You would have to be on a desert island to not know about the Duggar family who have been showcased on The Learning Channel (TLC). Jim Bob and Michelle have more than replaced themselves in this crowded world by adding 19 children to it. Of course, in some parts of the world, 19 isn’t unheard of. (And get this, the record number of children born to one woman is 69!*) But it’s rarity for the U.S.
What makes the Duggars particularly noteworthy is the reason they have so many children: They belong to the QuiverFull movement, which believes that it is God’s will for a woman to have as many children as she is able to. Contraception, even natural family planning, is a sin. (There’s also a group called Blessed Arrows which is for those who have been sterilized where they can “make amends for their sin” by getting reversals.)
Devotees of the QuiverFull movement teach that children are a blessing from God and that attempting to avoid a pregnancy is a subversion of God’s will. Everything is in God’s hands: the health of the mother or baby, the emotional and financial resources necessary to support another child, and the “so-called” problems of over-population and over-consumption. Obviously, they are against abortion, which puts them at odds with most feminists. That’s not the only thing that alarms feminists, however. They also preach that the man is the head of the household and the wife is to be submissive to him in all things. They blame all the ills of society on women wanting their own way, especially over their own bodies, which are meant to be a “living sacrifice” to God.
I was asked yesterday what subject really needs to be addressed when it comes to Muslim women in North America. I’d like to say that the most important issue is how to communicate our faith. Or inspire respect. Or dispel negative stereotypes. What I did say was something that ties into all three: the way that a Muslim woman dresses.
That seems superficial in the broad scheme of things. But the reality is, it’s a huge problem for Muslims. Not that all Muslim women dress “Islamically.” But for women who do “cover,” even walking down the street can be a challenge.
First I should explain what I mean by dressing Islamically and covering. There are a lot of opinions about what exactly a Muslim woman should wear but the general consensus is that she should be modest. That means no midriff-baring tops and jeans, no miniskirts, low necklines or skin-tight clothes. The most traditional Muslim believes that everything should be covered but the hands and feet. Some even interpret that to mean that the entire face should be covered as well, but they are definitely in the minority.
I put this video on Facebook, but then decided that I wanted to comment on it more than I could in that venue. Watch it first and see what you think.
Before I watched this video, I was uncomfortable with the idea of the face veil (the niqab). But the woman who wears the niqab in this video is extremely articulate and persuaded me that there can be good reasons for covering the face, even if that is not a choice I would make.
I was also persuaded by the uncovered woman’s explanation for why she doesn’t cover. And that sums up my dilemma. I am a Muslim woman who has not made up her mind about covering. I have worn the headscarf (the hijab) on many occasions, but haven’t made a total commitment to it. I’ve worn it to run errands, to visit my Muslim friends and go to Muslim celebrations, when I pray and to go to the masjid (mosque). But I don’t wear it to work or whenever I answer the door. And I don’t know if I would have enough courage to wear it on an airplane!