Monday, May 01, 2006

Lipstick In My Hair

Last Friday I managed to make the prayers at the mosque. I'm always happy when that happens for a variety of reasons. One of which is that I can remember complaining for years about the fact that mosques in UAE have no place for female worshippers. Always saw that as blatant discrimination against women. Very annoying to see when even the most conservative sheikh will tell you that men & women are equal in spiritual matters. Isn't prayer a spiritual matter? If we're equal to men in spiritual matters then at the very least we should have equal access to houses of God.

Now that this has changed I feel I would be a real hypocrite if I don't pray at the mosque every chance I get. Just couldn't live with myself.

Of course the discrimination hasn't completely disappeared. Mosques with a seperate division for women are still in the minority. So we usually need to drive to get to one while men rarely do. Of course if the mosque doesn't have an entirely seperate room with seperate washing areas etc...for women, then we're not allowed in at all. This seems unfair to me. We only get to hear the Imam through a TV screen in the women's section. During sermons or religion classes only men get to ask questions. We can't obviously because he couldn't hear us. I've seen some women writing their questions on a piece of paper & handing them to their husbands or sometimes to a kindly looking male stranger before going into the mosque.

I thought that in the Prophet's day men & women all prayed in the same congregation?

My other gripe is about those sermons. A by-product of Sept.11 has been that all mosques in UAE now have to preach exactly the same sermon. And I mean exactly. As in word for word. It comes typed-up on a piece of paper from the Ministry of Religious Affairs. Any Imam who says a word outside the script gets immediately deported if he's an expatriate or fired if he's a local. All said scripts are strictly apolitical. They talk about things like Islamic dining table etiquette, or the Islamic way to knock on doors before going into people's houses etc....And they don't answer questions outside the designated topic.

I have mixed feelings about that really. On one hand it's nice that one no longer hears calls for hatred & violence coming out of the loudspeakers in the mosques. Some of them used to be quite distasteful. On the other hand, in the old days if you didn't enjoy one Imam's sermons at least you could change mosques & listen to something more inspiring. There was a lot of variety. That's no longer an option. They all have the same sermon & you're stuck with it.

The quote that keeps springing to my mind is "You have not converted a man because you have silenced him". In my humble opinion we need more discussion about fanaticism within Islam, its disregard for the value of human life, the viciousness it displays against women, disbelievers & even other Muslims. We need to talk about it more, analyze it & eradicate it. Simply silencing those who call for this fanaticism is just burying our heads in the sand, failing to confront them, failing to subtantiate our claim that they are distorting Islam. And what better place to fight this battle than the mosque?

Anyway I guess that is too much to ask of a country like UAE with a clearly stated policy of staying out of all regional conflicts - not getting on anyone's bad side. This is the Switzerland of the ME. You can't expect Emaratis to fight battles of any type. They're too busy trying to find a cool new ringtone for their mobile phones to bother. I swear this country is sometimes like an island in a turbulent sea. Except the islanders have very little awareness of the turbulent sea.

It was such a shock for me when I first saw the Boycott Danish signs in Carrefour. I mean this was so unEmarati!

So yeah I guess simply silencing the mosques is the patented, Emarati way of handling controversy.

Walking out of the mosque on Friday I had a strange encounter. My car was parked about 20 minutes walk away from the mosque because it's simply impossible to find parking space around a major mosque on Friday. Not unless you're there very early & everyone knows very early is just not me. Am more like very late.

I don't wear hijab but I do cover for prayer. On that particular day I was wearing a silk sheila & abaya on top of my jeans & t-shirt. Normally I would wait until am in my car before I take it off rather than start undressing in the middle of the street. But the weather was horrible & the walk in the sun was making me so sticky I felt I was suffocating in all that silk. So I stopped, took it off, stuffed it in my backpack & was about to move on when I heard someone say: "That's better."

I turned around & it was a British guy. About the same age as me. In shorts & sleeveless t-shirt. Clearly out walking the dog.

I said :"Excuse me, were you talking to me?" He said yes he just thought I looked really hot & bothered in the hijab & that I looked much better without it.

I didn't know what to say. So I just turned around & walked off. I heard him saying :"Sorry" but I never looked back.

