Extremism in any form is dangerous, particularly when religion is involved, and it really matters not which faith. In fact, fundamentalists in most religions are very similar in their thought processes and actions. Ironically, ultra conservative Muslims and Jews, as much as enmity as there is between the two, are frighteningly similar in many ways. Women are considered second class citizens. Women are not allowed to pray with men. They’re expected to birth many children and then take the whole modesty issue. Both place a premium on modesty, particularly with their women folk. While both fundamentalist Muslim and ultra-Orthodox Jewish women cover their whole body in a bid to shield themselves from the boorish, lustful eyes of men, Muslimahs wear veils to cover their heads while their Jewish counterparts have a few more options, including hats and wigs. But it appears that in Israel, some ultra-Orthodox Jewish women have started to embrace their burqa-wearing sisters and donning the full face veil rather than their wigs. Unlike Muslim men, however, who seem to want their women swathed in material from head to toe, some of the husbands of the Jewish women aren’t so happy about this excessive behaviour.
At the insistence of the husbands of some burka-wearing women, a leading rabbinical authority is to issue an edict declaring burka wearing a sexual fetish that is as promiscuous as wearing too little.
A small group of ultra-orthodox Jews in the town of Beit Shemesh chose to don the burka, usually associated with women in repressive Islamist regimes, three years ago in a bid to protect their modesty.
Since then, the habit has spread to five other Israeli towns causing alarm among ultra-orthodox religious leaders who once saw it as a relatively harmless eccentricity – even though the number of Jewish burka wearers is not thought to be more than a few hundred.
“There is a real danger that by exaggerating, you are doing the opposite of what is intended [resulting in] severe transgressions in sexual matters,” Shlomo Pappenheim, a member of the rabbinical authority preparing to make the edict, was quoted as saying.
And even though these Jewish women have the freedom and choice of not being forced to wear burkas, as so many women in countries like Afghanistan are, they are choosing to dress this way because they feel it’s the only way they can feel chaste. As if a tent over one’s body can keep one chaste. I recall an article I read about a Muslim woman in the U.S. who sued the courts because she was asked to remove her veil, which she apparently did willingly. It was later discovered that she had sent nude photos of herself to her boyfriend via her cellphone, but I digress.
One Jewish woman who insists on wearing a burka told Haaretz newspaper, that
“At first, I just wore a wig, now when I see a woman with a wig, I pray to God to forgive her for wearing that thing on her head.”
Choosing to wear Muslim garb, as Jew, isn’t without its troubles in a Jewish state. This same woman claims she has had problems with neighbours and Israeli soldiers who want proof that she is indeed Jewish. It’s also causing havoc within marriages.
The trend has also caused tensions in family life. One man went to a rabbinical court in an attempt to get a ruling to force his wife to stop wearing the burka.
The plan backfired, however. The court ruled that that woman’s behaviour was so “extreme” that it ordered the couple to undergo an immediate religious divorce.
And extreme it is. Some of the blame can be placed on the men in those religious groups. If you keep insisting that your women be modest to the extreme, if you keep placing the blame on woman for your inability to control your lust, if you keep telling a woman she is worth half what you are worth, then one day she is going to finally believe it. There is a thing called balance, which is what we should all aspire to.