Monday, July 11, 2011

Lucia Nuns are brought into the burka debate

A Muslim woman interviewed by the Sunday Star Times compares the veil covering a woman's face with the veil worn by a nun.

"When we look at a nun, who is all covered, we see peace and tranquility and we give it that respect. But when we see a Muslim woman who is covered – it is associated with terrorism and oppression.

We see peace and tranquility when we look at a nun because of who the nun is.  She is a bride of Christ.  She acts in the world to make Jesus more present.  She may teach children or work in a hospital or work with the poor, all as part of her vocation for basically no pay. All of this is implicit when we look at a nun, who is considered a force for good in the world.

"My sister wears it and she wears it completely by her own choice. So why should it be judged that she is being forced to wear it, but a nun is not?"

Women don't wake up one day and decide that they will dress like a nun. They go through a long process of vocation discernment and then training in a community of nuns before they get to wear the full nun ensemble. It's not just a choice, it's a lifelong commitment.

While Rasheed does not wear a veil, she supported the choice of any woman who did.

"I think it's very strong of them to do it in a western society."

But is it a choice? Those Saudi women who were denied entry to buses in Auckland - was it their free choice to wear a face veil while in New Zealand?  

Wearing a veil that covers the face, if done by choice rather than pressure means you are making a statement. It draws attention to the woman as well as hiding her identity. She becomes one of the nameless, faceless masses of Islam whom very few can relate to.

The ultimate veil wearer that is the Catholic's ideal, is the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Just as a nun wears a veil, so too does she.  Just as a nun is clearly identifiable because her face is visible, so too is the Virgin.

From the FAQ of Franciscan Sisters, T.O.R. of penance of the Sorrowful Mother website:
Some sisters wear a veil over their heads. They do this primarily to signify that they are eternally married to God; they are forever brides. Traditionally, religious women wore a white veil during novitiate [...] and took a black veil when they professed their vows. [...] The scriptures tell us that a "woman's glory is her hair" and therefore reserved for her husband's view.

Just the hair is reserved for her husband's view - not the face as well. During times gone past, Western women wore veils or hats as a matter of their normal dress. I must admit, it would be nice if this custom came back. But never at any point were we made anonymous by the veil; never did it keep other people at arm's length from us as the Muslim veil does.

And isn't it interesting that there is no equivalent of the Catholic nun in Islam?

Related link: Women in bid to lift veil of ignorance

4 comment(s):

KG said...

That news item the link points to is propaganda, no less.
Surely nobody could in all honesty conflate a nun's habit with the compulsory full-face covering of some islamist sects?

Bearhunter said...

"It's not just a choice, it's a lifelong commitment..."

Or at least until they stopped making wearing the habit compulsory. It's amazing how many nuns switched back to civvies when the chance arose. I'm not questioning their devotion, by the way, just pointing out that many nuns clearly didn't see the wearing of the habit as a "lifelong commitment".

scrubone said...

Interesting comments in that first quote.

I was recently listening to a series of interview with a fellow called Abdul Saleeb entitled "The Dark Side of Islam".

He pointed out every time Christianity goes back to it's roots, society becomes more peaceful and caring. When Islam goes back to it's roots, it becomes more oppressive and violent.

Seán said...

Hi Lucyna - I would like to point out that I agree with both the content and intent of your post.

But I would like to digress a bit from the first external quote you make. "...But when we see a Muslim woman who is covered – it is associated with terrorism and oppression."

I am not sure how true this is, probably not much, but I would like to state that if a Muslim woman wants to wear this garb then this is a personal choice I can respect. Of course, this cover private and general public environments, but it is important to note that in our Western society the wearer must be aware of the local customs and traditions which do not normally include the wearing of such attire. What this means is that our society is not used to such attire, but it is not just about clothing, but moreso the covering of the face. So when such a person enters a interactive situation like a job interview, or court appearance, they would do well to become aware of the local customs and adjust accordingly. To expect the local society to naturally and automatically accommodate their non-local customs is just plain unreasonable.

The opposite is true of course in that (Western) foreigners must at least understand and respect the local customs of the (non-Western) society they enter, but it would also be nice for that society to respect the wishes of the foreigner in a private capacity.

The reasons for giving a nun the respect mentioned you have covered already. It is less to do with the dress, and more to do with the practice. But back to the quote it would be foolish to automatically associate a Muslim woman in her local dress with terrorism and oppression; it's naive in fact. We should allow her the freedoms we offer in our society, but conversely she needs to be aware of the cultural norms present and adjust accordingly. It's by making efforts to fit in to the new society that makes their presence all the more accommodating.

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