Am so sick of the hijab debate. Sick of both sides. Those who think it's what defines a good Muslima. And those who refuse to accept that a woman has a right to veil if she wants. I find both sides intrinsically hostile to women because they treat us like idiots who shouldn't be trusted to choose what we want to wear today. And because of both sides life as a Muslim woman is becoming extremely stressful. If you wear it you face harrassment & discrimination from one group. If you don't wear it you face harrassment & discrimination from the other group. It's like both sides are forcing you to take sides in a conflict you think should not exist & have no interest in. Why is a woman's clothing such a polarizing issue? Why isn't it that way for men?

On a personal level, it always makes me livid when people think they can tell me what to wear. It's something I consider completely personal. And it's particularly infuriating coming from total strangers in the street. Normally I would have said something very rude. He was just lucky that I'm so overdosed on the hijab debate. I couldn't face it. So I ignored him.

And went home in a very bad mood. The traffic didn't help either.

When I got home my husband was in the living room, watching TV, having arrived home AGES before me since he, being male, just attended the mosque next door. And being male, he didn't have to cope with Friday noon traffic. And of course being male, he didn't have to deal with any hijab issues.

I stared at him resentfully for a second then without a word, I went & threw myself on the couch next to him, waiting for the air-conditioning to cool me off. I was thinking given the fact that we only have one couch big enough for a human adult to stretch out on the least he could do was get up & let me have it to myself. Couldn't he see how hot & tired & annoyed I was?

Apparently he could because he did get up & move into an armchair. I mumbled thanks & lay on the couch. A second later I felt his fingers in my hair. He said: "You have lipstick in your hair."

Let me explain. When your hair is impossible to control like mine & it's always getting in your face, sometimes it will touch your lips & stick in your lipstick. You pull it away of course but then the wind blows it back in your face. And ok I'll admit that I will sometimes chew on a strand of hair when am particularly stressed about something. The end result is that sometimes I look in the mirror & find lipstick smears all over my hair.

I tell him that it's MY hair & am tired of people telling me what to do with it. That I can show it or cover it if & when I choose. And that if it pleases me to wear lipstick in my hair then am well within my rights as a human being to do so.

He didn't say anything. Just kept on wiping lipsick from my hair, strand by strand.

Then I remembered you're not supposed to wear lipstick to the prayers & felt I should explain myself. So I told him I did try to wipe off my lipstick before I washed for prayer but I guess not all of it came off.

Again he didn't say anything. I guess he wasn't in the mood to talk.



Blogger Safiya said...

Hear, hear LouLou. I feel like the Little Match Girl at most mosques, sat in tatty surroundings (otherwise known as the Women's Section), peeking into the comparative luxury of where the men get to pray.

As for the whole Hijab debate, men should not be so preoccupied with women's bodies, they should lower their gaze and mind their own business!

5/01/2006 08:12:00 PM  
Blogger forsoothsayer said...

actually in egypt u only attract criticism if you don't wear the hijab. but you're right...doesn't everything about being a woman really come down to: give us the choice, you pieces of shit!

5/01/2006 09:42:00 PM  
Blogger Maxxed`ouT said...

geez u're so angry !
maybe he didn't mean it in a hostile way ?
maybe he just felt it was really hot and u're better off without the extra fabric on your body ? ...
and to forsootsayer
i for one am not pro-hijab at all .
for instance i'd never get involved with someone who wears hijab ...

5/01/2006 11:35:00 PM  
Blogger Crazy Girl said...

yeah I hear you lou lou, forsooth is right..In Egypt it's freakin nuts.If one more person tells me to wear the hijab I'm gonna scream! Today a lady in the metro told me that I need to go home and find the rest of my pants cause I was wearing capris and told me that girls should be covered.

I told her If wanted your opinion I would have asked and than I walked away..

Maybe they don't make room for women in every mosque cause they think we should just be home 24/7 waiting to serve our men!

5/02/2006 01:07:00 AM  
Blogger FreudianSlip said...

Yeah we have the same problem here. There's a Bosnian mosque across the street from where i work that locks the back door so women can't really access it unless they go around, knock and ask somebody to open it.

forsoothsayer- I think you attract criticism depending on where you're at. Believe you me, when i wore the hijab my family and friends back home weren't at all happy- they thought i was brainwashed by Muslim extremists in Canada but they're slowly accepting it and finally starting to see that i'm still *me*.

maxxed`out- what you said was so random.

5/02/2006 03:37:00 AM  
Blogger Cliche~ said...

Yes well i suppose many ppl do not see the fakeness of this new liberalism "women have the right to uncover even if they dont want to" kind of thing! It's like a new form of FANATICISM except completely the other way round... why can;t ppl understand that the word LIBERAL/OPEN MINDED is by definition unrestricted??

