Monday, August 29, 2005

Of Moths and Muslims

Last night when I went downstairs I could hear a strange clinking, clattering sound - soft and incessant. Looking up, I discovered it was moths and more moths, beating themselves against the flouro light strips in the carport. It is very early spring - not the time for moths. But later, looking out onto the streetlight, there was a whirring spiral of moths in the arc of the light. I gazed for some time, looking for the bats which come feeding on insects at the light in summer.But it is not summer and there were no bats. Just a mass of moths. I woke at about 3am and looked out the window. There were yet more moths, by now maybe 10 or 15ft down from the top of the light - a vast, busy cone of motion. Today the news reports that these moths are everywhere, covering trees like blossom, settling on houses like snow... They have come from the desert, a vast plague of them, produced no-one quite knows from what circumstances of nature. Where they are going or why is anyone's guess. But tonight there is a storm. Perchance their plague numbers will meet a natural solution from the rain.

Meanwhile, the hijab controversy boils around the country. Should Muslim girls be banned from wearing hijabs to school? Bronwen Bishop, a right-wing politician with a very strange hair-do, says the head coverings are an "act of defiance". Unlike her hair, which is just an act of odd taste.
The country is arguing ferociously about tolerance, religious freedom, fashion, individuality, choice and multiculturalism. People who wear crucifixes seem opposed to people covering their heads. I find this quaint. It is OK for Christians to brand themselves with religious paraphernalia, to put fish on their cars and anti-Darwinian propaganda, but it is not OK for Muslims to cover their heads. I am not mad on the Muslim head covering or on the Christian adornments. But who am I to talk? I wear Buddhas and Ganeshas and Quan Yins. My only reservation on the hijabs is their origins. I find this disturbing. My readings on Islamic culture uniformly assert that women are to be covered in public because the sight of their hair might stir males of the species into some sort of uncontrolled passion. Women must never make eye contact with strange men. Women must be ferociously guarded against males who are not of their immediate family. There is this suggestion that Islamic men have no control. I find it offputting from both the male and female perspective. Particularly the male, when I think about it. I have known some elegant, erudite and genteel Muslim men and this piece of gender caution does not do them justice. One would think that, particularly in the egalitarian and emancipated West, Islamic men would not want to be surrounded by such sartorial defamation.

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