December 7, 2008

Free Trade and The Burqua

I meet Muslim women fairly regularly. I met hundreds when I went to Great Adventure on Muslim Youth day some years ago. Most times they wear just a veil; but occasionally they have the whole deal as I pictured above. From a distance, when you catch the first glimpse it is always a slight shock and a double-take. If you've never seen one of those outfits in person, don't ask me to explain that - and if you have and did not feel any startle, great. I do, and the people I know do. When you get closer to her, though, at least all the times I've met them, they have the beautiful eye makeup. Since that's all you can see, and you can only see it up close, it's very striking. The last two women I met, one was wearing a black one, and one a white - the accompanying eye makeup colors in each case was chosen well, to make her eyes stand out to the greatest effect in contrast to the color. Well, you can see above - they really know what they're doing, and they all look like they have the most beautiful eyes. But this is beside the point. What I have never seen in person is a full Burqua.

The above, I've never seen. I have always been disturbed by the Ninja-type getups, but it's always nice to see that the women in them are expressing themselves in some way, even if you do have to get up close to appreciate it. The full Burqua allows nothing like that. It's like The Man In the Iron Mask except they presumably get to take it off at home and it doesn't weigh as much.

That's partly why this story gave me something of a thrill.

After 9/11, Betsy Beamon went to Afghanistan to help the women who had been badly abused by the Taliban system for over 7 years. Naturally, all people had been abused by it, including children, boys, and men; but the stories of the women whose visages had been erased from sight and who would be beaten if they didn't wear these hideous things or tried to get work, understandably captured the attention of much of the free world. Beamon started the Women of Hope Project, and now works with over a thousand Afghani women to help make themselves and their families a better life. With the Taliban deposed by the U.S. Military and Afghanis themselves, the suffocating garments are now used in something they hadn't been able to do since 1994 - trade.

The women can take one of her old burquas and make 35 mini-burquas, which are the size to fit over wine bottles. Yeah, it's weird. When you're shopping in Kabul, as is the woman in the above picture, and you see something so different and you know the money is going to a woman who suffered under such an evil regime, you might just want to buy one. I would certainly buy something created by one of these people - there is nothing like finally being able to trade, to work, to make things, to exercise your talents, and earn something of your own to throw off the misery of the shackles that bound you. Doubly so when you can take the shitting symbol of that misery - in this case the burqua - combine it with your talent, and make something of value for yourself and your family. There are 1000 women working with the project; 100 that work with Beamon directly and who employ helpers of their own. Currently they are selling handmade and hand-embroidered Christmas ornaments, table runners of red and green, pillows, dolls, things with crosses on them, etc. It IS illegal to spread Christianity there, but if you mention this to them, they just shrug and say, "It's Christmas."

They don't know why foreigners like the wine bottle burquas, but they rather nonchalantly figure it must be interesting to them. If you want to buy something pretty and assist these people in making a new life for themselves, go to the Women of Hope Project link above and see what you can find. Personally I wouldn't go for the wine bottle burqua, but there are lots of other things going on. One woman is such a talented embroiderer that she can make any picture she sees - her next project is going to be a Michael Jackson pillow heh. Once the practice of free trade takes root and people get a taste of better things, it's that much harder for an oppressive regime to take over again. You have to wait until they're so prosperous that guilt sets in and someone can convince them they need to spread the wealth - I'll be as glad as anyone to see them get towards that point.

Humor alert! IMAO has a new "In My World" feature up. If you've never pictured Bush in a hat with a huge feather plume, I suggest reading it. These guys are hilarious!

Unhinged. No, seriously - LOOK at that. Exponentially unhinged.


Eema-le said...

Having lived in MI (I think that it has the largest Muslim population in the US) I have seen lots of these full on burqua deals. They are creepy, and anyone who claims that they're just a cultural things and not at all demeaning to women, is smoking some kind of super crack.

AnnieMcPhee said...

Ugh, really? Without even the eye slit? That's just...ugh. Of course it's demeaning - I can imagine few things more humiliating (it doesn't matter that no one knows who you are under there; it's still humiliating) than wearing that thing. (The Ninja ones are bad enough.) I like the thought of these people taking that damn thing, cutting it up, and sewing other stuff out of it (including mini ones) for money. If I'd been forced to wear that shit for years, I'd want to do the same thing.

My daughter had a boyfriend for a while whose mother had remarried and had a baby girl. (She was an ex- US Marine too heh.) Well her husband or boyfriend or whatever made the proclamation that since they had had a baby girl, she was going to be veiled. And the mom said "Oh HELL no. This is America, and that is not how it's going down." Hehe. That was the end of that discussion.

AnnieMcPhee said...

Hmm - she wasn't native-born, but I can't remember where she was from now. I'll have to ask.