Oh come on maxxed out... this guy does not come from lil sunset land... he supposedly lives in the middle east and has at least the ABC knowledge about the culture and religion to know that veil is more than just "extra fabric". So he knew exactly well the implications of what he was saying..

Plus since when did random strangers get the right to throw personal comments at anyone? Would u have thought the same if a religious guy turns to loulou and says "oh that is so much worse put it back on again!" I mean seriously how different would it be?

5/02/2006 02:56:00 PM  
Blogger Leilouta said...

My cousin wore a dress once while swimming at the beach. A man passed by her and laughed saying," What is this? Are you girls Saudi?"
We love to comment on everything in my country. My mom once got a comment from a strange female asking her if she wasn't too hot wearing that turtleneck shirt !

One of my wildest dreams as a kid was to have the ability to become transparent :)

5/02/2006 09:54:00 PM  
Blogger bb said...

i am a British non-muslim female but anti-hijab jibes makes me so mad. i often hear criticisms of women who wear hijab, as if those who adopt it are simply indoctrinated and bowing to patriarchal pressure. what a joke! since when was western dress autonomous and not culturally specific? The fashion media say "polka dots" or "bottle green" and millions of women jump to follow (me included). and what's so liberating about flashing acres of back flesh or cleavage to any passerby who cares to look? nobody chooses the clothes they wear without being influenced by the culture they feel they belong to. i respect those who wear hijab and those who chose not to. i respect freedom of choice.

5/02/2006 10:42:00 PM  
Blogger Safiya said...

I have a question for Maxxed out: Why would you not get "involved" with a woman who wears hijab? Is that not just as shallow as guys who hold the opposite view?

5/02/2006 11:25:00 PM  
Blogger Cliche~ said...

I think I would disagree with that Safiya. I mean its one thing being judgemental vs. not judgemental on veiled or non veiled women..and its another picking a partner...

In that case its not a matter of holding anything against either type of women.. its just about picking the right type for you...someone who has ur same morals in life

5/03/2006 03:22:00 AM  
Blogger Nora said...

A lot of people believe that women who wear hijab are oppressed and pressured by their religion or culture to do so....hence the guy's comment to Loulou; he probably thought that you'd appreciate the comment Loulou. People should understand that whether or not we choose to wear hijab is something very personal, and should not be subject to comments, critisicm or judgement from anyone.

5/03/2006 09:48:00 AM  
Blogger Maxxed`ouT said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

5/03/2006 10:35:00 PM  
Blogger Safiya said...

Maxxed Out - Thank you for such a detailed answer. I'm sorry if the tone of my question was a bit judgemental.

5/03/2006 11:21:00 PM  
Blogger Rambling Hal said...

Loulou, this is not exactly pertinent to this post, but I have to blurt this out.

I'm a fan! Seriously, I've discovered your blog a few weeks ago and I very much enjoy reading your writing - I love your style and I would love to see this all published. As a writer myself, I can't help but tell you I think you're a GREAT one!

So yeah, just thought I'd share my adulation. :)

5/04/2006 12:46:00 AM  
Blogger LouLou said...


"I feel like the Little Match Girl at most mosques, sat in tatty surroundings (otherwise known as the Women's Section), peeking into the comparative luxury of where the men get to pray."

Really?And I thought that was an exclusively Emarati problems. You see it's not like that in Casa at all. Women just pray behind the men. Once because the mosque was really small & full, they let us women have the mosque to ourselves & the men prayed outside infront of the mosque in the sun. Which I thought was really sweet.


"actually in egypt u only attract criticism if you don't wear the hijab."

In Morocco girls who wear hijab sometimes get sworn at & accused of being terrorists/extremists in the street. Or people ask them if they have hair. Or they get accused of having a dark past. Apparently in Moroccan society, hijab in the cities would only be worn by former prostitutes or bellydancers who want to convince the community they've now repented & are rehabilitated etc....

In UAE, once a friend & I were not allowed into a beach club - where we're both members incidentally - because she was wearing a BANDANA. The idiot at the gate told her she has to take it off, that she couldn't come in with anything on her head. He wouldn't believe it wasn't meant to be a hijab. He said that there were naked people inside who would be embarrassed by having hijabed women see them. Which is ridiculous. Why would a naked person feel any better about his/her nakedness just because someone else removed their headcover?

