Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Back off before I take your hand off: why respect must be universal, not limited to those like us

I'm reposting this because JordanBlogs did something funny and gave it the same name as another totally unrelated post... :)

So, for the first time in the four years we've been here, I had what I would consider a fairly serious problem last week. SwedeBean and I went out to lunch in a very touristy, historic part of Amman. While on our way walking from the main street to the restaurant, we passed a pack of wild school boys. They were in the 12-14 year old age range. They were on the other side of the narrow street and I ignored them. Suddenly I realize that SwedeBean is very upset. it seems one of these young hoodlums decided to touch her hair. Yes, he actually laid his hands on her.

Haram, 3ayb - no, you know what - 3aar (this is the highest form of shame in the Arabic language). At this point, I begin shouting at them like a London fish wife. I scream that they better get out of my sight quickly and that they are clearly a pack of wild animals. They seem to find my Arabic at once funny and "move-along-ish" enough to get moving. At lunch, I went over the don't be polite, make a scene speech with SwedeBean. While we had spoken about this before, I took it as a learning opportunity here again. I explained that this young man placing his hands on her was a violation. Should something like it ever happen again, she should hit him... as hard as she can. And scream, frankly. We Westerners, our politeness can contribute rather than teaching the necessary lesson.

I related the incident the next day to El 3atal. About the time I finished telling him, we came upon another (or maybe the same pack) of fellows. El 3atal saw that they were ogling me obviously. At this point, he went and shouted at them and basically told them to keep their eyes (and nasty minds I'm sure) to themselves. A few minutes later, we chanced to see the exact same group of boys passing a gaggle of fully veiled, jilbab wearing ladies. They were not only ogling, but also cat-calling these ladies. And herein lies the fallacy of thought that I've observed since living here...

If men are not taught that EVERY woman, no matter how little she may resemble her in thought, word, and deed is your mother and your sister and deserves your respect, they fail to learn to respect any of them. Every time that a man fails to reprimand his son for failing to observe HIS call to modesty and lowering HIS eyes when seeing a woman, he sets his son up to ogle. Each time a mother fails to point out to her son that his poor treatment of strange women is what he should expect for her, she loses an opportunity to instill the proper values in him. As long as people think, oh she's just a foreigner, or a kafir, or a niqabi, we will fail to raise our children to treat all with respect equally.

When the Beans ask me about women who wear a head scarf (or a niqab), I take this as a learning opportunity. The values I want them to learn are openness, respect for people of all faiths, and a knowledge that how I treat others is how I should expect to be treated. I explain to to them that wearing the head scarf is an expression of her faith and is something to be respected. It is not something we EVER make fun of. Just as we don't make fun of people who are different from us in other ways, be it skin color, physical deformity, or whatever. I understand that the human mind tends to understand very simple concepts and the treatment we allow for one group will find its way into others. Sadly, showing signs of godliness doesn't mean having a heart for God. So, one of my jobs is to help remind the Beans that it is about action, not just words. After all, our actions ARE our words to the world, now aren't they?

Happy Harassment... (sigh)


At 8:22 AM , Anonymous kinzi said...

geat post, MB. You are inspiring me!

At 9:14 AM , Anonymous jaraad said...

I am glad you cleared this thing up. Yesterday, I read this post but frankly I was a little bit off because of the title. Here is a funny story. I am not sure in what grade I was (I think 7th) but I remember I was in one of those big yellow school buses. It happened that while the bus was on an intersection going to the left side a boy shouted "Oh my God look at those GIRLS" every boy in the bus jumped to the side where the boy was to look through the window, we felt that the bus was going to flip but our hero driver saved our lives by his amazing driving skill. He yelled at us like there were no tomorrow. The funny thing there were no girls :)

I am sorry for this incident that happened to your daughter but as you said they were only 12-14 years old. My only advice is o stay away from them!

At 2:49 AM , Blogger Unknown said...

Where is the 'like' button? :p

At 5:25 AM , Anonymous Theresa said...

Hva synes du om stjelingen av stilen til Taylor Momsen på bloggen min? <3

At 1:22 AM , Anonymous Four Of A Kind said...

Come ‘on get on with your life, it’s only a pair for God’s sake!

At 7:23 AM , Blogger Haitham Seelawi said...

I am really sorry for that! But there is a part of your article that I did not understand:

"We Westerners, our politeness can contribute rather than teaching the necessary lesson."

Would you please elaborate little more?

At 8:58 AM , Blogger MommaBean said...

Jaraad, yeah I was befuddled myself. I like the fact that you nearly flipped the bus for a mirage of girls. Would have served them right, hunh?

Nicole, teehee.

Theresa, welcome. Unfortunately, I don't speak Swedish...

Four of a kind... oookay? Is that a response you would have given? If so, I'm afraid it would not have translated well.

Genki, I think that's going to get a post all its own soon. Bascially, with our outragd huffs and mediocre explanations, we don't discourage the bad behavior as strongly as, say, a sick to the jaw would... ;).

At 11:14 AM , Anonymous UmmFarouq said...

Yes, yes, jacking the jaws of the oglers was my first instinct...


Hey, MommaBean, have I told you lately how cool you are? And you were mightily missed this week.

At 2:29 PM , Blogger MommaBean said...

Umm F, it's really striking (and sad) to me that you would even have to worry about such things... Right back at ya on part 2... ;)


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home