Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Ninjas and too-short jeans

When I was at the Body Worlds exhibition in Philly I saw a curious sight. Two ninja warriors walking with a bearded man and many children. The man looked (to me, at any rate) rather clown-like. He wore a long, kurta-like garment, a skull cap and jeans that fell way above his ankles. I had seen the takhnay-wala pajamas in India, protecting the sanctity of the jaan-namaz (prayer mat) from the dirt that a regular length pajama might pick up from the ground. But I had never seen jeans worn in this manner. You live and learn, huh?

Okay, and the two women weren't ninjas...they just looked like they were. I have seen Muslim women in hijabs in the US, and of course, the burqa in India. But what they were wearing was different. These were the all-enveloping black, Arab-style coverings.

As a Muslim...a lapsed Muslim...I feel torn between my two identities. I understand (well, not really but kind of) women choosing to wear the hijab for asserting their religious identity but this ninja-costume, with just the eyes showing? I thought the point of modest dress in Islam was not to draw undue attention to yourself. But everyone in the gallery was looking at this strange group. No one gave a second glance to the three regular hijabi women also wandering around. I wondered if the two women were his two wives, his wife and daughter, wife and sister?

Just as I wondered how the bodies in the exhibition must have looked in life I wondered about these women? What were their faces like? How expressive were their eyes, their mouths? Instead, they were as anonymous and as alien as the bodies on display.

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