© Fantasy Towers 2006
Version for “Tales of the Veils” website.
Not for reproduction on other websites or in any other publishing format.
Mr Wales was giving his explanation of what was required for his Global Studies Major Project, which would be worth twenty-five percent of each students final grade. “You will draw a culture from this box. You will eat, dress, and behave exactly like a person from your assigned culture. During that day we will displays in the gym which you will maintain and visitors will see. The Advanced Art course will be doing a contemporary project to design each of these sets.”
Jamie sat there, anxious to know which of the five cultures she would be working on. She knew this would take much work and dedication, but for honors credit it would be worth it. There wasn’t even a written report to compliment the presentations. “I bet the guys are all hoping for Japan so they can play with video games all day and claim it’s representative of all Japanese,” she thought.
“Crap,” her friend Sharona. “I drew Oman-Arab. This isn’t a good time to be impersonating someone from the Middle East.”
Jamie drew the same card. Not being as startled as Sharona, she knew that she was now about to spend a semester going down a road passing the Qur’an, life in the desert, oil, and the reality of the hostilities in the Middle East. She didn’t even think of a key facet until after class, when Sharona talked to Mr. Wales.
“Um, for the presentation in the gym, will I have to dress like a woman from the Middle East?” she asked.
“Yes. Dress is one of the parts of the culture you must learn about,” he replied.
“It’s sort of going to be goofy looking like that,” she told him.
“Everyone has to do this. You should be grateful because your costume won’t need much more than a couple of black sheets. Just think about what the girls doing Japan are going to have to get around,” he told her.
Sharona and Jamie then walked to their next class. Jamie didn’t think much of it. It would be just like dressing like a nun.
“Don’t worry, we’ll just do the project, and everyone will forget about it by the next day. Most people here at school aren’t even going to see us that day. Just a bunch of kids on a field trip,” she reassured Sharona.
Researching life in the Middle East both interested and disturbed her. These people continued traditions which had been in place for thousands of years. The Middle East was among the first places in the world to be settled. But women were certainly restricted. They couldn’t leave their homes unless they were covered head to toe and with a man.
There were two guys in their group, Justin and Ryan. They would experience the work and dress, looking like Lawrence of Arabia. Sharona joked that there should be eight girls for every guy in the group, representing polygamy in Islam. That would really get the guy’s attention. Jamie said it wasn’t in good taste.
Jamie decided to interview a Muslim cleric as part of the project. After arriving as the Regional Mosque 25 miles away, she entered the office area. The cleric certainly looked like the stereotypical Middle Easterner, but he was younger than she expected. They chatted about subjects ranging from the Qur’an to oil to Islam outside the Middle East. Then they came to the subject of veiling.
“What are your thoughts on how Muslim women dress? How do you think it is beneficial? Why do they do it?” she asked.
“The Qur’an asks women to cover to preserve their holiness, which was given to them by Allah. It benefits each woman and her family by ensuring that only her husband and blood relatives see her uncovered,” he replied.
“What do you think about niqabs and burqas?” she asked.
“The niqab is common in the Middle East and North Africa. It can be found in other places, but not as often per person. It is rare in America. The burqa only exists in Afghanistan and nearby areas. Many Muslimahs do not cover their faces, and this is alright. The face is not the most important part of the body,” he continued.
“Do you think those who do cover their faces are better?” she asked.
“Hummm, I do think it is better for a Muslimah to cover her face, yes. I understand why many do not, especially in countries where Muslims are not in the majority, but I do believe that Allah approves of women who cover their faces,” he said.
“Thank you for everything,” Jamie finished with.
The big day finally came. The art students did a great job with the display, which was larger than expected, including sand and a great background. Jamie and Sharona each prepared to don their outfits in the locker room. Jamie was down to her underwear, and put on her black pantyhose. Then she started to put on her black robe, and black sheet over her hair. Finally she used a black pillowcase over her face. Sharona followed suit and joined Jamie in their quests as niqabis. They each went out into the hallway to meet Ryan and Justin to begin their days as a foursome of Arabs.
It felt strange standing there with everything covered but their eyes. All of these middle school children walking by their station, looking at the women.
“They’re looking at us longer than they’re looking at the Japanese or African sections,” Sharona wispered to Jamie.
“That’s because we’re so much more beautiful,” she replied.
“It’s almost like wearing pajamas,” she continued.
Jamie’s boyfriend, Adam, had been part of the Japanese sector. He told her that she did great, and they had the hardest culture to portray. It had really been a great experience for Jamie.