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LANALLAH __Islamic BlogZine__
Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Not Without Her Make-up

This is a satire written to mimic articles, reports
and stories generally written about Muslim women by
women from Western non-Muslim backgrounds. It is, to
some extent, an attempt to convey to the readers
it feels to be 'othered' and to be judged
superficially in accordance with only one's own
perceptions. I hope you take it for what it is - a

>I do not clearly remember the first time I was here.
>My earliest memories
>of Australia start when I was
>around six or seven, probably my first trip after I
>was born in the city of Sydney. My parents were not
>particularly happy with the idea of me growing up
>there. So, they took me out to Iran at the first
>As I grew up, my impressions of Sydney were formed
>from stories I heard from my parents, shows I watched
>on television and of course, what I saw on my trips.
>From my first trip at the age of seven, I vaguely
>remember the peop
>e I met and the places I visited. I
>remember more from my second trip, though, which was
>at the age of fourteen. I recall my parents warning me
>over and over again about how women were treated in a
>society so fundamentally Western. While I
>as there, I
>learnt that individuality was something Australians
>only dreamt about. I soon discovered I had to conform
>to the dress code everyone else followed. I had to
>have my hair highlighted and defrizzed. I had to spend
>between fifte
>n ad twenty minutes every morning
>brushing it and putting on clips and hair ties. I had
>to make it into a ponytail one day, a braid the next
>and a bun when I went to dinner parties. I was coerced
>to wear short skirts and tight tops, with a
>bra to give me cleavage. My legs had to show, smooth
>and unscarred, and everyone had to be able to make out
>my waist. They told me I had to 'fit in'. Part of the
>ritual of fitting in meant that I had to paint my face
>with what the
> called make-up everyday. I discovered
>that Australian females liked to attract as much
>attention as they could to themselves, by hiding
>behind their make-up. They made their kohl in liquids
>and pencils, instead of pots like we do, and sold
>in stores under a range of different names and prices.
>They all seemed the same to me, though. Anyhow, I
>bought what they told me to buy and used what they
>told me to use, from lipsticks to abdominizers,
>changing my body from head t
> toe to please their male
> ‘gods’ Such things ensured that everyone wanted to
>'hang out' with me (a term denoting something to the
>effect of spending time and/or social acceptance).
>In the five years between then and now, I had
>d myself that Australia would have joined
>other countries on the road to progress. But my return
>to Sydney both shocks and saddens me. While many parts
>of the world have seen development, Australia has
>dragged behind, especially with regard
> to the status
>of women. It seems as if it has only succeeded in
>digging itself deeper into a bottomless pit of
>regression. At this rate, I fear that Australia is a
>second America in the making.
>Upon arrival, I have come across some
>typical Sydney
>women. I can see that they are dictated by the strict
>dress code imposed on them by the social system. They
>are not allowed to wear loose clothing, headscarves
>until they are old or ailing, and it is preferred that
>they show
> as much of their bodies as possible. Women
>who break this rule face harsh penalties. Sarah, a
>victim of such injustices, told me the specifics. As
>punishment for wearing non-revealing clothing, she is
>deemed unattractive and given unequal
>treatment by her
>employers. She says she is not considered 'normal'.
>A day in the life of a normal woman here requires her
>appearance to be the focal point. Her sexuality must
>be available for everyone to consume. She cannot
>choose to
>whom she will disclose her intimate parts or
>exercise her sexuality. She does not have much choice
>in what she wants to do with her body. Since the
>fundamentalist regime insists that it must be
>available for display in a certain manner, she
>follow these rules.
>The rules are based on the Australian Holy Scriptures,
>two of which are Dolly and Cosmopolitan. Also known as
>magazines, these contain the teachings of hard-liner
>editors and reporters/writers who design the
>ay in
>which society must view women and the way women must
>dress and act. Since the advent of these magazines,
>there have been mass conversions in the country to the
>faith they preach. Authority and control have been
>transferred onto the
> and they play a vital role in
>the life of women. They have institutionalized radical
>guidelines such as the 36:24:36 measurement of a
>woman's body. Furthermore, they propagate intolerance
>and hate to be internalized in all women - hate for
>their own bodies, natural intelligence, privacy and
>inherent dignity. These women are brainwashed into
>believing that their Creator is to blame for their
>deficiencies in not automatically meeting these
>In accordance wit
> these oppressive impositions, the
>country's commerce has developed. Industry is devoted
>to the development of products to assist women in
>looking as artificial as possible. The market is
>filled with products for the face and every different
>part of it plus the hair, the hands, the legs, the
>nails...the list goes on. I suppose one must concede
