Want to improve your English speaking abilities? Want to get some high pressure, intense yet fun practice. We hold the story telling challenge periodically to reward our listeners for working on their English. Today one of the winners, Mais, joins myself and Edward for a discussion about a topic that has been shrouded in controversy over the last few years.
All right, what's up everyone? Today is the podcast for Monday, November 28th and we have one of the winners from the story telling challenge number two, Mais, on the podcast. How's it going, Mais?
Good. How are you?
I'm good, I'm good. We also got Edward on the podcast. How's it going, Edward?
I'm going well, I'm doing well.
You're doing well.
It's going well, it's going well. Thank you.
All right, you guys want to get to know each other briefly for a minute?
Sure. So this is the first time that we are meeting. Mais, so nice to meet you.
Tru, nice to meet you too.
Where are you, where are we speaking to you? No wait. Where are you, as we are speaking to you?
Okay, right now I'm in Tampa, Florida, the US.
And what's the weather like in Tampa, Florida? It looks like ...
Well, actually I'm scared to tell you because you might kill me. while it's very cold over there while we're having very nice weather. It's like around 15 Celsius.
Which is nice.
Yeah, I think today's not too bad. I think it's probably about five degrees, so only about ten degrees difference today.
Yeah, I'd take the 15 though.
Well, that is too much. Actually in a few hours it's going to go up to 26, 27 or something.
Okay, then we'll be angry.
Yeah, then we'll be very ...
We'll call you back in a few hours to yell at you.
Let's start this conversation. Today we're going to talk about a controversial subject. It's been in the news a lot in the last few years in Montreal, and I'm sure it's been in the news in many places around the world.
So we're going to talk about the hijab or head coverings. Mais, can you tell us right off the bat, what do you think about ... Like a lot of people have a negative opinion in the western world about them. Do you think that they kind of take away freedoms from women? Or do you think that they give the woman a certain freedom in a certain way that western women maybe don't have?
Yeah, well first of all it sounds bad right now that women have, or people in general, having bad or negative opinions toward it. But actually, I can see it from the positive way. It's nice to be curious about something. At that point you start to learn about it. Then that, if that wasn't happen like people would never be curious, like why those people are covering or doing this. Right?
Right. That's interesting, I never thought of it like that.
Yeah, well I'm always trying to look at the positive side for every single ... like I believe that we are blessed with something called a Islamphobia. Actually it's something good that because it raised us to go back to our religion and study more, learn more, so we can ... And that's for our good, our own benefits.
Anyways, so the hijab actually is not, it's a kind of freedom. We do it first of all because we are Muslim and we believe in God, and this is God's instructions to us so we don't argue about it. But, why it's freedom? Because we actually tried by covering our heads or tried to dress in a certain way, is covering our physical beauty and try to manifest the beauty of our personalities. Beauty of mind and so we can interact with other people, specifically the other, the opposite sex in a way that more justice, like more fairness because we gonna talk about, we will discuss issues rather than just let them focus on how we do look like. Right? Well, it's not clear, probably I didn't make it clear.
I think I understand that idea, so basically to remove any distraction to ...
Exactly. For example, [inaudible 00:04:32] went to people while apply for a job if the woman looks like, not like but similar, like where she has only to show her skills and her knowledge and cover her beauty, she will be equal to the man who is applying for the same job. Both of them will have the same chance or opportunity to get the job. When she's wearing half covered, half naked, she's going to be like she'll have more chance to get the job, not because she's qualified for that, just because she looks nice.
You're saying that the hijab can allow women to be seen for their work skills and for who they are rather than just for their looks.
Yeah, you can focus on my thoughts, on my knowledge, on my personality. I can't, rather than my physical beauty.
It still does have to do with beauty, though, in terms of you, the hijab that you're wearing now, is nicely decorated. There's still some fashion element, some aesthetic element to it. You
Then I'm doing it wrong and I should change it. I shouldn't do this anymore. That explains why some people wear the black ones or try to cover more or try to ... The idea is to look modest, to show that decency and modesty. If you are not doing this, then you are doing it in a wrong way. You should fix it.
Okay, so that's where just a plain of black color or a dark color, that's more of a modest choice.
Exactly. And some people need to cover their faces as well and their hands. It's not just my opinion but for others like the says they have to do this as long as they're a source of infatuation. If there's a source for that then she has to do it. As long as she won't attract anyone, like I'm here in the US. No one is going to look at me because they have other options much better. Then I won't be a source of infatuation. In Jedah, for example, in Saudi Arabia, in the same city there are some places where I can't go without covering my face because otherwise all people are going to stare at me and I would be just uncomfortable with the situation.
