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[casi] From Riverbendblog October 01

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Cousins and Veils...

This is some further commentary on John Tierney's
article "Iraq Family Ties Complicate American Efforts
for Change", printed in the New York Times.

(BTW, thanks to "jd" for the following tip- for people
who don't wish to register with New York Times, the
username/password mediajunkie/mediajunkie can be used
to access articles.)

"A key purpose of veiling is to prevent outsiders from
competing with a woman's cousins for marriage," Dr.
Kurtz said. "Attack veiling, and you are attacking the
core of the Middle Eastern social system."

Thank you Stanley Kurtz, anthropologist at the Hoover

He took hundreds of years of wearing the veil for
religious reasons and relegated it all to the
oppression of females by their male cousins. Wow-
human nature is that simple.

I can see the image now- my cousins roaming the
opening of our cave, holding clubs and keeping a wary
eye on the female members of their clan… and us cowed,
frightened females all gathered in groups, murmuring
behind our veils…

I have a question: why is Dr. Kurtz using the word
‘veil’ in relation to Iraq? Very, very few females
wore veils or burqas prior to the occupation. Note
that I say ‘veil’ or ‘burqa’. If Dr. Kurtz meant the
general ‘hijab’ or headscarf worn on the hair by
millions of Muslim females instead of an actual ‘veil’
then he should have been more specific. While a ‘veil’
in Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan is quite common, in
Iraq it speaks of extremism. It is uncommon because
the majority of moderate Muslim clerics believe it is

A ‘veil’ is a piece of cloth that covers the whole
face and head. It is called a ‘veil’ in English and
called a ‘burgu3’ (burqa), ‘khimar’, or ‘pushi’ in
Iraq. The khimar or burqa either covers the whole
face, or covers it all with the exception of the eyes.

The standard ‘hijab’ or ‘rabta’ is a simple headscarf
that covers the hair and neck, and can be worn in a
variety of ways. The majority of ‘covered’ females in
Iraq wear a simple hijab. Some fashionable females
wear a turban-like head cover and something with a
high collar that generally serves the same purpose.
The hijab can be any color. Some women prefer white,
others black and I have friends who own every color
and design imaginable and look so good, it almost
seems more like a fashion statement than a religious

The ‘abaya’, on the other hand, is a long, cloak-like
garment and is more traditional, than it is religious.
Although designs vary, the abaya is similar in style
to the standard graduation robe- long, wide and
flowing. Some abayas are designed to cover the head,
and others are made only to wear on the shoulders.
Men, as well as women, wear abayas. The feminine
abayas are often black and may have some sort of
design on them. Male abayas are plain, with perhaps
some simple embroidery along the edges and are brown,
black, gray, beige or khaki. Abayas are often worn in
Iraq, although the younger generations don’t like
them- I haven’t worn one yet.

The hijab can be worn with ordinary clothing- skirts,
shirts and pants as long as they are ‘appropriate’.
The skirt should be somewhat long, the shirt a little
bit loose and the sleeves should be below the elbows
and, if worn with pants, a bit long. The purpose of
the hijab is to protect females from sexual
harassment. It acts as a sort of safeguard against
ogling and uninvited attention.

Muslim females do not wear a hijab or veil because
their male cousins *make* them wear it. They wear it
for religious reasons. I personally don’t wear a hijab
or headscarf, but I know many females who do- in
Baghdad, in Mosul, in Najaf, in Kerbela, in Falloojeh…
in Jordan, in Syria, in Lebanon, in Saudi Arabia… and
*none* of these females wear a headscarf because their
*cousins* make them wear it. They wear the headscarf
out of a conviction that it is the correct thing to do
and out of the comfort and security it gives them.
Cousins have nothing to do with it and Dr. Kurtz’s
very simplistic explanation is an insult.

Dr. Kurtz would have better said, “Attack the
headscarf or the hijab and you are attacking the core
of the Middle Eastern social system because the
majority of the Middle East is Muslim and the
headscarf is considered a required part of Islam by a
huge number of Muslims.” Attacking the hijab would be
the equivalent of attacking a Christian’s right to
wear a cross, or a Jew’s right to wear a yarmulke…

- posted by river @ 11:04 PM

Current Reading...

I’m reading a great book by Danny Schechter called
“Embedded: Weapons of Mass Deception” which can be
found on The book is fantastic… it
discusses the media deception that went on before the
war and is still occurring today. Some chapters leave
me awed with thoughts like, “Were they actually doing
that?! How could they have done that?!” Other chapters
leave me angry, “Didn’t the world know *that*?!”… the
whole book leaves me relieved: the world is finally
waking up.

Another site I’m checking out lately is a site by
"Malcom Lagauche", a journalist/author who writes
about Iraq, amongst other things. His site is called
Lagauche is Right. One post that got my attention was
his September 25 post about that atrocious toy that
was being sold in America- the “Forward Command Post”
which shows an Iraqi home, complete with bloodstains,
crumbling walls, no family members (they were probably
detained) and a triumphant American soldier…

I can imagine a child receiving the huge package for
Christmas or a Birthday and opening it up with glee…
seeing the chaos, the havoc, the destruction and
feeling… what? Pride? Victory? Elation? And they say
it's Al-Jazeera that promotes violence. Sure.

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