The Need For The Morality Police
The tragic death of Mahsa Amini at the hands of the morality police in Iran has left me with a bitter taste in my mouth. Bitterness is one of those emotions that exists at the lower ends of the cerebral sediment; percolating until it bubbles to the top.
I have read now that thousands of women are now removing their hijabs and are cutting their hair in protest of having their lives run by men who hijack them in green vans or stop them in the street if they are not dressed appropriately.
A recent video footage that a woman recorded on a phone was with a conversation with another man, who was not a figure of the morality police but was dressed in Islamic garb. She insisted that it was her right to not wear the headscarf. His response? He claimed that her exposure of her hair was oppressing him. By extension, and by the way this extension is purely mine, that this said oppression is exposing him to unnecessary temptation.
To dress this up as patriarchal oppression is certainly tempting, but is a lazy intellectual conclusion. My suspicions are that this is a sexism that runs both ways. In the one direction, this literalist Islamic ideology claims a pathological control of women’s bodies as if they were ticking time bombs, and in the other direction, claims that men are powerless beasts who will jump any woman because they can.
Neither is true, or can be true. Because we as a people have changed.
The unrest in Iran prompted me to write this piece because although I absolutely cannot speak to the horrific experiences these women have gone through, or to the unrest and violence that is resulting as a consequence, what I can speak to is the consequence of living underneath a literalist Islamic ideology feels like. And out of courtesy, I must restrict my discussion to the male part of this experience as much as possible.
In Britain, those who follow the orthodox Islamic principles follow a morality scale. Actions are weighted in various categories. Some categories, like extra prayers or giving extra charity are recommended but not mandatory. There’s even a category that says that growing a beard is recommended but not mandatory. So within this morality scale we have the permitted, the recommended, the neutral, the frowned upon but not recommended, and the forbidden.
The Arabic word for mandatory is “Fardh” and this is the category that hijab falls into for women. If you are even within viewing distance of a non-family member, you are morally obligated to wear it.
But why? Here’s where the penny falls. Especially in Britain.
The argument that follows that wearing a hijab is a show of modesty by covering your hair and chest area. Because as I alluded to earlier, if you don’t do so, you’re a ticking time bomb that will attract the nearest lurking beast.
This is simultaneously a lie and a disservice. First the lie, that hijab is a show of modesty.
As we have evolved in the 21st century, modesty is more than what you wear. It is your aura, what words you choose, how you choose to carry yourself in front of people. I have lost count of the amount of couples I have seen pushing their baby strollers with the woman entirely covered up and the man walking around with his tight chest and smart clothes and fancy watch sticking out and it stinks of unbalance.
And which man really cares about your hair. I mean really? Within a few flicks of his phone he can access fully naked ladies at any point, at any time of the day, in any flavour he chooses. He can even pay them to do a couple of extras. Are we still going to argue that women need to hide those few hair follicles that stick out due to their aphrodisiacal properties?
The disservice actually comes to the male part of the equation. I will not pretend that the monsters are out there to hunt. But when it comes to the larger sociological question, it is absolutely beyond doubt in my mind that a person’s character is the ruling criterion. You could marry a woman who wears a hijab, but what she reveals in the marriage might terrify you beyond your worst nightmare.
So why the need for the morality police? This is undoubtedly about control at the micro-level. At the level of the family unit. Because if you control the family unit as a template, you control the entire society at large.
Most of the Muslim society in Britain are trained in the sciences or businesses through virtue of their parents. They don’t see what I do; that conveniently each Muslim state isn’t a democracy but is run by some form of dictator. And at the same time, the rules of the family unit maybe unwritten but they are enforced by an iron hand.
Iran’s military status as a potential nuclear threat and its refusal to co-operate to the western world means it needs to double-down on its personal politics. Because god-forbid the people get to dress how they want. If they dress how they want, they might get funny ideas of having an idea of how they want their country to run.
Every belief system carries within it a set of political ramifications. Once you decide the rules of your family unit, you are by extension, taking part of what society would appear should that family unit replicate at scale.
But we have seen this experiment repeated already ad nauseam. The results? Crude oil barrel prices on the cheap. A healthy involvement of the military industrial complex used to bomb the country next door.
Each person has a unique set of life circumstances that leads them to a unique set of moral problems. The one-size-fits-all template that the Muslim world has employed for so long does not only fail in its principle but also in its execution.
What started with a woman being apprehended by the morality police is now a social movement about individual autonomy. How many times is it going to take before we learn the lesson properly?