>I’m reposting this because JordanBlogs did something funny and gave it the same name as another totally unrelated post… 🙂
So, for the first time in the four years we’ve been here, I had what I would consider a fairly serious problem last week. SwedeBean and I went out to lunch in a very touristy, historic part of Amman. While on our way walking from the main street to the restaurant, we passed a pack of wild school boys. They were in the 12-14 year old age range. They were on the other side of the narrow street and I ignored them. Suddenly I realize that SwedeBean is very upset. it seems one of these young hoodlums decided to touch her hair. Yes, he actually laid his hands on her.
Haram, 3ayb – no, you know what – 3aar (this is the highest form of shame in the Arabic language). At this point, I begin shouting at them like a London fish wife. I scream that they better get out of my sight quickly and that they are clearly a pack of wild animals. They seem to find my Arabic at once funny and “move-along-ish” enough to get moving. At lunch, I went over the don’t be polite, make a scene speech with SwedeBean. While we had spoken about this before, I took it as a learning opportunity here again. I explained that this young man placing his hands on her was a violation. Should something like it ever happen again, she should hit him… as hard as she can. And scream, frankly. We Westerners, our politeness can contribute rather than teaching the necessary lesson.
I related the incident the next day to El 3atal. About the time I finished telling him, we came upon another (or maybe the same pack) of fellows. El 3atal saw that they were ogling me obviously. At this point, he went and shouted at them and basically told them to keep their eyes (and nasty minds I’m sure) to themselves. A few minutes later, we chanced to see the exact same group of boys passing a gaggle of fully veiled, jilbab wearing ladies. They were not only ogling, but also cat-calling these ladies. And herein lies the fallacy of thought that I’ve observed since living here…
If men are not taught that EVERY woman, no matter how little she may resemble her in thought, word, and deed is your mother and your sister and deserves your respect, they fail to learn to respect any of them. Every time that a man fails to reprimand his son for failing to observe HIS call to modesty and lowering HIS eyes when seeing a woman, he sets his son up to ogle. Each time a mother fails to point out to her son that his poor treatment of strange women is what he should expect for her, she loses an opportunity to instill the proper values in him. As long as people think, oh she’s just a foreigner, or a kafir, or a niqabi, we will fail to raise our children to treat all with respect equally.
When the Beans ask me about women who wear a head scarf (or a niqab), I take this as a learning opportunity. The values I want them to learn are openness, respect for people of all faiths, and a knowledge that how I treat others is how I should expect to be treated. I explain to to them that wearing the head scarf is an expression of her faith and is something to be respected. It is not something we EVER make fun of. Just as we don’t make fun of people who are different from us in other ways, be it skin color, physical deformity, or whatever. I understand that the human mind tends to understand very simple concepts and the treatment we allow for one group will find its way into others. Sadly, showing signs of godliness doesn’t mean having a heart for God. So, one of my jobs is to help remind the Beans that it is about action, not just words. After all, our actions ARE our words to the world, now aren’t they?
Happy Harassment… (sigh)