According to an eyewitness — someone I have known for years, not at all my favorite person but unlikely to retail fabrications — there was a moment during the anti-mosque protests of September 11th 2010 when a woman in hijab crossed the paths of the protesters; whether to confront them, or simply to go about her business (the World Trade Center site occupies a part of Manhattan sometimes referred to as Little Syria), I haven’t yet been able to find out.
With scant words exchanged, one of the protesters yanked off the woman’s hijab, threw it to the ground, and spat at her.
Yay for America.
I worked at a powder puff health club back in the early 80’s, the kind of place populated by fiftysomething grandmothers grudgingly adopting an exercise program and women who fear using what they think will be a “meat market” co-ed gym. An unexpected segment of the clientele involved Muslim women who wore hijab and observed strictures against appearing uncovered in front of men, but who still wanted a good exhilarating bout of exercise a few times a week. One day I found a couple of these young ladies peering out of the locker room. Apparently a man was repairing something out on the workout floor and they were vexed, wondering how long it would take before all male presence was banished from the exercise area, and could I ask?
I thought it was a sad business, that any religion was a silly religion which cultivated that degree of restriction, and that in my ideal world those two girls would say “Hey — what’s more important?” and march out there into the aerobics class to enjoy the endorphin buzz which was their human right. But it was not my job or civic duty to tell them what I thought of the beliefs which had been foisted on them, most likely, by accident of birth. I went out and checked with the repairman, found he was just finishing up, and was glad to be able to tell them so. Who knows how much stress they had already had during that week?
We have some curious Christian sects in this country: witness the Amish, whose women’s dress is copious and concealing, and whose rules of conduct are meticulous, all-encompassing and often harsh. We consider them a cherished curiosity, to judge from the way their culture is granted indulgences and exemptions within the areas where they have settled. I think it all sounds rather horrid, but even if some fundamentalist Amish group had gone rogue and started bombing, say, power substations and car dealerships, I can’t see what yanking off some Amish woman’s cap would do to register my objection.
I wonder who those inflamed assholes in New York thought they were impressing, and how many rounds of Preparation H the cops would have had to fire into the crowd before subduing them.