My thing is that like in one way I understand you and I think that makes sense in a certain sense, like if a woman is wearing that then it does take away like a certain relationship where the man may just see the woman as oh, she's a beautiful thing. She's something that I can have or something, you know like. In that sense it puts you as equals. At the same time, I think if a man can only see a woman's beauty and can't like interact with her on a higher level than that, then maybe kinda shows that the man is not really in control of his own energy and his own, himself.
Let's say if you did not have your head covering on right now and I was like, "Oh, my God. Mais is ..." If I couldn't interact with you normally ...
Exactly. It's just like the sign. I'm sending you a sign. We do have limits. We can be friends. We're not going to cross that limit. It's not just for certain case which is me. It's applicable on everyone else.
I know, but I'm just talking about I've heard ... This is just something that I've heard. Some people when they go through the airport in Saudi, the women that don't, they're not Muslims, they don't have head covers, they get treated very strangely for them because the men in Saudi are not used to seeing that.
Yeah, they're gonna stare at them. That's why in Saudi Arabia it's better for them to cover, at least at that part. Some other places in Judah, like Abdeen and some places like coffees shops and restaurants, you would never see anyone covered unfortunately. They call themselves Muslims but you won't see any single woman is covered with her scarf. I look weird to them when I go there. Yeah, it's based on that place, where are you. In general, I'm wearing my scarf first of all to tell people I'm a Muslim. What does that mean? It means that you are going to deal with someone with good manner character. Muslims have to be honest, have to be peaceful, love others, defend others, generous, compassionate, just and the list goes on. This will give you relief that who you are going to deal with.
Your neighbor, for instance, a Muslim then you expect what you're going to see. If you saw your coworker is a Muslim, then you'll ... It is important to cover my beauty but it's not just, it doesn't stop at that point. It means a lot of other things as well.
Obviously this is tradition and it has a long history to it, but why is it that men have never had to wear the equivalent of a hijab? Why is it that men don't offer the same distractions. There's a very handsome man. I don't care what he's saying. I don't care what his ideas. I'll look at his face, very handsome. Why isn't there the equivalent for men?
Because, this is my thing, but because men are not primary valued for their beauty. It's kinda a sad reality that as women ... You know this. In Asian countries like Korea, if a woman's 30 and she's not married, then she's pretty much considered finished. Its' the end of the line. Their primary value is their beauty. It's not accurate. It's not realistic. Like a woman can be beautiful and be very capable of doing many things, but that's my opinion. What do you think about that, Mais? What's your opinion about why men have never had to have a hijab?
Well the men part of hijab actually is to lowering their gaze when they are going to see someone which is pretty nice or beauty. They have to lower. They shouldn't stare or keep staring or gazing at her. Why they don't cover their hair, for instance, because usually the the woman who spends most of her time and effort on fixing her hair in order to look more pretty, the men doesn't do the same thing in order to look handsome.
Some men might. I mean, maybe it's more common in North American than in the Middle East, but some men will grow their hair out long and spend just as much time treating their hair as a woman.
How would you look at them, like you? Don't you going to see them they are silly?
Well not necessarily silly. It's not something that ... I'm not going to spend 45 minutes or an hour doing my hair, but maybe if my hair was beautiful and long and luscious, then ...
I don't think it's just normal for men to do that. Actually, how a woman would look at a man, not on their faces maybe, on their buddies when they work out or look nice, okay, this is an attractive man. If he's spending time on fixing his eyebrows or his hair, it's I don't know, worse than a woman. I don't want such a man.
Right, traditionally it's seen as a bit feminine but I think it's more common in Korea. Korea is the number one seller of men's makeup.
Yeah, I think men's makeup is becoming more common. Okay, to me again, I would not wear makeup because I'm not expected to wear makeup and it doesn't really appeal to me.
And you're so handsome.
I'm already naturally so handsome. You know, you can see I have a beard. Sometimes I get comments from other men or from women. They say, "Oh, your beard looks nicely trimmed," as if I have worked all morning to make it perfect. But it's not true, but some people might look at me and think, "Oh, he must spend a lot of time grooming himself." So it does relate. There are, I'm sure, some people who would think it's quite similar in terms of the effort that men and women are putting into their appearance.
Again, you won't be a source of infatuation.
I won't be?
