Sunday, May 17, 2009

Where Justice Starts

"I am caged in this corner full of melancholy and sorrow ... my wings are closed and I cannot fly ... I am an Afghan woman and so must wail." --Nadia Anjuman

Imagine getting poisoned for trying to go to school. This is a reality for girls in Afghanistan. Last night I watched a rerun of a documentary by CNN reporter Saira Shah, "Beneath the Veil." This 2001 show conveys the horrible injustice and prejudice toward women happening there. This was not my first time seeing "Behind the Veil." It made me cry, again.

I felt guilty sitting in my luxurious house watching this evil injustice on my flat screen television. I can understand why people in other countries despise Americans when you compare our blessed freedoms to their overwhelming lack of basic human needs. I can't explain this socioeconomic gap in fairness. I sit in my bed, gripping the remote control in the dark, wondering what in the world I can do for all these people who have nothing and may hate me simply because of where I was born.

In this documentary, Afghan women are covered like dead people. One good way to enslave people is to make them invisible, and take away their education. This image of a woman covered up and ignored in this way angers me.

There are different cultural and traditional interpretations of the style of burqas. The Chadri, invented by a male ruler who did not want other men to look at his wives, covers the head, like in the picture above. Local warlords still force women to wear the Chadri in Southern Afghanistan. Is this style of burqa an extremist interpretation of modest dress? Here's what I found when I looked up the definition of the garb:

"Many Muslims believe that the Islamic holy book, the Qur'an, and the collected traditions of the life of Muhammed, or hadith, require both men and women to dress and behave modestly in public. However, this requirement, called hijab, has been interpreted in many different ways by Islamic scholars (ulema) and Muslim communities (see Women and Islam); the burqa is not specifically mentioned in the Quran." -from

I love my country, and I am so grateful that I can vote, and wear a tee shirt if I want. I agree that the burqa can be beautiful. I've seen women wear burqas made from elaborately embroidered fine silk in my own country. It does take the focus off a woman's body, which is actually a relief when there is such pressure about being perfect in Western culture. However, I don't understand the purpose of the Chadri burqa, (a robe with a tiny slit for the eyes). It seems so oppressive to me. Although I do believe in appropriate, modest dress, if I went to Afghanistan in my jeans and Old Navy tee I'd be arrested for indecent exposure! I think it's wrong to cover your body that much. It's uncomfortable and mean. Why do women have to hide their bodies like that? God made women, and my understanding of the Book of Genesis, from a modern-urban Catholic perspective, is that He said it was all good.

It is my opinion that when it comes to intellectual, spiritual and emotional strength, men and women have equal potential. All human beings should be allowed to educate themselves. I am inspired by the women teachers of the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan, who risk their lives working in schools where the roof is literally crumbing down on them. Then I read the anti-United States government propaganda on their website and I'm saddened. Intolerance, war, random acts of violence create such a mess, and a web of hate. It's hard to find a solution or see past old ways of thinking.

In the school yards of Afghanistan girls are playing and laughing, their smiling faces tilted up toward the sun. This is hopeful.

My thoughts move back to my question:

What can I do to help people, like the women of Afghanistan, who are fighting for basic human rights?

What can I do, one small American human spoiled by the freedoms that my relatives and neighbors gave their lives to obtain for me, a woman whose father and mother encouraged to go to college and secure a career? Me: a silly pampered girl who enjoyed the luxury of marrying for love, who lounges in the the hot sun in a bikini, not a burqa, who would be dead for writing this blog in Afghanistan.

Well, I can send money to support charities that help families there. I can pray for the women, children, men of Afghanistan and countries with similar hardships, even though many extremists there hate me, would kill me in a nanosecond, and supported the murder of my husband's relative in the 9-11 attacks. I can try to understand Islam and how it has been misinterpreted and twisted into something ugly, just like my own religion has been by some. I think this is a place to start in helping those girls who are dying to learn.

Picture is from ViolinSoldier's on Flickr


Kimberly said...

