To protect her we’ll call her Nadra.
She hails from a large Sharon-region Arab town and used to be as modern, fashion-conscious and hip as my daughter. The two met while working in one of the nearby shopping malls. It was a few years ago. Nadra always did the Saturday shifts because, as a Muslim, she saved the employer legal headaches. It was a mutually beneficial arrangement and Nadra was paid double-time.
We knew her in jeans, cute tank-tops and assorted eye-catching coiffeurs.
Over time Nadra opened up to my daughter and revealed that her parents, ostensibly not traditional and certainly not Islamic zealots, had found a prospective husband for her in Jordan and were planning to marry her off there.
Nadra was beside herself. She didn’t want to go because “when I leave my town, I’m a free human being in Israel.
My life in Jordan would be nothing like it is here. I’d have to change all my habits, my appearance and become meek and obedient. I would die inside.”
Eventually both girls meandered elsewhere.
One day, as we left the supermarket, someone called our names. It was Nadra. We barely recognized her.
Despite the July swelter and stifling humidity, Nadra was swathed in a hijab, the scarf that envelopes Muslim women’s heads – ears included – tightly wraps their necks and reaches down to the shoulders.
Nadra brought us up to speed. She avoided the Jordanian match and convinced her parents to agree to the boy next door, hardly a religious sort and as free a spirit then as she was. It started out well.
Before we had a chance to remark about her obviously constricting and uncomfortable headdress, she – half-apologetically and half-embarrassed – pointed to the layers of cloth that seemed to choke her in the baking sun.
“They got me. They caught up with me,” she intoned with a wry, wan smile.
At the beginning her husband was taunted about letting his wife parade about “promiscuously, like a Jewess.”
Then they called her a whore each time she walked down the main drag. She was harassed on the bus. Both she and her husband were threatened with physical violence. The straw that broke their backs were escalating jeers, sneers and bullying suffered by her nieces and nephews in school and even by her tiny children in kindergarten and at the playground.
“I was marked as a fallen woman. Even if I wanted to fight, I couldn’t bring shame on my whole family. My parents’ business was sinking into ruin because of me. So I gave in. I’m suffocated by the hijab, while my husband, father and brothers breathe free and stay cool… I hate this but I am scared,” she confessed.
“I can’t believe this is Israel, where women live like women do in the West. I used to take the hijab off out of town, but my neighbors come here too. They’re all over the place. People see me. Tongues wag.”
NADRA DIDN’T stick around for long.
Overheated, she rushed to her car and turned on the air-conditioning. She said she had to hurry home lest her husband get angry. Her relatively egalitarian marriage is no longer what it was: “My husband is emboldened by my forced submission to the hijab. My humiliation is male-power at work and he’s inspired.
He’s not devout but he’s bossy. I’ve lost status and, if I know what’s good for me, I’d better be respectful and dutiful now.”
As her parting shot Nadra added that her one consolation is that “it’s not as bad as it can be. At least I have a car and am allowed to drive, which is better than in Saudi Arabia. But it’ll get worse here too. The niqab is coming.
It’s slowly being enforced all around my neighborhood.”
For those unfamiliar with Nadra’s vernacular, the niqab is Arabic for mask and denotes a veil which covers a woman’s face. The half-niqab is tied around the face in combination with the hijab and leaves the eyes and part of forehead visible. The full-niqab covers the entire head, leaving only narrow eye-slits. A variation of the full-niqab is a tent-like length of cloth that covers the entire body, similar to what’s known in the West by the Afghani name of burqa.
Full-niqabs are increasingly noticeable throughout Israel. We’re beginning to see them even in mixed cities like Lod and Jaffa, where the women add elbow-length gloves (in mid-summer) to hide any possible patch of skin.
The niqab is making its gradual debut in various Sharon-area malls and central thoroughfares.
Nadra is right. It’s likely to spread. It’s above all a political statement. Not too many decades back, Arab men were distinguished by the keffiyeh, while non-rural Arab women dressed progressively more in European modes. With Hamas’s ascendancy, however, the hijab became a national/religious identity symbol.
This militant vogue may have started off as a conscious thumbing of the nose at the country’s Jews, but from there it was a quick transition to the coercion that Nadra described. Not all Israeli-Arab women are as forward-thinking as Nadra, nor feel as oppressed as she does, but many are just as intimidated.
I thought of Nadra after the French parliament’s lower house last week overwhelmingly approved a ban on burqa-style veils and related facial coverings in all public places. The French legislation is also aimed at husbands and fathers.
Anyone convicted of coercing women to don restrictive garb risks a year in prison and a fine, with both penalties doubled if the victim is a minor.
The Belgians beat the French by two-and-a-half months when they prohibited wearing any attire in public which prevents facial recognition. Violating this code can mean imprisonment and fines. Neither the niqab or burqa are mentioned specifically, but Muslim migrants were incensed. Ski-masks do not proliferate on European streets, niqabs and burqas do.
The Dutch are preparing their own assault on the veil. Something similar is pending here too. MK Marina Solodkin (Kadima) last week submitted a private member’s bill to the Knesset which essentially copies the Belgian law.
Can it pass here? Hardly for certain and certainly not with the French and Belgian alacrity. Moreover, our Supreme Court will quash it quicker than it’s enacted.
Local holier-than-thou penchants and incurable politically correct proclivities are geared up for the onslaught. Leftwing opinion-molders lost no time to deride Solodkin’s security concerns (terrorists can hide under burqas). Few remember that such apparel allowed Hitler’s collaborator, Jerusalem Mufti Haj Amin el-Husseini, to flee in World War II and reach Berlin, where he recruited Muslims to the SS. But our left-wingers don’t really give a damn.
Self-appointed guardians of our collective conscience already get too much of a kick pillorying Solodkin in the name of human rights, Nadra’s rights be damned.