As a man, who has never been a Muslim, it may be quite easy to discount what I have to say ad hominem discussing the hijab, attitudes towards wearing and experiences in US and France – until you realise that the Jehovah’s Witnesses I studied with have a head covering requirement for women. My perspective is based on actual observation and experience from a different background.
1 Corinthians 11:2-15
King James Version
2 Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you.
3 But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.
4 Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head.
5 But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven.
6 For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered.
7 For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man.
8 For the man is not of the woman: but the woman of the man.
9 Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.
10 For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels.
11 Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.
12 For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God.
13 Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered?
14 Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?
15 But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering.
Based on this if a sister led a prayer with a brother present she had to wear a head scarf. Usually this practise did not happen because a brother would always lead a prayer. The one occasion this did not happen, was in my presence, a few days after the elders were happy that I was ready for baptism. The sister that was to lead my mother and myself in prayer felt obliged to wear a headscarf when I was the only male present before we did a home bible study.
Then there was the time years before when a ministerial servant felt my hair was too long, and that it should be cut shorter. To be on the safe side I went for a crew cut. That should keep me on the right side for a few months I thought.
These experiences feel ridiculous now – if a woman could be a prophet why could she not lead a prayer without resorting to a piece of fabric on her head to be the equal of men? Long hair for a man – a matter of culture through the civilisations rather than a matter of divinely graded measurement.
The worse that could have happened? Disciplinary procedures, which could have resulted in shunning and being disfellowshipped. That would come under apostasy for rebelling against Society teaching of scripture.
The link above goes into great detail regarding the whole process this involves. We can say that religion is a voluntary process, but the impact is very real when part of such a community. Even though I chose to leave before going through with the baptism.
The baggage is real, and getting out of it a new way of thinking. Becoming chess school captain, main actor in school play, vice chair youth council – these things would be seen as commendable for a young person to be involved with. It would have been frowned upon or not allowed with the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Issues of free choice, and lack of compulsion are at the heart of thinking about specific laws to prevent coercion – for example wearing the hijab in public. It misses that women may voluntarily choose to wear such items. The sister at the home study did not have to wear – I was a child and not yet a brother – she wanted to do this as her expression of faith.
Religious freedom means for me you may voluntarily choose to be part of a faith and there is no legal remit to follow religious doctrine. You can ask me to leave your church if my hair is too long, but you cannot deny me the right to walk the streets with my hair long.
The ability to speak for change should be open without reproach, yet the sect provision means you will be out of the Jehovah’s Witnesses for daring to suggest Society is wrong, or could do with a rethink. We were told to wait regarding women entering senior levels of ministry – rather than discuss.
The laws of the land should protect women from reprisals that endanger them. Specific laws targeting specific religions aimed at a specific gender homing in on a specific garments – suggest peculiar special treatment. We need to think carefully when thinking of such a law the liberty of someone that freely choses to practise their faith or express cultural identity is not affected on our streets.
Sisters should be choosing it for themselves. That is the bottom line.
We can still challenge the ideas that lie behind misogynistic thinking as expressed by Paul.
Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog