if a student changes his/her hairstyle or forgets to wear his/her eyewear, any progress I've made in learning their name and assigning it to his/her face is completely undone. So this afternoon, it came as little surprise that on the 2nd last day of class I should chance upon a student whom I didn't recognize. This happens frequently. But this was a class that I've had for 3 hours a week for the last 10 months - the scholarship students from the slums of Salé about whom I have already rhapsodized - what the hell was my problem? In a world where my bar of recognition is already set disturbingly low, this was a personal best. And by personal best, I mean a nadir.

Then I put on my glasses realized that it was Fadwa, a wee 15-year old girl and the only veiled student in this particular class. But rather than wearing her usual hijab - Saints preserve us! - she was wearing a diaphanous black veil. I could sort of, kind of see her hair. She was more suitably attired to crawl over broken glass on her knees up the steps of the Our Lady of Lourdes' shrine than pray before Allah five times. I cleverly hid my flustered surprise - I cunningly dropped the handout I was passing her - and went on with the day's lesson. But if my nerves weren't already frayed enough, Fadwa appeared after break sans veil. What fun she and her friends must have had in the bathrooms! She had hair - who knew? Gorgeous hair that she deigned to sluttishly proudly exhibit before me and the testosterone-engorged boys in class. How can she now protect her modesty and discourage unwanted attention from her male counterparts? Had she really thought this through?

Her best friend in class pointed to her and said, "Teacher! We have a new student!" Fadwa giggled licentiously demurely. "And a beautiful new student too," I responded. Not very clever, I know, but it's been a rough week and my brain activity repartee is always the first thing to go.

So I now have a new & improved Fadwa in my class. I am very, very happy because I can't abide headscarves on women. Although I want to be able to say that I support a woman's right to wear whatever she wants on her head - even an armadillo - if she so chooses, I'd have to say that I'd rather she wear a placental mammal than a hijab. Which probably makes me a bit of a hypocrite but at least an honest one. Scarves are not only scraps of politically charged fabric but all too ugly manifestations of sexual and religious oppression. In a word, I hate them.

So I had a pretty good Morocco Day today: all because of a whisp of a girl and a radical decision she made, a decision whose motives I will try to ferret out of her tomorrow. And I can only hope that tomorrow - it being my last class with this group of amazing kids - the new & improved Fadwa returns in all of her Rapunzelean glory. That she doesn't have a change of heart, a lapse of courage. That her father doesn't have a near-stroke and obliterate her sexuality from the world.

23 Comments:

Blogger taamarbuuta said...

Wow! This happened to me with a student last summer too, but unfortunately, she took off her scarf because her father MADE her, which makes me feel the same way I would if her father had made her wear it in the first place.

But she does look prettier without it.

10:52 AM  
Blogger squindia said...

i miss you.

and

the exact opposite happened to me with a girl in my sunday class. i didn't recognize her because she wore the hijab one day. i think i actually reacted badly because it made me so sad. she assured me that it was only temporary because her grandfather had just passed. whew.

1:05 PM  
Blogger knarf said...

Amazing! Hope she doesn't get thrashed within an inch of her life by her father!

5:42 PM  
Anonymous The Lounsbury - l'Aqoul said...

Rather disappointing the stereotypical response to a hidjab. While personally not a fan of the thing, one of your students adopting the Western look means bloody little for "liberation" or whatever stereotypical nonsense is in the background.

Well, more the Wogs look like the Sahibs, the more civilised they are. Always has been the standard. Of course the French used to say openly, "evolved"

3:18 PM  
Anonymous Ibn Kafka said...

I'm siding with The Lounsbury on this one, although I'm not disappointed as I never had any illusions about universal love and understanding: the obsession with women being unveiled mirrors perfectly some islamists' obsession with women being veiled. Fatema Mernissi, the noted Moroccan sociologist and feminist, noted that the dictatorship of the veil in Iran and Saudi Arabia was mirrored by a different type of dictatorship in Western countries, that of size 38 - you don't get imprisoned or whipped because you do not wear a veil, but you starve yourself to death through anorexia beacuse you don not resemble whoever is the famous model of the day. If I am not mistaken, queer studies goddess Judith Butler has spoken much along the same lines, for whatever it's worth.