I'm so glad you wrote about this. It is something that is on my mind a lot, especially since I have a daughter. I've read a lot of books about women in Afghanistan, and your questions are the exact ones that I have, too. I think just asking these questions and thinking about it is a good start, and your ideas of what we can do are terrific. Trying to understand Islam is key and reaching out to support others in ways that help them can only be done if we understand their life first. Great post!

Anonymous said...
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Loren Christie said...

Thanks for your comment, Kimberly.

Elizabeth Kathryn Gerold-Miller said...

Amen! Great post!

Anonymous said...

The subject of this post is where a lot of my frustration comes out when it comes to addressing issues of my own faith. Loren, your analysis is spot on, and it frustrates me to no end when I see the word of God twisted and reinterpreted to meet the needs of the few and oppress others who blindly follow those so-called leaders without questioning those leaders' actions in the context of how they are supposed to fit in with the word of God.

I look at faith as a one-on-one relationship with God, and even as I struggle with my own, I am always looking for sources outside of the tradtional organized religion environment to be a guidepost (a reason I like reading here because, Loren, you lead by example). Too often people just take blindly the word of religious leaders without taking time to understand the message and the meaning for themselves and question whether what is being preached really reflects the word of God as written in the holy text. Regligion should be about facilitating that relationship, not as a mechanism to dictate thought and action.

Like you, Loren, I pray for that understanding and hope that our world will not fall victim to any form of religious extremism...


Loren Christie said...

I agree with you GT, there are times when I've questioned the judgment of the some leaders of my religion- Catholicism. However, I keep in perspective the fact that they are human beings, not God. I am grateful for the gift of the sacraments and most of all, the Eucharist which strengthens me in wisdom and grace. I need some of that! However, I am completely open to the idea that there are many roads to heaven, and that each human journey is a personal one. Thank you for your thoughtful comment!

Loren Christie said...

Thanks for the comment, Elizabeth!

jen said...

This makes me so sad. I always wonder why the Church doesn't talk more about the suffering of women - even those in our midst. Oklahoma has the highest rate of female incarceration. Many jailed for bounced checks and drug convictions. This pushes their children into foster care. Most of the women in jail have kids in the homes. Not exactly the plight of Afghan women, but all that to say, women are suffering far and wide. I love that sentence - marrying for love, bikini not a burqua. I'm reading so much good stuff on posts today. This is one more that should be published for a wider audience. Great stuff, Loren.

Loren Christie said...

Thanks Jen. I agree about the suffering.

Putz said...

did he really say god made woman and it was all good???????????? if men are stronger and can force his will and he can't understand how precious women are, and how smelly{back in abraham's time when the hearded goats all day and then expected to lay with the woman that night] THEY ARE AND UNCOUTH AND UNSPIRITUAL....WELL CAN YOU TELL I AM A FEMINIST??????//

Loren Christie said...

Mr. Putz, Um, I think there is nothing sinful about women. Do I think that humans, both men and women, including myself, sometimes do not treat their bodies as the sacred temples that they are? Yes. Are you a feminist? That's cute.

Putz said...

i did not make myself very clear.....i started teasing, and it came out serious....of course god was pleased with were the goat tenders and the smelly ones...uncouth ,and man generally the unspiritual one..i was trying to point out that the men were lucky to have been chozen by god back then for revelations, abraham etc,if i were god i would have gone to the tent of the sweet smelling woman to give revelations, and i don't really know what a feminist is but i do believe they are sacred

Loren Christie said...

I bet everybody was a lot more smelly back then Mr. Putz. Maybe God has a deviated septum, like I do, and can't smell a thing. Then again, you have to pause and ask yourself: Does God need a nose at all? (I know you're joking around.)

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Welcome to my writer's blog, started about six years ago for fun. Over time, the writing I have posted has ranged from personal reflection, to Long Island history research, to tall tales for my own amusement, to feature articles for local newspapers. As you can see from topics listed here, I travel in many mental directions in regard to interests. Click on the tabs and labels to explore my strange mind which senses that you may be having a criss-cross day. If so, perhaps this blog will distract you. However, please note that if you tell me my blog is beautiful just to get me to advertise rhinoplasty surgery and cheap drugs from Canada in your comment, I will ask the gods to give you a tail that cannot be concealed.


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