And I've lost count of the number of unhijabed girls I've seen who'll comment on the hijab of other girls in the malls, in the bathroom, in the changing rooms, in the coffee shops. They'll tell them things like you shouldn't wear make-up/jeans/high heels etc...if you want to be muhajaba. Or muhajaba wi tidakhneen(muhajaba & you smoke?). Or '7abibti sha3rik tali3'(honey your hair is showing) if she has 3 hairs showing or something. And this coming from girls in sleeveless tops or plunging necklines. Once we were having sheesha with a couple of Emarati friends in hijab & some guy passed by & told them that 'elmit-7ajaba tig3ad ibait-ha'(A woman in hijab should stay at home)!

Not to mention that I know several girls who lost their job for wearing hijab. And that's in a predominantly Muslim country like UAE. Don't even want to think about what life would be like wearing hijab in Paris for example.

So no life is not all roses & light if you choose to wear hijab. I used to think that before I got a chance to get to know & go out with girls who wear it.

And it's so unfair that it doesn't happen to men. I mean men who wear short jalabiyas & have long beards don't get harrassed. Neither do men who wear shorts, have ponytails & tattoos. It's just women who are objectified & defined by their appearance. Which is sick.

Maxxed Out,

"geez u're so angry !
maybe he didn't mean it in a hostile way ?"

I know he didn't mean it in a hostile way. He didn't sound hostile at all.

I got pissed off because it was none of his business. And because am tired of people telling me to either wear it or take it off. Or judging me based on that.

I mean he was wearing jewellery. I hate jewellery on men. But I didn't tell him what I liked or disliked about his appearance because he didn't ask for my opinion. He should have shown me the same respect.


"I told her If wanted your opinion I would have asked and than I walked away.."

Good for you. You know what I did once? I was wearing a sleeveless top & I had a scarf on my shoulders. It was in the co-op. A lady & her husband told me this scarf is too see-through & doesn't cover anything. So I said wallah? And I took it off & tied it on my handbag. I thought it made a really nice handbag accessory. But somehow I don't think that was the result they were hoping for.:)

It was funny to hear them muttering a3oothobillah & astagfirullah as they walked away. Idiots! If their faith is so weak it's going to be shaken by the sight of my bare shoulders then nothing can save them.


"Yeah we have the same problem here."

In Canada too?Ok that's it. Let's start an international advocacy group & call it "Mosques for Women".

Actually what always worries me about people who discourage women from going to mosques is that if they can't even accept us in the mosque then how will they accept us anywhere else outside the home?Like at work? Or on the street driving our cars? The plight of Saudi women comes to mind here. I don't think they let women in mosques in Saudi either.

The Islamic religious establishment has been exclusively male for too long. This is why it's rulings are so unsympahtetic to women. Women need to penetrate it not only as worshippers. As interpreters & scholars & clerics too.


"I mean seriously how different would it be?"

It would be exactly the same.


"One of my wildest dreams as a kid was to have the ability to become transparent :)"

Cute. Am imagining little Leilouta in Harry Potter's Invisibility Cloak.:)

I actually like friendly strangers. People who say hi & start conversations. I would do that myself. But I'd never start them by criticizing anyone's personal appearance. I'd think of something nice & encouraging to say.


"and what's so liberating about flashing acres of back flesh or cleavage to any passerby who cares to look?"

Clothing is never liberating or repressive on its own. What liberates or represses you is freedom of choice or lack thereof. And it shouldn't just be in clothing.


"he probably thought that you'd appreciate the comment Loulou. "

I know. I met a lot of well-meaning Liberals who wanted to liberate me from my repressive, barbaric culture. I don't think they realize how irritating they are.

Rambling Hal,

What can I say?I love fan mail. Keep it coming;)

Would never presume to call myself a writer though but thanks a lot for being here.

5/04/2006 12:40:00 PM  
Blogger LouLou said...

Btw Safiya,

I've tried to post comments on your blog several times. But they never seem to show up. Did you get any of them?

5/04/2006 12:45:00 PM  
Blogger Nora said...

