Wednesday, October 18, 2006

My Burka Anecdote

Since Jack Straw finally spoke his mind on fully veiled Muslim women a few weeks back, he has now emerged as the most popular politician in the Labour party. And many other politicians in Britain are racing to follow suit. Even the despicable notorious Red Ken on Sunday spoke out against the full covering.

Earlier today Tony Blair joined the crowd of politicians, stating that the wearing in public of veils by Muslim women 'was a “mark of separation” that made other people feel uncomfortable.' This despite the fact that his wife Cherie was once a paid crusader, i.e., a lawyer, on the other side of the issue, fighting to permit schoolgirls to wear the hiljab to school, a garb far more restrictive than what has been up until now normative.

The latest politician to chime in is no other than leftist Prime Minister Romano Prodi of Italy, saying:
"You can't cover your face. If you have a veil, fine, but you must be seen," Prodi told Reuters, adding: "This is common sense I think, it is important for our society. It is not how you dress but if you are hidden or not."
Meanwhile, it is a good thing the leftists are all doing this. If the rightist parties in Europe and Britain were doing precisely the same thing, the leftists would be calling them fascists and against human rights, etc.

Anyway, Here's my burka anecdote. . . .

Years ago, during graduate school, after my sister had returned from a several month long trip to Afghanistan and Pakistan – while the mujahaddin were still busy fighting the communists and we were supplying them with cash and weapons and before the Taliban was created and Al Qaeda existed – I borrowed a mustard color burka she had purchased as a momento and wore it to synagogue on Purim while toting along a prayer rug I had purchased the previous spring in Turkey.

Purim, for those of you who don't know, is like the Halloween of the Jewish calendar. You go to synagogue in costume. And then for the part of in not like Halloween - you recite lengthy prayers and listen to the entire biblical text of the scroll of Esther. But then you party. And drink. And have fun.

Anyway, while dressed in the burka in synagogue, I got some priceless looks of curdling dislike until - duh! - those people realized I was wearing it in synagogue on that day because it was Purim and I was in costume. Not just a Moslem invader in full regalia in the synagogue, which is what several of those looks seemed to imply.

I have to say, it was my best costume ever on Purim. Though I sure made a number of people uncomfortable before they figured out who it was.

Years later, by some inner logic of her own, my sister did exactly the same thing - afterall, it was her burka - at a modern orthodox syngogue on the Upper East Side in NYC, on the very Purim following 9/11.

The women around her became so agitated they got the guard to come and remove her, which he did, even after she pointed out at length and vociferously that she was a member there. I guess they didn't appreciate that it was Purim either and she was in costume.

Afterwards, we all had a good laugh as to why she had done anything so ridiculous/uproarious post 9/11 - funnier because it was completely out of character for her to misjudge something so totally. She was mortified. But it still makes me laugh.


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