4:04 PM  
Blogger taamarbuuta said...

With all due respect to Fatima Mernissi, I don't think that hijab can be compared in the least to anorexia. Eating disorders are self-imposed. There is rarely peer pressure involved (I'm not saying peer pressure to be thin doesn't exist, mind you, but that it rarely influences the onset of anorexia nervosa itself), rather, the pressure comes from inside - from a lack of self-esteem or feeling of lack of control. An eating disorder is, in fact, rarely about thinness.

I don't believe anything I hear from women who have never suffered from one.

2:49 PM  
Anonymous Ibn Kafka said...

tamaarbuta, with all respect, in all cases of women wearing hijab that I personnally know of, that exercise is also self-imposed - not to deny that there are cases where hijab-wearing is imposed on women (and I am not referring to Saudi Arabia or Iran, where it is legally mandatory).

Allow me to refer to your last line: I also do not believe much about the veil from women who've never worn one.

3:35 PM  
Blogger Cat in Rabat ( كات في الرباط) said...

Why make comments like "I'm not a fan of the hijab" and then pounce on my relating this antecdote? Did I say that Fadwa's rejection of it made her civilised? Or less - and this was Lounsbury/l'Aqoul's word - of a wog? Everyone can be happy, I suppose, because she returned to class on Friday with a very woe-begone, beaten demeanour and her veil.

7:04 PM  
Anonymous Liosliath said...

I don't care whether a woman wears the hijab or not, but I'm sorry to hear that this girl was made to do something that made her unhappy.

Ibn Kafka, I wanted to ask you something - or perhaps I should be asking the women you know - when I wear a scarf, the "exercise is also self-imposed", but I get such approval and kindness (from both men and women) that it's hard to go back to letting my wild sexy hair swing free. [joke] Anyway, men no longer harass me, women stop looking at me askance, and taxi drivers turn on their meters. (ok, I lied about the last one) Do you think it's the same for a Moroccan muslimah who chooses to wear the hijab?

2:31 AM  
Anonymous Ibn Kafka said...

Lioslath: true, you should speak with my sisters in law, who are veiled. The youngest is unemployed due to her veil, and has been sexually harassed in spite of it. The oldest one was lucky to already have a job where she was appreciated before she decided on wearing the veil. Oh, I almost forgot, both live in the "plubopaysdumonde"...

9:58 AM  
Blogger Cat in Rabat ( كات في الرباط) said...

Ibn Kafka ... "plubopaysdumonde" ... that made me spray my morning coffee!

11:41 AM  
Anonymous Ibn Kafka said...

CiR: well, that's courtesy of the Office national du tourisme du Maroc - they had a campaign a few years ago with that cheery slogan...

1:52 PM  
Anonymous Liosliath said...

Hah, I think I remember that slogan - though I prefer the anti-littering campaign!

Your poor sisters in law - what happens when the younger one applies for work? What career is she in?

11:07 PM  
Anonymous Ibn Kafka said...

Lioslath: the younger one, aged 22, is a secretary, with the best grades of her promotion. She's had many offers, but conditional on her taking off her veil. I've argued with her to take it off and put it on back once she clinches a "contrat à durée indéterminée", but she's refused, finding such an approach hypocritical. As an aside, she dresses in bright colors, is very talkative and extraverted and looks more like a Rotana-like model than like a Saudi. However, very recently, she's been able to find an employer more interested in what she has in her head than over her hair, who's allowed her to begin on a paid traineeship (500 DH/month).

5:43 PM  
Blogger Cat in Rabat ( كات في الرباط) said...

500 dirhams a month ... here's hoping that she lands a permanent contract speedily!

6:30 PM  
Anonymous Ibn Kafka said...

Well, considering that most traineeships are for free she regards herself a lucky person. As for the amount, I personally know of a cleaning lady who earns that salary for a full-time job at the Italian Cultural Center in Rabat...

