Friday, October 10, 2008

An Eye for an Eye?

News that an Islamic cleric in Saudi Arabia has called for the introduction of one-eyed veils for Muslim women has produced an unflattering response in parts of the Arab world.

Sheikh Muhammad al-Habadan has proposed the radical measure as a way of reducing the incentive for women to wear eye make up and thus appear seductive to men.

The Sheikh's thought process reminds me of the logic of the Pharisees - an ultra-strict Jewish sect who were at their peak around the time of Christ and who proved among his most formidable opponents. The Pharisees believed that God's moral law should be protected by a "fence" of additional restrictions that would reduce the possibility of humans transgressing by never even getting close to a forbidden act. In taking this stance, they became guilty of externalism - a preoccupation with form and ritual at the expense of inner morality.

Jesus' diagnosis of the problem of male lust is as challenging to a western secular audience as it is to Sheikh al-Habadan's version of Wahabbi Islam. Placing the responsibility on the man not the woman, he calls for radical action in pursuit of sexual purity:

But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. Matthew 5:28-30

Bahraini female blogger Esra'a Al Shafei seems to have reached a similar conclusion, though I don't know whether she's read the Bible:

"Such disturbing calls only further objectifies women, inviting “religious” clerics to harass and disrespect them in ways that are no longer acceptable.

I have a more fitting proposal for clerics in favor of this bogus call; gouge your eyes out with a tack hammer if you wish to refrain from being seduced. Women should no longer pay the price of your disturbing and sickening mentalities."

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