You heard me.
11.3.10 - 11.3.10 3 °C
Misconceptions about Islam are rampant in this post-9/11 world. Many people subscribe to clichés without knowing the basic tenets of the world's newest major religion, or its origins. For example, did you know that the word Islam means 'peace through submission to God?' Didn't think so. Allow me to tell you more.
Islam began in 622 AD when the archangel Gabriel revealed God's message to the prophet Muhammad. His message was for Arabic Bedouin tribes to abandon tribal deities and worship one God. Muhammad used his charisma to gain the good favour of tribal leaders and eventually went to the Kaaba in Mecca and destroyed the tribes' idols, demanding that they be united in a monotheistic society. The story continues on from there and Islam gains in popularity until it reaches 1.5 billion people as it stands today, but at the root of it all is the Prophet and his simple message.
Up until his death Muhammad readily reminded his followers not to worship him. He did this for the same reason he destroyed the idols and did away with the Christian notion of a clergy: his message was that God alone is worthy of worship. Furthermore, in the Qar'an Allah is given 99 names to avoid followers worshiping the name of God itself. They really drive this point home.
Respecting this, Muslim artists who depict Muhammad never draw his face because doing so is dangerously close to idol worship. Thus, Muhammad can be identified in Muslim art as the man with either no face at all, or a white veil covering his features. This is why the Danish Muhammad cartoon was so particularly offensive to Muslims: it assumed the features of the Prophet. According to the Qar'an, this is one of Islam's biggest no-no's. I know what you are thinking and I completely agree. It is fascinating.
One thing not mentioned in the Qur'an, however, is the burqa. A symbol of oppression to some, a right of expression and freedom of religion to others, the burqa has become a contemporary issue in Islam despite its omission in the Holy book. According to my top secret informant, Wikipedia, the origins of the burqa predate Islam. Back in the day they were used by both sexes on the Arabic peninsula as a way to shield ones face in the desert. Women of child-bearing age found another important use: to blend in with older women and lessen their chances of being kidnapped during tribal battles. In a Bedouin context a burqa is genius and makes perfect sense, but in today's world women of child-bearing age hanging out in the desert can rely on other ways to stay safe, such as the rule of law or bear spray. So why does modern Islam require modest women to play peek-a-boo out of what is essentially a big black tent whenever they leave the house?
I think I know the answer. Baklava.
Have you BEEN to Turkey? The food is ridiculous. How many of these delights were around when Islamic leaders were deciding on social norms remains unknown, but today there is a very strong case to be made for wearing loose clothing in countries with food as rich as it is here.
Women in burqas can eat whatever they want! What greater freedom is there in this world? They need not know the pains of jean shopping or the horrors of browsing for bikinis after months of hibernation in the Canadian winter. Unknown are the mathematics of calorie counting or the notion of 'ambition pants.' What peace may be found found when carbs are not the enemy, one can only imagine.
Some women's rights groups and the French government in particular have condemned the burqa as a form of oppression. While outlawing it is fraught with problems one can definitely see their point. I wonder, however, if forcing conservative Muslim women to fit into western society's conception of 'free,' might in fact make them slaves to the ideals, and ideal waistlines, of the west. This is not to say that all Muslim women who don a burqa are overweight or have poor eating habits- but they could!
How ironic that Sarkozy and others cry oppression when these women may be the most free (in a strictly culinary sense) out of any of us. Certainly if I could rewrite the social code for Canadian society I would deem love handles the new D-cup and baggy lululemons the new skinny jean. There may be something to this whole burqa thing after all. Indeed, one of Islam's most hotly contested symbols which began in the desert may be maintained a millennium and a half later by dessert.