April 17, 2024

Hopping through Arabian Airports

I’ve heard that Qatar is one of those places where atheism carries a death sentence. We call it k’TAR, but the locals seem to call it CATTar. All I saw was Hamad Airport in Doha. It’s a huge ultra-modern hub and the people are justifiably very proud of it. It tempts me to take a look beyond the veneer. If I could get out of the airport, (which my wife asked me NOT to do) will I see a contrast?

This image is from an article warning female tourists about inappropriate dress in Islamic countries.
This image is from an article warning female tourists about inappropriate dress in Islamic countries.

The airport in Dubai was fascinating to me, because I saw numerous distinct sub-groups of Muslims, and quite a few of what I took to be Sikhs as well. Some of them may be a different type of Muslim; I don’t know. It’s funny how there would be different packs of guys all wearing the same type of white gowns and then their distinctive head gear. Five guys with the same tiny white fez-looking caps, another handful of guys with some kind of skull cap all walking together. Here’s a group with some kind of turban, I guess, all matching of course. A few of the typical Arabian head scarves. I don’t know what they’re called. And over there are a couple of guys with the most elaborate quasi-turban/scarves. What are THEY? They look like elite wealthy clerics. You never see two friends walking together each wearing a different type of gown or head covering, and that I think is because religion only divides people; it doesn’t bring them all together the way it always should if any of their bullshit beliefs were really true. And their long white gowns seem to me to be their version of being holier than thou. Does every religion play that game?

When I landed at the airport in Muscat, it was a very different experience. Oman has a feeling of 3rd world instability to it. There were none of the wealthy elite that I saw before; only the poorer types. This is where the local women are commonly covered in [what I think are] the ugliest, most oppressive ways. Plenty of full burqas and otherwise just faces showing, as if any part of every female is either so hideous or so compulsively corrupting that it all has to be covered up in disgust. Look at all the little old ladies who were put down this way all their lives. How sad is that? Whether I could see their faces or not, I could see their hands. In most cases that I saw, even on the young ones, they were badly calloused and didn’t even look like the hands of a young woman. They looked like the scarred paws of laborers.

This image is from an article on the legal enforcement of a dress code for women in Oman.
This image is from an article on the legal enforcement of a dress code for women in Oman.

The worst example I saw was in India. While going through customs I saw two women who were apparently the property of a man who looked to me like the Muslim version of Fiddler On The Roof. He was a thick mean-looking brute from another era. I wondered, did this guy really live in the 1800s? Because that’s what he looked like. His women were concealed worse than the Arabian burqas, what a British child described as mailbox ladies. These women had shrouds sewn in such a way that only one eye could be seen through a tear-drop shaped opening, as if they’re hiding. As if I might pull off their shroud and find some hideous elephant man lurking under there and screaming “Don’t look at me”. As sad as that was to see, what’s worse is that they don’t even know how sad that is. That this could be a normal level of shame in anyone’s life for their WHOLE life would move me to tears if I let myself think about it for too long.

And next to them were a pair of pretty young European college girls wearing skin-tight leggings instead of pants. These show off their most intimate curves and contours in a way that must seem shameful to the Muslim women. I’m thinking that if she’s got a body that nice, it’s no wonder she shows it off. And here’s the important part, regardless what that girl is wearing now, she has a choice to wear what she wants, and even more important is that both of these girls are visibly happy. They seemed to be delighted with themselves and everything around them, and that obviously doesn’t have anything to do with whether they’ve chosen to show off their asses today. I think it’s because they weren’t raised under a sack of shame. They can be who they want to be.

In a healthy society, they’re not going to get raped for exposing their curves like that. Rather than force that lovely lass into cowering under cover forever just to keep her from tempting me, it seems relatively easy for me to sneak a quick glance and politely look away, rather than stare with my mouth hanging open, like I want to. I’ve heard a lot of stories about Muslims being excused for raping girls just because they saw their cascading hair and couldn’t be expected to control themselves. I don’t think it’s that difficult to control my urges at the site of a fit female form. But maybe that’s because I’ve had some practice at it. I grew up in Los Angeles. I’ve got this down.

Now I admit that I don’t know anything about these people’s perspective, and that I’m only looking at this through the biases of a western skeptical secularist. But I feel like I’m looking at them as a humanist, wondering how they don’t feel oppressed by having to cover up this way, without any option of fashion or expression, as if they should be ashamed of being born into a lesser gender.  It saddens me to see a whole culture in forced conformity, with even the men all having to look alike, all in white gowns while their women are in all black head-to-toe. In a group, they look like a mix of pawns on a chess board, and that seems symbolically appropriate in my view. It’s such a sad thing how religion dominates and dictates that culture in way that seems to me to be entirely indefensibly and inexcusably negative.

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