>to the fact that Australia's delayed development
>causes it to prioritize looks over the fact that
>millions of people in the world go
>It is interesting to look at some of the
>advertisements for the beauty products. I will warn
>you, though, that coming from an emancipated society,
>these will be very disturbing. For instance, an
>advertisement for hair color us
>es the motto "L'Oreal -
>because I'm worth it". A model in an ad for a shampoo
>claims that using the shampoo gives her more
>confidence. These poor women must shampoo, condition
>and color their hair in order to legitimize
>themselves. They
>need the perfect curl, the right
>bounce and the shiniest color. Their value to society
>is directly linked to their hair.
>Other significant practices are the prevalent marriage
>customs. A woman is required to perform the ceremonial
>ing out', which can span any period of time from a
>day to ten years. This starts as early as primary
>school and as she grows up, she goes out with various
>men. Until she finds the one she wishes to marry, she
>does not commit to any one man.
>All the men she goes out with are allowed to touch her
>and sleep with her. All this time, her status and
>acceptance in society is determined by how many of
>these men she has accommodated in her life. The
>greater the quota of men, the
>more sufficient she is
>considered. Particularly in high school, young girls
>have little to contribute to their own identities.
>Their identities derive from who they go out with and
>how many boys they go out with. Though this kind of
> torture is less obvious in later years of their
>life, my conversations with many women in university
>and work indicate that they still suffer. Some feel
>they must get married in order to make a place for
>Marriage, though
> is subject to a bizarre rule. A
>woman cannot legally marry until she is eighteen years
>old without parental consent. It is socially expected,
>however, for girls under eighteen to lose their
>virginity. When I was listening to one of the popu
>radio stations, 2DayFM, I was informed that the
>average age that Australians lost their virginity at
>is between thirteen and fifteen. As a consequence of
>this, many girls under eighteen become pregnant.
>Society accepts these girls as
>mothers before eighteen
>but does not allow them to have husbands, who could
>also take responsibility as fathers to the children
>born. While women must bear the responsibility of
>parenthood, men can get away with it. This is one of
>the man
>y contradictions that exist in Australia today.
>Inequalities also exist for women who do get married.
>Marriage requires the woman to play multiple roles.
>She must be wife, mother and often a breadwinner of
>the family. She shoulders the
>responsibility of taking
>care of her husband and children at home while also
>earning money not only for herself, but also for the
>family. Whatever she earns is not solely her property.
>Unlike Islamic societies, her husband and her family
>gave a claim to her income and she even pays for
>Often, she is not given the choice of whether she
>wants to stay at home or work. The society she lives
>in enshrines materialism and money, money and more
>money. It is vital to
> their lifestyle. As a result,
>she must go out and work. On top of that, her position
>in society is judged on her ability to work outside
>the home. She must suffer the greatest burden in
>society. She really does not have the right to choose
>Can you imagine a life where your identity is judged
>by everything you have and not everything you are?
>Even more surprising is the widespread cultural
>practice of women changing their surnames to that of
>their husbands' once they a
>e married. Amanda, a law
>student, who opposes this practice, tells me that, in
>previous times, this act symbolized the transfer of
>all of a woman's rights and property to her husband
>from her father. Though the custom of a woman becoming

>her husband's property has ceased to exist, women
>still change their names to that of their husbands'.
>Seeing all this, I am aware that Australian women are
>denied the rights that are basic to many Muslim women.
>What concerns me, though
> is whether or not they are
>aware of that fact.
>I remember from my second trip to Australia that I
>felt I had a Western noose tied around my neck. I felt
>I had no space to breathe or to let myself free. The
>air around me cloaked my be
>auty, my spirit and my
>soul. But I was lucky. I could leave.
>Most of the Australian women I spoke to do not have
>that alternative. They do not even know of their
>plight. They are pushed into a corner where they
>cannot see outside the
>boundaries of such a
>fundamentally Western society. Women immune to Western
>correctness - mostly the educated Muslims - have begun
>programs to educate others around them. They are
>asserting themselves by breaking out of the
>wearing loose clothing and denying just
>anyone access to their sexuality. I see their efforts
>as a glimmer of hope. It is crucial that before women
>can improve their lot, they are taught the rights they
>have that society has taken away from
>Nevertheless, there is still hope. I call upon the
>Muslim women in the world to come to the rescue of
>Australian women. I urge that all of us stand up
>against Western oppression in different parts of the
>world. It is our responsi
>bility to bring progress into
>these societies and it is up to us to save them.

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