Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Some people got all worked up about Nancy Pelosi's decision to wear a headscarf in a Syrian house of worship as a sign of respect, but for many women it's not a choice -- in Iraq, according to The Washington Times:

Extremists force women to hide under head scarves

BAGHDAD -- For two years, Faiza Abdal-Majeed has carried a head scarf in her purse for emergencies.

For a woman in the Iraqi capital four years after the fall of dictator Saddam Hussein, these emergencies can include passing unlawful checkpoints manned by armed militiamen, impromptu forays through neighborhoods controlled by religious zealots and taxi drivers who refuse her fare unless she covers her hair.

In addition, Mrs. Abdal-Majeed's job with Iraq's women's affairs ministry frequently brings her into contact with government officials, police officers and Muslim clergymen who insist that she cover up before they speak with her.

"Some clerics and politicians are forcing religion into our lives," said Mrs. Abdal-Majeed, 45. "We're being pushed back 1,000 years in time."

Baghdad once was considered a secular, cosmopolitan metropolis where Islamic customs seldom collided with women's fashion. Today, however, religious ideology has strengthened its grip and forced half the population to submit to traditional Islamic dress.

On the streets of the capital, the most common couture is what women call the Islamic uniform: the bulging black abaya that covers the body from head to toe; the head scarf, or hajib; and the long, dark ankle-length skirts commonly seen on schoolgirls, university students and professionals....

"Baghdad once was considered a secular, cosmopolitan metropolis" -- and when might that have been? Er, under Saddam, perhaps?

(Look, he was a horrible sonofabitch -- but he was secular.)

Oh, and guess where things are better?

Bushra Yousef, 51, is the managing editor of an Iraqi women's magazine who fled from Baghdad to Damascus in December after threats on her life. She said women in the Syrian capital are given more autonomy in dress than their Iraqi counterparts.

"Syrian women have freedom to choose what they wear," Mrs. Yousef said by telephone from Damascus. "Women in Iraq are often forced to wear Islamic uniform, even Christian women." ...

(You'll note that Pelosi didn't wear a headscarf when she met with President Assad of Syria.)

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