But before I begin, tomorrow, Saturday April 6, 2013 at 10 am we will have our usual Saturday zazen thing at 237 Hill St., Santa Monica, CA 90405. It’s open to everyone, beginners are encouraged. Please come!
Then on Sunday April 7, 2013 at 10 am come to Against The Stream 4300 Melrose Avenue. Los Angeles CA 90029 for our Sunday morning Zen service with chanting and bowing and stuff. This will be the second one of these.
Stick around afterward because at 11 am at the very same venue I will lead meditation and give a talk.
Also, there are still spaces available for our 3-day zazen retreat at Mt. Baldy April 26-28, 2013. Click here for further info and to register.
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Yesterday and today I received several interesting links regarding burqas, hijabs and niqabs (and seetars too). For those who don’t know, here are the definitions pulled right off one of the links I received:
- Niqab is a veil that covers a woman’s hair and face, leaving only eyes clearly visible.
- Hijab is the Arabic word for curtain or cover. It is a piece of cloth worn by observant Muslim women to cover the hair, ears, and neck, leaving the face uncovered.
- Seetar, sitar, a similar garment to the burqa/burkha, includes a niqab with a second tier screening the eyes with mesh. It covers the woman’s whole body and is usually black in color. In other words, the burqa essentially refers to a face and head covering that begins at the top of the head and drapes as long as the body. The burqa is generally associated to Aghanistan, the seetar to Saudi Arabia and the Middle East.
The first link I got was to Femen’s “Topless Jihad Day.” Femen is a group of women in Europe who protest naked for various feminist causes. I like them. Sometimes maybe they go too far. But sometimes maybe one has to go “too far” to make a point.
Right after that, someone posted a link to a group of Muslim women who are protesting Femen’s protest. They assert their right to wear whatever coverings they want. I also like them. Say it loud! Be Muslim and proud!
Finally, someone sent me an article called Arab Feminist Perspective on Burqa, Niqab and Hijab. This was also very interesting and eye-opening.
Before I go on, I need to mention that I’m running late today and I don’t have the time to give this article the real attention and polish the subject deserves. But I wanted to get into this while the news was still hot. So I’m writing this quickly and hoping for the best.
I find all of this stuff really fascinating. I have no qualms with women who wear hijab because they want to. But I do have a very big problem with societies and governments who require them to be worn. I also have very serious doubts concerning the burqa and the niqab. I find it very difficult (not impossible, just very difficult) to believe anyone really wears those by choice, especially the burqa. Maybe it happens. But it’s still hard for me to believe.
Human beings, religions, clothing, sexual impropriety… it’s all very complex stuff.
Human beings are really weird. All of the other great apes are hairy and do not need clothing. Why are humans virtually hairless? I’ve read a lot on the subject and it really seems like nobody knows. One old and largely discounted theory has it that at one point in our evolution humans were aquatic apes. The only other hairless mammals — dolphins, whales, seals and so on — live in the sea. So maybe that’s why we lost our hair. But it doesn’t seem likely.
And there are other weird things about us. Our genitals are huge! I am hung far more impressively than even the biggest gorilla in the mountains of the Congo. All human males are. Human females have outrageously large boobs compared to the other great apes. And don’t get me started on our shapely butts. Plus we are always in heat. Most other mammals have a mating season. But not us. It’s mating season all year long for humans!
How did all that come to be? It doesn’t seem to fit very well with the current ideas about natural selection. And I, for one, strongly believe in the concept of natural selection. So there must be some reason. Could it be that we are sex crazy apes and have selectively bred ourselves for these traits? I really think that may be the case.
Almost all human societies require members to wear clothing that hides our genitalia. Why is that? I’ve often wondered. The best theories I’ve heard involve the idea that, in other great apes, exposure of the genitals signals only two things; that one is ready to mate or that one is ready to fight. Since our genitals are always exposed when we’re naked, we are constantly sending out these signals whether we want to or not. So somewhere in our distant past we realized we needed to cover up that stuff if we wanted to have anything like a stable civilization.
Religions always tend to be the most conservative when it comes to this because religions are supposed to be on the forefront of pro-social, moral behavior. In Buddhism, monks and nuns are generally required to dress modestly. In some sects this means wearing the kashaya or o-kesa, which in some ways is similar to the Muslim forms of modest dress. The head is not covered, but the hair is usually shaved off to achieve something like the same effect. One big difference between Buddhist societies and some (but not all) Muslim ones is that only monks and nuns are required to dress like this.
But all modern societies do require some kind of “modest dress” to one degree or another. Even string bikinis do cover up some of our naughty bits. And there are places in all societies where string bikinis are not allowed, where one must cover up more than that.
I’m not really reaching for any sort of conclusion here. I just think it’s all really fascinating to ponder. Maybe I’ll write more about this over the next few installments if anyone’s interested in continuing.
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