I'm very disappointed, then.
No, you won't be. Yeah, you look nice. You look good, but okay. That's it. You're not going to do a problem, cause a problem. The hijab is more about behavior, manner. It's like speech and appearance and all. It's multiple elements together just to look modest in order to save, like the woman going to save herself, her family, and eventually the whole community or the whole society.
Let's move on quickly to one more thing. I want to talk about you said at the beginning Islamophobia is kind of like you look at it in a positive way because now people are becoming more curious about Islam. I think a lot of people probably in North America or in some European countries, their Islamophobia, maybe part of it comes from all the terrorist acts that happen once in a while, but the other part of it comes from the belief that they're not going to integrate into the culture because I think you know the religion with a lot of people is very strong. They pray five times a day. They take their religion very seriously whereas some North American people are very relaxed about their religion. I know for one thing, you are someone who has integrated very well. You go out and you connect with people in the North American culture who are not part of the Muslim world. What do you think about that? Do you think that it's important for them to integrate or do you think most people will? Do you think that this is an issue?
I think what you are talking about is just available on the media or how some people try to manifest the issue. In reality, no. Did you meet or have you ever met someone who wasn't able to get involved in any issue or ...
I would say Edward and I worked at an ESL school, not at the same time but at the same school. There was many Saudi students. There was many Libyan students. I know it depends on the student. Some students there was no way they were ever going to integrate. They came to the class. They did the class. They left. They didn't really mix with other students.
Do you know why?
I just think it was they were too ... I don't know. I don't know why. I think they're very deeply involved in their religion.
The students that I'm thinking of, they were very conservative.
Yeah, very conservative.
I had different students. I had Saudi students and the men and the women. Just one woman in particular, she chose to wear a burka, I mean a full niqab, I think even a full burka in class. She had to sit beside female students. She had to do assignments with female students because her husband was also a student there. I think she was just very conservative in her values. She would not even speak to another Saudi student's father if they met on the street. So I think she was just very, very conservative. That was her reason.
Well, yeah because this is the way how she raise. Okay, then, yeah I would say she's a Muslim and she conservative, but it's not something applicable to every single Muslim. This is her case. This is her environment that she was raised on. It doesn't mean that Muslims are the same way. Muslims you're going to, when you go to the east and you visit Saudi Arabia or Syria or Jordan or Lebanon, you're going to see different things, different traditions, different environments. In Judah itself, the city where I have been raised as I told you, you're going to see different things in different societies in there. It's not about maybe religion. I don't think that Muslims cannot integrate because I hear like there is 35,000 Muslim in Tampa. It's pretty important for us. It's from our religion, actually, to go and integrate with a society, to help and interact with people because this is how we going to let people know what our religion.
Some people try just to go to see what, to find the spots where Muslims are located and just to go with them, but when you talk to the Islamic scholars they are against this idea. No, you have to reach the places where you won't find Muslims because the something? is coming from inside you. It's not something you cannot acquire it.
Actually just recently in Montreal there was a news story about a man who, a Muslim man from Egypt who came to Canada who wants to start a community. Everybody's paying attention to this because his idea is to start a community, a Muslim community, but he's saying the only reason it's a Muslim community is because he wants to buy property and he figured it's easier to buy property with other people. Who does he ask first? He asks his friends who happen to be Muslim because just because they're his closest friends. Those are the people he knows. People, maybe they wouldn't pay attention to this if I decided to buy land and I asked my friends to help me. Nobody would care, but because he's Muslim it becomes, "Wait, do we want an all Muslim community only 30 minutes from Montreal? What are they going to do? What are they going to plan?"
I heard him talking on the radio and I felt sorry for him because nobody understands what he's actually trying to do. He wasn't even able to explain it clearly because he was saying one thing and then backtracking saying, "No, I will invite anybody to come but I am asking these people first. If I don't have to ask other people, I won't ask other people."
Then, "Oh, so you don't want other people."
It's hard for people, I think, just to look at the situation and not be influenced by what they already think.
The media and .
The way the media covers it, too. It's not a news story but they make it a news story. People think, "Oh, then we should be worried."
Right. All right, this has been interesting but we're going to have to wrap it up because I got to actually have the ... I have a student very shortly. But Mais, thank you so much for coming on and having this discussion with us.
Thank you, Edward, for coming too.
If you guys listening to the podcast have any comments or any opinions about this subject, yeah, put it in the comment section below. We'll catch you next time on the next podcast of Uncensored English.