Sunday, September 09, 2007

Infidel II

There's another excellent passage in Infidel (see 'Infidel' post below) I'd like to share because it deals with - in a perfectly amusing way - the idea of Muslim women having to cover up, to not expose any skin or hair, for if men see a woman in revealing clothing they will be driven into an uncontrollable sexual frenzy (which of course is the woman's fault), and if this happens on a large scale, in a city for instance, the result will be fitna, or total chaos, anarchy.

This part of the book is where Ayaan Hirsi Ali has travelled to Holland - she is supposed to be on her way to Canada to join her new husband in an arranged marriage that was forced on her and that she wants no part of. At this point she has realised that her only chance for a life of freedom is to stay in Europe. She is staying at a refugee processing centre sharing a bungalow with Ethiopian girls.

Growing up in Nairobi, everyone knew about Ethiopians: they seemed to have sex whenever they felt like it. There was a house of young Ethiopian refugees down the road from us, and people used to say they went at it like goats, all the time. The Ethiopians would insult the Somalis in return, saying Somalis don't know how to enjoy sex and are all frustrated, that's why they're always fighting people. This kind of caricature very much informed how we felt about Christians, because Somalis and Ethiopians have always been at each other's throats, since time began.

"Why should I uncover my naked skin?" I asked Mina. "Don't you have any shame? What are you hoping to achieve walking around undressed? Don't you know how it affects men?"

"I wear these skirts because I like having pretty legs," said Mina. "They won't be pretty for long, and I want to enjoy them." She shook one at me and said, "If anyone else enjoys them, so much the better."

I couldn't believe it. I said, "This is precisely the opposite of what I have been brought up to believe." And all of them, because all the girls had gathered around by now, chimed in, "But why? Why are all you Muslims so difficult?"

"But if men see women dressed like you are now, with your arms bare and everything naked, then they will become confused and sexually tempted," I told them. "They will be blinded by desire."

The girls began laughing, and Mina said, "I don't think it's really like that. And you know, if they get tempted, that's not such a big deal."

By then I was wailing, because I could see what was coming, but I said, "But they won't be able to work, and the buses will crash, and there will be a state of total fitna!"

"So why is there not a state of total chaos everywhere around us, here, in Europe?" Mina asked.

It was true. All I had to do was use my eyes. Europe worked perfectly, every bus and clock of it. Not the first tremor of chaos was detectible. "I don't know," I said helplessly. ""It must be because these are not really men."

"Oh? They are not really men, these big strong blond Dutch workers?" By this time the Ethiopian girls were almost weeping with laughter at the bumpkin that I was. They thought it was such Muslim bullshit. We Muslims were always boasting about something or other, but our whole culture was sexually frustrated. And who on earth did I think I was to personally wreak fitna on the world? They were friendly, because they knew it wasn't my fault I felt this way, but they really let me have it.

I got up and put on my headscarf, and stood at the doorway of the bungalow. A group of Bosnian asylum seekers lived a little farther on, and they were talking in the sun. These woman were supposed to be Muslim, but they were really almost naked, wearing short shorts and T-shirts with not even a bra, so you could see their nipples. Men worked nearby, or sat and talked to them quite normally, apparently not even noticing them. I stared at them for a long time, thinking, Could there be some truth to what the Ethiopian girls had said?

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