During this summer's visit to Six Flags Great America, I was prepared for the bikini-clad girls with short-shorts pulled down low, the shirtless boys with white tanks tossed across their shoulders, not to mention the matching families in khaki shorts and neon green tees.
I was not, however, prepared for the burqas.
My jaw dropped as the family approached me: two fathers in tidy slacks and polo shirts walking alongside two women (presumably) draped completely in black, peering out through slits. One set of hands poked out of long sleeves to push a stroller, while the other set held the hands of two small kids.
As my eyes went from the women to the men, a rage boiled up inside me. In my mind, I was witnessing walking bondage, humans trapped beneath black cloth.
I have never considered the hijab (head scarf) oppressive, simply because I find the scarves and their wearers to be elegant and lovely—and because they do not cover a woman's face. But to me, the burqa and even the niqab, which covers the face to a lesser degree, communicate an oppression that no woman in the world—let alone in Great America, the amusement park or the country, should bear, and certainly would never choose.
So imagine my surprise when I heard a young, modern Muslim woman named Nadia defending her choice to wear a niqab and cover her face in public at CNN's Belief blog.
"I've never seen anybody interview a Muslim woman and ask her if she's oppressed," Nadia says. "Or if she feels oppressed for wearing what she wears, or if she's oppressed in her home."
Nor have I. Neither have I asked a Muslim woman. I can blame my assumptions on the Taliban and my open-jawed reading of Half the Sky, or the protestor's images of a veiled woman being stoned for adultery. ...1
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