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Culture in the Middle East Essay

With beautiful gardens, polished township and enthralling landscape, Zabidi was the town enticed by Ibn Batuta and is cherished by every one who visits. Anne Meneley explored the beauty of this place in her “Tournaments of Value: Sociability and Hierarchy in a Yemeni Town” but beyond this she explored various dynamics of the women’s life in the social context of the place. She unveils veiling body images of women in context to the politically and sexually stimulated men and their influence on them.

Anne analyzes the hierarchical and competitive structures of all kinds of the social visits of the Yemeni women as most important markers of their individual and group identity in context to their social position they attain in the patriarchy society. The following essay is a revelation of the women veiled in the Islamic world of Yemen and how Anne Meneley draws on the social life of women who embody themselves as veiling women within their own precincts structure.

Veil for these women has become a symbol of independence and exertion of their voice in the vicinity of their social construed environment yet more they feel independent more they are subjugated and subordinated fulfilling the political and social desire of the males. If any non-Muslim is asked about any one aspect of Islam, the immediate answer will be the “veil” of a woman. It’s a covering of women according to the Islamic law but this is not as simple as mere covering as it involves the complete theorem in the light of the western culture.

Veiling in Islam is more a political issue in both the Muslim and Western countries reflecting on the tension between the fundamental values so enshrined in the society be it advocating for the equal rights in the public place, the place of religion in education, and individual rights in the multiculturalism and multi-confessionalism. It is the issue of how the social values and traditional roles of women are taken and adopted in the westernized emerging social order for e. g. in political organizations, university campuses, urban centers and other public places etc?

Nilufer Gole finds out, “The veiling is commonly perceived as a force of obscurantism and is often identified with women’s subservience; as such, it is interpreted as blurring the clear cut oppositions between religion and modernity and as an affront to the contemporary notions of gender emancipation and universal progress. ” (Gole, 4) Therefore, the Islamists veiling signifies a conflict of the two opposing concepts of the self and society, Western and Islamist. Symbolically women’s covered bodies invigorate the contemporary movement taking the social life of Islam in its sway yet it is different from secularism approach.

Here the veiling is not just the Islamic movement but also focuses on the central role it plays in highlighting the gender issue in the understanding of the Islam and in the criticism of the culture westernization. The importance of the Islamic movement is only understood in light of their conflicting relation with the westernized world through the politically and socially construed rights of women’s body and their voices. (Gole, 4) The veil is considered as an instrument in curtailing the westernized culture and to re-impose and strengthen the Islamic values.

It has more of the religious connotations and complex associations. Veiling is a process to meet the expecting demands of women in the changing society while retaining their traditional living. Veil has become their way to express their distress while retaining their domesticity. They have successfully combined their marriage and family with their independence of working outside. Veil is not a threat for them but a newly acquired independence. (Craik, 29) Veil has become a form of their body technique to unleash much broader struggles.

In the year 1990, the Hat law in Turkey promoted the women’s body to be displayed in public sphere and organizing of the beauty pageants to promote the head scarf that became the symbol of political Islam. In this way the public sphere is formed encouraging debates and discussions through visual displays, and bodily inscriptions. (Cinar, 55) It is not only politically motivated concept but follows what Hadith of the Prophet Muhammad said, “if you do not have modesty, you can do what you want. ” (Meneley, 81) The Hadith of the Prophet talked about the importance of modesty in the social life.

For the women of Zabidi, veiling is a very complex phenomenon; they have to conceal their bodies from all other unknown men. They do not veil inside their houses except for their father’s brother or mother’s brother. Every time women leaves her house, she has to cover herself with a black chador and face with black muslin. A girl while appearing on a street can only wear a headscarf and a dress but only till her breasts develop; these garments are worn outside their home often in the public places. Chadors have become a means for them to enter into a respectable society.

(Meneley, 89) It becomes a matter of great modesty for women as a daughter, wife or a mother. She has to abide by the modesty of being a follower of certain rituals and customs in the household. For Zabidi women, modesty is their proper and pious comportment as it ensures family honor and guarantees them as pious. Within this socially construed atmosphere are the women who never show their reluctance to express themselves on what they think of other’s behavior, in this way they show their independence. They often employ themselves in the conversation, interpreting what others are saying and commenting on their actions.

Zabidi women were socially forced to adopt the particular style of veiling, circumcision and gender segregation from time to time. Their modest practices show they abide and follow what they could do to maintain the family honor and implies woman as the most pious subject of God. Circumcision is thought to bring the ability in women to control their passion and this control over the sexuality they would attain through training. They have to abide by the hierarchical relationships and exhibit themselves as most virtuous.

In the complicated ways, the moral values are contravened with the distinction in the class, which entitles women to their own subordination. (Meneley, 97-98) These customs and conventions are “central to the social reproduction of hierarchical relationship” (Meneley, 98) in the life of Zabidi with the destiny of women shaped by the society. At the advent of the twenty first century, the veiled Muslim still is the representation of the oppressive women and act as a symbol and cue to enhance the motivation of the radical Islamists.

This whole concept of the veiled women began in the early nineteenth and twentieth century when European colonists were considering the only way of emancipation of the women of the Islamic world is when they follow the western feminism. This concept was visualized by radical Islamists as the curtailment and destruction of their indigenous culture and they used women’s body and their veiling to bring yet again their rich Islamic culture at the focus of the westernized world.

Works Cited Cinar, Alev. “Modernity, Islam, and Secularism in Turkey: Bodies, Places, and Time”. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2005. Craik, Jennifer. “The Face of Fashion”. New York: Routledge, 1993. Gole, Nilufer. “The Forbidden Modern: Civilization and Veiling”. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 1997. Meneley, Anne. “Tournaments of Value: Sociability and Hierarchy in a Yemeni Town. ” Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1996.

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