10:07 PM  
Blogger Cat in Rabat ( كات في الرباط) said...

*Gasp* Are you suggesting that the Italian Consulate is underpaying their cleaning staff?!!

10:10 PM  
Anonymous Liosliath said...

"conditional on her taking off her veil"

What! The reasons behind that are...? This should be good.

11:48 PM  
Anonymous Ibn Kafka said...

Cat in Rabat: not the Consulate, but the Italian Cultural Center in Rabat.

Losliath: not that kind of offers, but she was harassed by a potential employer who most apparently didn't mind her having a veil, as long as he could rub his groin against her.

5:19 PM  
Blogger taamarbuuta said...

Ibn Kafka, read again:

Fatema Mernissi, the noted Moroccan sociologist and feminist, noted that the dictatorship of the veil in Iran and Saudi Arabia was mirrored by a different type of dictatorship in Western countries, that of size 38 - you don't get imprisoned or whipped because you do not wear a veil, but you starve yourself to death through anorexia beacuse you don not resemble whoever is the famous model of the day.

That's what you said. You WERE referring to Saudi Arabia and Iran, hence my response. You cannot compare the experience of forced hijab in those countries to anorexia, which is precisely what Fatima Mernissi did.

I am fully aware that hijab is rarely forced outside of those (and a few other) places, thankyouverymuch.

1:02 AM  
Anonymous The Lounsbury - l'Aqoul said...

Now then:
Why make comments like "I'm not a fan of the hijab" and then pounce on my relating this antecdote?

I should think it is clear.

Your entire writing about the chica taking off her veil is chock full of the presumption that taking off veil is good, having veil on = oppression. Not directly said, but the entire commentary.

Did I say that Fadwa's rejection of it made her civilised?

No, liberated was the angle you were going for, false presumption and not in the end different in concept.

Or less - and this was Lounsbury/l'Aqoul's word - of a wog? Everyone can be happy, I suppose, because she returned to class on Friday with a very woe-begone, beaten demeanour and her veil.

Oh yes, the oppression of the veil, and that she doesn't show off her hair. "Radical decisions" and all that, the "new and improved" student in her more civilised fashion eh? Wogs, civilising mission, etc. replayed in more updated language.

1:23 AM  
Blogger Leafless Eve said...

"rather, the pressure comes from inside - from a lack of self-esteem or feeling of lack of control. An eating disorder is, in fact, rarely about thinness."

But that's EXACTLY why girls wear the scarf. It's because of the PRESSURE from INSIDE & the lack of control. They think that their lives will be made HOLY, and better. They have to please some MALE HIGHER authority (GOD) in order to go to heaven. They are brainwashed to think that THIS is the CORRECT way to be just like the anorixic girls.
They are brainwashed to think that a man looking at u in admiration of your beauty is HARRASMENT.
Why not enjoy the looks as long as you can before you get old and wrinkled and MISS THEM.
Ofcourse i'm not talking about dirty looks that make u uncomfortable, but to further prove my point, U STILL GET THOSE if u lived in Saudi Arabia and only a small part of your hair was showing. There are women in Egypt who are veiled and get harassed all the time. So lets not use the whole "PROTECTING MYSELF FROM MEN" theory to defend the argument for Hijab.

It is not about being Liberal or Modern or not. Anyone who can CHANGE their opinion is a moderate. Anyone who can question his beliefs & the beliefs of others around him is open minded & liberal (regardless of which ends of the spectrum you are)

Also, allow me to refer to your last line: I also do not believe much about the veil from MEN who've never worn one. After all MEN (Sheikhs) are the ones that are still arguing to this day weather or not is MANDATORY that a WOMAN wears the hijab.

9:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

فاطمه زهرا و حضرت علی در جهاد سازندگی
الله در سوره بقره آيه 223 فرموده است:

نِسَآؤُكُمْ حَرْثٌ لَّكُمْ فَأْتُواْ حَرْثَكُمْ أَنَّى شِئْتُمْ وَقَدِّمُواْ لأَنفُسِكُمْ وَاتَّقُواْ اللّهَ وَاعْلَمُواْ أَنَّكُم مُّلاَقُوهُ وَبَشِّرِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ.
زنانتان کشتزار شما هستند. هر طور که خواهيد به کشتزار خود درآييد. و براي خويش از پيش چيزي فرستيد و از خدا بترسيد و بدانيد که به نزد او خواهيد شد.







حديث اول در رابطه با اين آيه:
اليوم من الايام فاطمة الزهرا بنت رسول اشتب بالمنزل الرسول الله. رسول الله اسئلت وات هپن؟ قال فاطمة علي ولي الله اريد ان ادخل الي منقب مع کله. رسول الله قال علي يا علي واي يو آر فاکينگ ماي بنت مع اليور هد؟ قال علي آيه 223 ف ان ادخل بيکاز الله قال ادخل من هر طريق يو لاو.
رسول الله قال علي: المرديکه فاطمة لا کنيز شي ايز ماي بنت. لا فاکينگ فاطمه مع الکله فاک شي باي مامله القضيب.

در روزي از روزها فاطمه با شتاب به منزل رسول الله آمد و پشت سرش علي با سرعت داخل شد. فاطمه گفت پدر کمک علي مي خواهد با کله وارد منقب من شود . رسول الله بانگ زد علي تو چه مرگت شده؟
حضرت علي آيه 223 را خواند و گفت الله گفته هر طور که خواستيد وارد مزرعه خود شويد من هم با کله مي خواستم وارد شوم.
رسول الله فرمود خاک برسرت منظور خدا مامله ات بود نه کله اين کنيز جنگي نيست که هر طور خواستي بگايي.








حديث دوم:




روزي از روزها حضرت علي در منزل بانک زد يا فاطمة الزهرا اي مزرعه من بيا که مي خواهم تو را شخم بزنم. پس حضرت طي يک طرح جهادي به سرعت حاضر شد چرا که جهاد زن خوب شوهر داري است و بايد خود را در اختيار شوهرش بگذارد تا شوهر هرگونه لذتي ببرد.

فاطمه زهرا روي زمين دراز کشيد و علي روي فاطمه خوابيد مشغول شخم زدن شد.

شخم زدن که تمام شد فاطمه گفت يا علي ولي الله بر من بادمجان بکار. حضرت فرمود بادمجان کار من نباشد تو را به مساقات به بلال حبشي يا ابول اسود دودولي دهم تا بادمجان بر تو بکارد.




حضرت مشغول کاشت خيار شد. مدتي که گذشت حضرت مي خواست عبادت را به اتمام برساند ولي فاطمه زهرا ذکر وتسبيح گويان به ادامه عبادت مشتاق بود.

گفت يا علي بر من کدو بکار حضرت بر فاطمه کدو کاشت . زهرا فرمود يا علي هندوانه هم مي خواهم حضرت هندوانه نيز کاشت. به همين نحو تمام شب را حضرت به زراعت پرداخت انواع صيفي جات را بر زهرا نشا کرد و از براي ذوالجنان اسب وفادار فرزند فاطمه يونجه و شبدر نيز کاشتندي.



نخلستانهاي متعددي نيز از براي تهيه خرما بر زهرا فرو نشاندي تا اينکه حضرت علي کلافه شدندي و چون فاطمه از علي خواست جهت استفاده از سايه چناري نيز بر او بنشاند حضرت به يک باره بلند شد و بر کس فاطمه ريد.

فاطمه عصباني و شگفت زده گفت يا ولي الله چه کردي؟

حضرت علي فرمود يا فاطمة الزهرا هر مزرعه که چنين پر محصول باشد نياز به کود مناسب جهت تقويت محصول دارد و اينچنين بود که علي خود را از اين کار زراعت طاقت فرسا نجات دادندي تا انرژي کسب کردندي و شبي ديگر ذوالفقار بر کشيده فاطمه را به جهاد خوانده او را شخم زده و صيفي و چنار بر فاطمه نشا کند.

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10:04 PM  

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