Meet the Muslim Madonna
I’m in love with the “Muslim Madonna.” She’s sexy, she’s smart, she’s got abs of steel and she’s not afraid to strip off her burqa and show them off to the world. Her name is Deeyah. Even (or perhaps especially) Catholic conservative gay males like Andrew Sullivan (who first introduced me to her in his Daily Dish) love Deeyah.
She earns her nickname with her sizzling video What It Will Be? which struggles with the place of the subjugated female in Islamist ideology in similar fashion to Madonna’s old pulsating, lingerie-clad battles with Catholicism’s derogatory attitudes toward women in “Like a Prayer.” Deeyah’s got a better voice than the Material Matron and at least as much chutzpah.
do you stand up, lay down or follow?
What will it be?
Will it all be the same again tomorrow?
What will it be?
You can claim it but the words are hollow
do you stand up, lay down or swallow?
What will it be?
What will it be for Deeyah? Will she become the idol of little Muslim girls throughout the underground Islamic world? The object of a fatwa? The cause of riots among sexually frustrated men who can’t deal with a Muslim woman revealing her well-honed abs and her voluptuous ideas? A musical Ambassador of Peace between the Clash of Cultures? Just another Eurasian undulating, ululating flash in the pan?
Whatever she will become in the future, right now Deeyah is an excellent tonic to what fashion writer Suzy Menkes calls “The New Sobriety: Covering up the body.” Menkes makes it all sound like just another kinky new fad (and hopefully that’s all it is), but she can’t help using ominous words and frightening phrases like “somber…spooky…austere…ankle-length hemlines…”
She quotes Lanvin designer Albert Elbaz, born into a Moroccan orthodox Jewish family, as saying “I think ‘modesty’ is a beautiful word today – and a beautiful attitude.” What a designer-label totebag of faith-based bullcrap. Please excuse my immodesty, but in fundamentalist cultures, “modesty” is nothing but a euphemism for repression. “Modesty” is a coy way of saying shame, fear, imprisonment, slavery. “Modesty” is that frightened feeling that you’re not worthy of showing the world who you are. “Modesty” is the veil of lies, the wig of superstition, the shield of female-body-hatred. Menkes calls it the “Muslim-ization of fashion.” I’m all for that, if it means the diaphanous scarves and coin-jingling belts of the bellydancer. But that’s not what she means at all. She means “a culture of female sobriety…cocooning clothes…the subjugation of women…covering up.”
Are we Westerners in such a paroxysm of guilt over Bush‘s botched Rape of Iraq and Anglo-Euro-America’s general history of brutalizing and exploiting Asians, Africans and Middle Easterners that we feel compelled to sacrifice our own physical freedom on the altar of our collective guilt? Some of us would rather give up our right to wear tank tops than our *right* to drop bombs.
Why can’t we just wear our tank tops and stop the bombing?
Why can’t we just bare our midriffs and quit the killing?
Why can’t we sport our miniskirts and cease the exploitation?
Why can’t we just wear our shocking pink and swear off the torture?
Why can’t we just keep our freedom of expression and scale down our imperialist aggression ?
Why can’t we, indeed… Because we are a culture that loves righteous war and faith-based violence and is scared silly of our own sexual bodies. And so, we let our fashion leaders cover us in terror-stricken burqas of “sobriety,” even we let our political leaders put us in hoods and shoot like drunken Dicks.
On these Unhappy Hunting Grounds, the Muslim Madonna gives me hope. And hey, great abs! You go, grrrl! Deeyah rocks.