When we see a lady dressed all in black, what comes to our mind? Curiosity? Pity? Nervousness? Fear? Do we harbor a stereotype—that the women under the veil are likely uneducated and oppressed at best or radicalized potential martyrs at worst?
Recently, my husband and I visited our daughter and son-in-law who work in a conservative Muslim country in the Middle East. Several ladies got together in a local lady’s home for a meal. As is the western habit, my daughter and I arrived on time—earlier than the others. I was eager to see for myself what was beyond the veil.
What I saw shattered every stereotype I’d ever had! These women, who removed their coverings when they stepped inside, were beautiful with their dark eyes and raven hair. They were stylish in their form fitting designer clothes and stiletto heels. Several had advanced degrees, and most had traveled widely. They did not treat this American with suspicion, but with a warm Arab greeting—kisses on both cheeks.
There may be women in villages who more closely fit our stereotype. But the women I met are working hard to advance opportunities for all women in their society.
The moral to my story? Oppression comes when people are stereotyped. More like you than you might think, these women love their families, like to laugh and have fun, and want to make a difference in their world. Don’t fear the lady behind the veil. Embrace her, and you might establish a friendship that could bless you and lead her into the kingdom.
Written by Marla Bender
Photo from canstockphoto.com