With a Veil on Their Heads and a Blindfold over Our Eyes

Sunday 21 March 2010 by CEPRID

Agustín Velloso

Palestine Chronicle/CEPRID

Translated from Spanish by Christine Lewis Carroll

The national press in Spain continues to include articles of and letters to the editor relating to the veil. It would seem that this garment has become a problem for Western society, where its use is really not noticed, even though, curiously, this does not seem the case where its use is widespread.

The truth is that this insignificant garment, as well as covering the heads of Muslim women, is useful for covering up the situation of Spanish women.

The nouveau riche has little money and less memory, but lots of degrees in modernity and distinction to tell others, with such exquisite tact and force if necessary, what they should do. Veils were -and in some cases still are- part of the Spanish women attire for ages.

Without the necessity of right-wing crusades or left-wing peace operations, veils have become shorter and less present, just like all clothing. However, in rural villages, there remains a group of unyielding women in grave danger of extinction: The old women whose long, black clothes proclaim silently that they are widows. What a dreadful tradition!

Use of the Veil in Spain

How widespread is this tradition of the black veil in Spain? Is it limited to a few extremists? No indeed; there are women who cover their whole bodies in black, except for their face and hands. Unlike other women, they do not leave their homes, or speak to men, or receive visits without the permission of a superior. According to the University of Navarre, the number of contemplative nuns in Spain is over 13.000.

They do not hide from the world behind a cloth veil, but behind a wall of iron and stone. It is a way of life they adopt voluntarily for religious reasons and that is sufficient for others to respect their decision, however strange this may seem.

So why is this valid for the Catholic religion and not for the Muslim religion? Why are there more and more women born in the second half of the Twentieth Century in Western countries who use the veil? Why does the number of women who enter religious orders seem to increase whilst the number diminishes elsewhere?

The opinion section of El País of February 21st published an allegation in favour of the French law relating to the Burqa signed by Bernard-Henri Lévy.

He begins by asserting that “voluntary servitude has never been disputed; the slave –whether male or female– has never justified the intrinsic, necessary and ontological disgrace of slavery”. Besides the fact that the author skips the enormous difference between the slave by obligation and the ‘happy’ slave (who has already exercised his or her freedom of choice), he does not seem to be aware that feminine slavery is a knife with two edges: Should the slavery of women who are prisoners of the burqa as a result of the will of men be legally forbidden but not the slavery of those imprisoned in a convent as a result of the will of God? If what matters is to have no relationship with men and put one’s own will in someone else’s hand, nuns’ lot is far beyond that of other veiled women.

What do contemplative nuns do in their daily life without contact with the opposite sex? “They study the word of God, they pray and they do handicraft in community with their sisters. They live in the monastery as one with the Lord, with one soul and one heart”.

Praise to the Lord! Good for the nuns and bad luck for bars, young people who want to get married and perhaps even the nuns’ relatives. Every adult person follows whoever he or she pleases, dedicating 24 hours a day throughout their whole life to the task and scorning the rest: Family, profession, love, belongings, pleasures... what used to be called ‘the devil, the world, the flesh’.

The author of the article then defends the forced abolition of the burqa despite admitting that in France there are no more than a few hundred women who wear it (approximately five hundred in a population of 66 million):

“If there were only one enslaved woman in France, be it in a hospital or the Town Hall, she would need to be liberated”.

Abraham requested Yahweh not to destroy Sodom if he found 50 righteous people there, but owing to Yahweh’s love of the righteous, Abraham dared to beg mercy for the city if there were only 10 righteous people, and Yahweh accepted. Neither Bernard-Henri Lévy’s pen or Obama and his allies’ bombs have pardoned the whole country of Afghanistan under the pretext of liberating women from their burqas.

The fact that Bernard-Henri Lévy brandishes his liberating eagerness of the women who wear the burqa from his position at the rear of an army that indiscriminately bombs these women and their families in Afghanistan disqualifies him from such high humanitarian ideals, and only then presuming his arguments are valid enough to pay attention to them.

Politically Correct Feminism and the Veil

Some ordinary citizens are also opposed to the veil and the burqa. On February 24th, a female reader of El País wrote to the editor: “My experience working in a Muslim country is that the veil is part of the way they dress and how they live and understand the religion that relegates women to the background, subordinating them to the masculine world”.

So let us see what the country where the reader lives can teach to “women subordinated to the masculine world”:

In the field of labour, the 2009 data produced by the Women’s Institute indicate that “men’s salaries are higher than women’s in all cases, independent of personal, occupational or company characteristics. This difference reaches 2,11 euros per hour of work, that is 18%”.

A study developed by the Autonomous University of Barcelona specifies as the causes of this difference “gender discrimination”, the fact that “women hold less posts of responsibility than men and that they are more present in companies with fewer workers where productivity is lower and, as a consequence, salaries”.

According to the Women’s Institute, “unemployed women do not seek work because they look after children and old, sick and disabled people. The employment rate of married women is 47,80% in comparison to 68,60% for men. These data reflect the direct relationship between civil status and women in employment”.

In other words: “In 2007, 98 out 100 women engaged in part-time employment because they cared for children, sick or disabled adults and old people. 93,80% preferred part-time employment as a result of family or personal responsibilities.

Is Spanish machismo just annoying or also violent? “Spanish courts received 35.270 reports relating to gender violence between July and September 2009”. If there are no significant variations, 2010 will end with almost 150.000 formal reports.

An article published by the Gaceta Sanitaria (Health Gazette) –a publication of the Spanish society of Public Health and Administration– declares that this violence “is not the result of inexplicable cases of aberrant and pathological behaviour. It constitutes an acquired, conscious and guided practice, which is the product of social organisation based on the inequality between men and women”. If to this we add the information relating to prostitution, female trafficking, the use of women as a sexual object in publicity and in the minds of a large part of the Spanish population, we may find the reason why our reader somewhat idealises the situation of women in Spain.

The report concerning prostitution submitted to Parliament in 2007 declared that “prostitution has a strong gender component since its consumers are mainly men, a total of 99,7%”.

Perhaps the reader of El País, who is probably as happy to see her letter published as the Editor, has not read this report, which also claims the newspaper with the greatest circulation in the country receives approximately 5 million euros a year from its sexual content announcements.

The Agenda of Feminism Are not Spanish women also subjected to significant social pressure? If she thinks the Muslim veil subordinates women to men, do not the following have a similar mission? Thong showing, the padded bra, stiletto heels, tight clothes and small sizes, plastic surgery to increase breasts and lips –even in minors-, full depilation, weight and shape control, etc.

Is the woman who wears a veil outside the home and takes it off when she is at home with her husband more subservient than the woman who shows her underwear to strangers and is applauded for it?

How does our reader think that in 2010 women’s subordination to men should be combated? Watching a hot television series or a reality show about bed scandals, reading a magazine about female celebrities or attending a sexy fashion parade?

Bearing in mind the most widely seen television programmes, the widely read celebrity magazines and other data relating to the interest of many Spanish and Western women, there is much more work to be done to remove the blindfold from women’s eyes here than eliminating the veil in other countries.

If we compare the supposed damage the veil causes to women who live in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Palestine, and the suffering caused by the attacks and occupation of Western powers with the collusion of left-wing and feminist Spain, it would be suitable to ask those women –who witness their men’s assassination by foreign armies- if they desire a philippic from European feminist women regarding their traditional dress, or if they prefer them to show off their knickers in their own country and leave them alone.

Translated from Spanish by Christine Lewis Carroll

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