Thursday, February 02, 2006

No Veil Required

In a timely and prophetic manner, my good friends at Iraqi Bloggers Central have scored an interview with a famous Iranian photographer who sparked controversy last year with his presentation "No Veils Required" Amir Normandi.

Amir Normandi's presentation was taken down last year when local Muslim students protested what they considered an insult to Islam, their religion and to their beliefs. It's interesting how many people will bow to demands of Islamic religiosos, but would continue to print or show images offensive to Christians, even in the face of protests and boycotts in the name of free speech.

I believe that organization have the right to show what they please, but I also wonder at the cowardice that we see when the images in question clearly have a purpose beyond seeing how degrading and degraded one can make a religious symbol or concept.

MG: Amir, you are anti-Hejab or Hijab. Can you explain for those who don't know, what a hijab is, and why you're against it?

Amir Normandi: Hejab is the general term for the compulsory dress code for women in Islamic societies. This Hejab is the same covering known as ABAYA in Saudi Arabia, Burqua in Afghanistan, and Chador in Iran. I am against forced Hejab which is a gender specific dress code and a tool for domination of women. It is almost always enforced by men and it is a segregation method which ends up making a woman a half human.

Mr. Normandi goes on to explain that women are not given child custody rights, even in abusive situations; they are not allowed to choose divorce or make complaints against an abusive spouse (if they leave they often suffer ostracization by their family and friends as the least punishment and quite often honor killings); they get half the inheritance of the male counterparts even if they are the only surviving child of a couple, the other parts of the inheritance is often given to male cousins or uncles, no matter how distant. These are but a few of the issues.

We know how women are treated in these societies. While you will find many a defender of these cultures talking about how safe it is for women compared to the US or other Western civilizations, it is only on the surface. Behind closed doors, behind closed minds, behind the delusion that many live under behind the veil that lets them keep the illusion, is a different reality where rape, incest, abuse and death are as common if not more so, than in western civilization. The difference is that they consider it private matters that get little reporting; they consider it to be domestic issues that are not reported as crime; they consider it to be the right of the males to act in these ways and worse towards women because their primary beliefs about women begin with the first act of Eve in the garden and all women are painted as potential harlots that will lead men astray unless veiled and controlled against their "natural" tendencies.

In this society, we get to see what the Medieval era may have been like for western women.

Mr. Normandi's project is meant to show that the veil dehumanizes women into nothing but faceless bodies, which makes it easier for men to abuse them, use them and discard them at their liesure. Even if they are "loved", that they do not have a choice limits the truth of that feeling and cannot allow women to fully express themselves.

I highly recommend that you read the interview with Mr. Normandi and visit the sites linked as it has much information on the many issues of the Middle East, most notably free speech and women's rights and, of course, some great photographic art from Mr. Normandi including 500 ways to look at a black bird. At his website, Mr. Normandi wrote:

There is no justification for the oppression of human beings by other human beings, let alone under the name of God.

Human wisdom and passion have excelled to such a level that laws which protect our environment and its inhabitants have shape the core of our humanity. Yet, in many areas of the world, gender inequality is reaching the extent of gender apartheid. It is unconscionable to still tolerate in our time, oppressive inequalities between men and women as traditional norms of life.

As my sisters and their daughters demonstrated courageously outside the Tehran University’s main gate on March 08, 2005: Women’s Rights ARE Human Rights, Women's Freedom is Equality for Everyone.

And earlier he wrote:

Yes, my brother we have no Virility when we tolerate unjust laws in our constitution which discriminates against our; mothers, sisters, wives and daughters.

Yes my brother we lack Gallantry when women in our society have no child custody rights.

We lack Fortitude when our women can not initiate a divorce petition unless they forego all their potential rights.

We have no Valor if our women can not travel (obtain a passport) on their own.

A big H/T to my friend Diane Carriere, a French Canadian who believes in freedom and Democracy as the only true hope for peace. Her site contains interesting images from history, both photographic and paint, about freedom and oppression.

For those at work, some of the images maybe a little risque for the work environment though none show complete nudity and all are recommended as an appropriate version of free speech in context to the subject so I highly encourage everyone to read and look.

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