The Blood Moon and the Niqab

lunar-eclipse.jpg.638x0_q80_crop-smartWe three women sat in rocking chairs on the balcony and watched the shadow come over the moon slowly…so slowly….

As the shadow of the Earth ate away at the luminescence of the Moon and turned her red, all of Nature held its breath. I have never heard a prophecy about the Blood Moon that was other than ominous – they do not see the feminine possibilities of blood as Renewal and Birth….

Once the moon was red, I opened the waters of the hot tub to its energies so I could work with them directly.

Entering the blood-waters, I saw the Earth’s shadow representing what we have learned about being in a body on this planet: that it is an obstacle to Spirit – to the manifestation of our Sun-selves. When our masculine energies of self-realisation are thwarted, our emotional selves devolve into anger and violence, and it is the Earth, the body, women – all that is encompassed by the feminine principle and physical reality – that bears the brunt of our rage.

On the Trail of Tears, indigenous men were deprived of their ability to protect their women and children or to hunt to provide food for their families; their frustration turned against the women and children who had become symbols of their impotence. The Sun Dance was created to help the men retrieve their dignity and sense of purpose (and so was immediately declared illegal).

My mind turned to the preoccupation of the day just ended…. I had spent hours picking through high-bush cranberries, sorting out the leaves and seeds, the stems and goldenrod fluff and errant chokecherries. It was sticky and stained my hands red, separating what I wanted from what I did not want…. As has often happened these past weeks, my thoughts found their way to the niqab.

I totally understand the desire to cover up completely – to not be subject to the myriad un-sought attentions that women almost anywhere in the world must deal with. If truth be told, most of us “independent Western women” wear either an energetic niqab or one of flesh and blood, especially if we are not under the obvious protection of a man. How do those extra pounds serve you…truthfully? Or those lean, hard, impenetrable muscles..?

No, we can not legislate against the wearing of the niqab, any more than we can legislate against women who choose to expose their bodies. In both cases, women will protest that they are wearing what they choose, as is their right in a free society. My question is this: Exactly how ‘free’ are we, really, and what is the true basis of our choices?

It is women who perform female genital excision. It is their choice, no? So that their daughters will be respectably marriageable, not shamed by being seen as sexual – safe under the protection of a man – not judged as a harlot and requiring rape as punishment….

I thought of the woman who was given the right to wear her niqab while swearing the Canadian Oath of Citizenship who said she was “relieved” to be allowed by the courts to do so. Whew…she was safe again, within the boundaries of what is allowed for a practicing Muslim woman.

I thought of my dear Iranian friend – a survivor of the 1979 Islamic revolution, a professor and author, militant in her words and her shaved grey haircut – and remembered witnessing conversations she had with other women of Muslim backgrounds – lawyers, doctors, accountants… When speaking of anything vaguely rebellious to Shiah orthodoxy, my friend would whisper! In Canada…! I can still feel the residual shock in my body from that realisation.

I have looked for research on the level of education of women who choose to wear the niqab or burqa compared to those who choose the hijab or no covering at all. I am told there is almost no research done in this area. The one research paper being liberally quoted these days, commissioned by the Canadian Council of Muslim Women (CCMW) and authored by Montreal professor Lynda Clarke, rests its findings on just 38 on-line surveys, 35 women in focus groups, and 8 interviews.    The women surveyed had adopted the niqab after arriving in Canada, and were also self-selected in that they were literate in English or French and had computer access.

I thought of frightened and frightening stories sent to me by usually arch-tolerant European friends – of Swedish women being gang-raped by Muslim men who consider them fair game because of their dress….

But just how different is this from the rape culture of North American universities, from the induction rituals of Old Boys institutions, or the government-condoned attitude that indigenous women are fair game for rape and murder?  No bloody wonder women want to wear the niqab….

But then again, it is also seen as appropriate to rape a woman in order to “take her down a notch” or to disempower the man to whom she belongs; many of us understand at this point that rape is a question of power, not sex. The issue is of women not being seen as people regardless of what we wear.

After sorting through the high-bush cranberries, I washed my sticky hands, rinsed the bright-red berries, and began squishing them to extract the juice. Each berry had to be individually popped to remove its seed, each one an explosion of stinky red juice. I thought of the physical and belief structures that we inherit – the skeletons around which we sculpt our lives and flesh.

Respect for the cultural identity of our citizens is a cornerstone of being Canadian. Honouring our roots gives us a solid foundation – this is where we came from and yes, we must honour and find gratitude for the ancestors whose lives and bodies and belief systems have culminated in our lives and bodies and belief systems.

But eggs, flour, sugar, baking soda and salt, mixed and exposed to heat in a certain way, will produce a cake. That we have turned into cakes, very different from our founding components, should not be a cause for shame! Can we now evolve away from cultures so founded in fear of the Other that our differences have been extrapolated into an infinitude of heart-numbing detail? We know what street in Manchester that accent comes from. She’s wearing a sari, so she’s Hindu, not Muslim. Aha! That’s a family name from Northern Ireland. Etc., etc. ad nauseum.  We have been programmed to see pride in our cultural identities and Otherness as going hand in hand.

As well, when we speak of “cultural identity”, there are almost always unspoken, unconscious overtones of religion, and most of the world’s religions have been wielded against the equality of all members of our human family. Patriarchal power hierarchies masquerading as cultures and religions are true wolves in sheep’s clothing. The problem is that they have inveigled their way into our minds and hearts to such an extent that, although we may legislate freedom of choice, we would be unwise to expect a rampage out the cage door.

As women under this rule, we have done anything we can to be safe, up to and including the denial and destruction of ourselves as women.  Safe under the niqab, safe under the sheitel, safe under some man’s roof, safe under the protection of your pimp….

I wonder what Malala thinks of the niqab, but I would never ask her, as her answer might put her in danger….

Submerged in waters of the blood moon, I sing for all Life.

Nibi Wabo...I have witnessed this chant bring dried springs to life…

N’daange...I have felt this chant bring peace within circles of escalating violence…

Aki miskweSinging to heal Water as the physical reality and the living symbol of the Oneness of all Life….Nibi Wabo.

Aya aya aya aye, aya aya aya ayo….

Blessèd Be…

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