Tag Archives: cultural differences

Bikinis, niqabs, oppression and assumptions.

assumptions

Image:  https://www.pinterest.com/pin/547539267167376074/

I recently had a conversation on a Facebook thread with a close friend of mine after I had shared an article with the following feature image:

WaterWorld-Stoke-on-Trent-waterpark-burqa-Muslim-584338

(The article can be found on http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/584338/WaterWorld-Stoke-on-Trent-Muslim-Islam-waterpark-women-only-bikini-ban-clothing-veil-burqa, but this post relates to the feature image, rather than the content of the article itself)

My close friend (who is a Muslim female) had left a comment stating that she found the image to be an ‘interesting’ depiction of what is ‘Islamically appropriate’. I followed on by saying that a niqab (a form of veil that covers everything other than the eyes, as depicted in the above image) is not the only form of female attire that is considered ‘Islamically appropriate’. My close friend followed on to say that what she meant by her initial comment was that the opposite of ‘Islamically appropriate’ doesn’t necessarily mean bikini.

My close friend went on to say that a lot of non-Muslims associate Islam with a niqab and opression in the same way that a lot of Muslims from Islamic countries associate non-Muslims with open relationships, provocative attire and prostitution. Obviously these sorts of stereotypes are intolerant and incorrect. Islam doesn’t equate to niqab and not-Islam doesn’t equate to open relationships and provocative attire. To quote my close friend- “I think we need more knowledge and less assumptions” I couldn’t agree more and I couldn’t have said it any better myself. Islam is much more than a niqab and non-Islam is much more than a bikini.

As I have already mentioned in my post titled “Does he drink alcohol? Does he eat pork?” religion can be followed to various degrees and there is no single unanimous expression of a particular religion. The same goes for culture, national identity and much more.

In my previous post, I suggested that the best way to combat intolerance is through education, positive reinforcement and love. Likewise the best way to fight assumptions is though actual knowledge, not further assumptions that only lead to more and more intolerance.

Below, is another image that highlights the unfortunate nature of assumptions, which also suits the given theme of bikinis, niqabs and oppression.

opression Image: Cartoonist Malcolm Evans

 Unless the woman on the right lives in a country that makes any other form of attire other than a niqab illegal, both women are exercising their free will (if there is such a thing) to dress how they wish; and both women are making assumptions about one another. The woman on the left probably doesn’t think she is oppressed and the woman on the right probably doesn’t think she is oppressed either; yet oppression is the exact conclusion they have each reached about one another’s choice of attire.

“Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.”- Isaac Asimov

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Although I am new to the blogging world and am completely incompetent at using technology (I only recently learned how to make hyperlinks), I believe that my message of peace and tolerance needs to be heard. To learn a little bit more about my background please read my post titled “A little bit about myself…”. To learn more about why I started this blog, please read my post titled “Introduction…”.

“Good luck to him, he married a foreigner”

Image: http://www.sfu.ca/~torsten/slacker-moderated/msg00161.html

There are always two sides to a coin. While I’ve encountered stigma from Westerners regarding Middle Eastern culture, my husband and his family have too encountered stigmas about Westerners from fellow Iranians. If you thought that only Westerners felt entitled to make stereotypes about the Middle East, you thought wrong, there’s another side to that coin.

Before they had even met me and given me a chance, some of the friends and relatives of my in-laws had already concluded that I have no family values and that I’m not hospitable, simply because I’m Western. Prior to coming to Australia, my husband’s family told some of their friends about how they were going to live in the same house as my husband and I for 8 weeks. The responses my husband’s parents got were great- “Are you sure you can stay for that long? Your son’s bride is foreign after all, and foreigners don’t live with their in-laws. What if she kicks you out?” Another friend of the family told my husband’s parents the following: “We feel really sorry for your son…good luck to him, he married a foreigner”

After I had met the majority of my in-laws’ friends and family, their opinion of me had changed and they started to say things like: “She’s one of us” and “She understands us, even though she doesn’t understand our language”. Some even said, “A foreign bride is better than an Iranian bride”. I’m glad that I was able to change their mind, but really I shouldn’t have had to change anything. I should have started off with a clean slate. My husband also shouldn’t have had to change unfounded opinions about himself. He too should have started off with a clean slate with my friends and family. Neither one of us were lucky enough to have a clean slate.

