Sooraya Graham, a devout Muslim and an art student in British Columbia, took a photo of a woman draped in niqab and abaya (face veil and full-body covering) folding a bra while doing her laundry. Needless to say this sparked great controversy: a Muslim woman doing laundry? That must be an insult to Islam. Or maybe it was the bra. I don’t know.
Personally I don’t wear a bra, though there was a time many years ago when I could have used the extra support. Nor do I wear a niqab or an abaya, so really what do I know? Well, I’ll tell you what I know—it is wrong to let men know that women where bras. Just the other day a student wondered aloud after class whether a similarly clad co-ed was wearing anything under her abaya. Enquireing minds want to know. And now we do.
The principle behind women’s modesty (and this is true in Jewish, Christian, and Muslim cultures) is that men cannot control themselves. And there is no limit to how little it takes to set men off. An exposed ankle did it in Victorian times. A naked elbow today can cause a Jewish or Muslim man to go on a rampage.
When I was growing up in an Orthodox shul the woman prayed upstairs behind a wall because the men believed that seeing a woman during prayer would distract the man from praying. God or girls—which really grabs the attention of men?
Of course these men insist this is God’s will, not their own. Given that porn is universal among men of every culture, I tend to believe them. If it were up to men, women would be forbidden from wearing any clothes whatsoever. So God steps in to protect them.
Good for God. Bad for Ms. Graham since her photo was torn down by a fellow Muslim woman who found it offensive. Or maybe good for Ms. Graham, too, in that her work is being talked about globally in a world where most people couldn’t find British Columbia on a map.