Ok, this is too weird...I was walking in the street 30 minutes ago with my friend, and a bearded man commented: "Astaghfar Allah El 3azeem...Allah yehdeeko". Now, I have never gotten this type of comment from a complete stranger - I have from family members and friends, but not from someone on the street. And for God's sake, we were both wearing long sleeved blouses and jeans, so it's not as if we were attracting attention in any way! We didn't even reply to the guy, we just laughed. But to tell you the truth, now when I think about it, I am so dare he judge dare he!! How does he know what kind of person I am. How does he give himself the right to judge me...what makes him think that he is a better person than me?? Do I think he's lesser or better person because of his appearance?? Does the fact that he has a beard and is wearing a jalabiya indicate that he is a more devout muslim?? Well, maybe...maybe not...but he is definitely not the person to decide that. I have to tolerate these comments from my family and my friends (not always, but I try), because I know they mean well; but do I have to tolerate them from strangers as well?
Talk about conicidence...I just told myself that I have to post that incident here.............

5/04/2006 04:25:00 PM  
Blogger Nora said...

I mentioned your post on my blog. I hope you don't mind.

5/04/2006 05:32:00 PM  
Blogger Safiya said...

Loulou, I've discovered the problem - I am daft.Didn't realise you had to put the comments up. I've sorted it now. Thank you for telling me, I'd have never known otherwise!

5/05/2006 03:12:00 AM  
Blogger halalhippie said...

just wanna thank y'all for those diverging views on the hijab. I'm a little wiser. It saddens me how women are always victims of their appearance. Veiled or not. Whether they hide or abuse their beauty.

You may want to try and look at the hijab thru blue eyes, with all the fears shining thru:

I guess it boils down to fear: women afraid of men and vice versa. Westerners afraid of Muslims etc.

5/05/2006 03:18:00 AM  
Blogger Me said...

I go to quite a small mosque every Saturday to pray and listen to a lecture...the women and girls who go outnumber the men!! Eb2i ta3ali 3andena ;-)

Keep going Loul... never mind what people say or don't say about hijab... only Allah knows what's deep down inside our "nefoos" ...

"Undoubtedly, Allah doth know what they conceal, and what they reveal: verily He loveth not the arrogant." (An-nahl:23)

5/05/2006 09:57:00 PM  
Blogger LouLou said...


When did you come back? Itwa7ashtik.:)

5/05/2006 11:07:00 PM  
Blogger forsoothsayer said...

well maybe it swings both ways in morocco and the uae. but not in egypt and kuwait (two countries i am familiar with). i do know veiled chicks! not well tho, since they tend not to wanna go anywhere i like to go.

5/06/2006 02:38:00 AM  
Blogger LouLou said...


"i do know veiled chicks! not well tho, since they tend not to wanna go anywhere i like to go."

I think I used to be pretty prejudiced myself. I would avoid girls with veils not because I disapproved of them - because I expected them to disapprove of me, lecture me etc....And I thought why the hassle?

But then a couple of my formerly un-hijabed friends started to wear it. And through them I got to know more hijabed girls & none have so far done any of the things I was afraid of. I was a bit hestitant at first though. For example I used to hesitate to call a hijabed friend & ask her to go out because I'd be worried she might not want to come out with us since we were all not covered & we might have guys along etc....So I'd either wait for her to call. Or call her & start talking about where we're going & what we're going to do & see if she says "oh that sounds like fun" or something then ask her.I would AGONIZE about the right thing to do.

I think I might still act a little like that around a hijabed girl I just met at first.

Still remember the first time I brought a veiled girl home though. Everyone at home was concerned that I was making veiled friends on the road to conversion to Wahabism/Salafism or something! I had so much fun putting on the act & scaring them to death. I brought them to the point where they fully expected me to start talking about joining the Jihad in Chechnya or Afghanistan any moment before I stopped.:)

Now that I come to think of it I would have a pretty tough time myself if I ever decided to wear it. Everyone in my family, my husband, my husband's family & most people in our social circle feel very strongly against it.


Glad you discovered the problem. Wish I told you sooner. I've been wondering for a while but didn't get round to asking because I thought maybe you disapproved of my comments or something & I was sulking.

Just kidding.:)

5/06/2006 11:41:00 AM  
Blogger ~ nellenelle said...

Very interesting post, and am glad blogher called attention to it...

I love reading of such experiences, being in the US the information we get is so stereotypical, judgemental, and perhaps condescending. Definitely bookmarking to read more of your thoughts in the future...

5/08/2006 03:42:00 AM  
Blogger LouLou said...


Am glad you enjoyed the post. Thank you.

5/08/2006 10:09:00 AM  
Blogger katty said...

I really love the lipstick, when i go shopping i prefer to choose a quality lipstick that doesn´t cause any damage in my lips. I take care my lips too much, because i thik this is the sexiest part of our body. So when i feel sexy is better the man buy viagra

8/13/2010 04:51:00 AM  

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