Irrespective of who we are and where we come from, why do we feel the need to make assumptions about people we don’t even know based on stereotypes? I wholeheartedly agree that Australian culture differs greatly from Iranian culture, but that doesn’t make one right and the other wrong. What’s right and wrong is subjective anyway. There is good and bad in every culture and in every person.  Can’t we at least meet a person and give them a chance to show themselves for who they really are before we jump to conclusions?

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Although I am new to the blogging world and am completely incompetent at using technology (I only recently learned how to make hyperlinks), I believe that my message of peace and tolerance needs to be heard. To learn a little bit more about my background please read my post titled “A little bit about myself…”. To learn more about why I started this blog, please read my post titled “Introduction…”.

Warm Fuzzies

In no particular order, I’d like to share a few memories that make me really happy and hopefully in some way relate to multiculturalism:

1. The time my Iranian-Muslim in-laws danced a Hora (a traditional Jewish ring dance, to the music of Hava Nagila) at the wedding of my husband and I. It was awesome. It was such a natural and beautiful unification of two seemingly opposing cultures- not exactly something you see everyday.

2. The time my Muslim mother-in-law prepared a meal that was Kosher for my Israeli best friend. This was definitely a sight to see. My Israeli Bestie and I were explaining to my Muslim mother-in-law why Jews separate dairy products from meat products, the concept of  ‘not cooking a kid in its mother’s milk’. Having understood my Bestie’s dietary requirement, my mother-in-law used Halal-certified meat (Muslim dietary requirement) to whip up a traditional Iranian dish that adhered to Kosher requirements.

3. The time my Iranian husband became an integral member of the family amongst Israelis.

4. The time my Russian Orthodox Mum and my Muslim Mother-in-law discovered that they pray for the same things but with different formalities attached. Both first pray for world peace before praying for their own individual needs. Both acknowledge that as long as there is one unhappy person in the world, no one can truly be happy.

5.  The time my sister-in-law bought duty-free bottles of Vodka in Dubai for the wedding of my husband and I, whilst wearing a headscarf. This is gold… Wearing a headscarf my sister-in-law causally asked the duty free sales assistant for two 1.5 litre bottles of Grey Goose Vodka (3 litres of alcohol was the purchasing allowance per person). Given that it is against Islam to consume alcohol and my Sister-in-law’s headscarf gave away her Muslim faith,  I can only imagine the bedazzled look on the shop assistant’s face. “Are you sure?”- the confused shop assistant asked. “Yes, I am sure. Don’t worry it’s not for me, it’s for a wedding with Russians” – she replied. I wish I could have been there to film it.

6. The time I told my Russian-Orthodox Mum that I want to embrace more of my Jewish identity, so she bought be a Star of David pendant. It’s not uncommon for me to wear the Star of David pendant and a Cross on the same necklace. It gets more interesting when I go to Iran and wear all of the above plus a compulsory headscarf.

7. The time my Mother-in-law ran outside without her headscarf (in Australia), thinking that something bad had happened to my husband and I.  Our safety was more important to her than a religious requirement.

8. The time an unlikely company comprising of one Russian, one Iranian, one Israeli and two Lebanese, got together to play Monopoly one New Years Eve. The political incorrectness ran rampant. My favourite quote of the night had to be- “Of course the poor, pregnant Arab is the outcast of the society- left basically broke waiting to pass through Go to collect $200.00, while the wealthy Jew is building hotels on Kings Avenue”… In case you didn’t get it- we were trying to be funny, not intolerant. All 5 of us have experienced intolerance one way or another, so what better way to surpass it than by poking fun at the associated stereotypes of our nationalities and religions in the company of good friends.

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These individual memories bring a smile to my face and warm fuzzies to my Heart Chakra. To me, they playfully symbolise peace love and harmony. Hopefully we can have more moments like these in the world and in our lives. ❤

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Although I am new to the blogging world and am completely incompetent at using technology (I only recently learned how to make hyperlinks), I believe that my message of peace and tolerance needs to be heard. To learn a little bit more about my background please read my post titled “A little bit about myself…”. To learn more about why I started this blog, please read my post titled “Introduction…”.