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Herland: Mariah Carey versus Saudi Arabia’s need for religious modesty

10/18/2010
By:

Cassandra Cammarata

Staff Writer

press for her music were released as they were promoted in Saudi Arabia, which photoshopped the images to appear more modest. Many images would lengthen shirts and pants, exposing less skin than in the original shots. Western culture tends to look upon these acts as oppressive and a direct threat to freedom.

However, Saudi Arabia is guided by rules of modesty under their religion. Can the western ideology of freedom really hold any bearing against a nation following their religious rights, especially when there is such hypocrisy in use of photoshopped materials?

After reading several takes on the issue, most western news sources found the act of photoshopping Mariah Carey’s album covers as oppressive or funny. These are two extremes of reactions, however they tend to come from similar ideas; that many countries outside of the United States are regimented, extreme, oppressive and/or profoundly archaic in principle. This sort of blind nationalism can hinder peoples’ understanding or desire to become knowledgeable about these countries’ ideologies, which breeds ignorance, hatred and desire to humiliate.

Islam has five major schools of law, and all follow many rules, one of which deals with modesty. Although each school differs slightly on the exact definition that is carried out, all follow similar basic fundamental principles. These pertain to when a woman can show her body, to whom and which parts. These usually are broken down into her maharim, or relatives or those whom marriage is prohibited, and non-maharim persons. In Saudi Arabia, most Muslims either practice Wahhabi or Hanbali tradition of Islam. In the presence of her maharim, she must cover the area between the navel and the knees in front of women and her whole body except head and arms with men. But with strangers, a woman must cover her whole body except for the face and hands. Mariah Carey, although not Muslim, is still being presented to the Muslim people, who are trying to obey their faith, and cannot do so with her flagrant acts of immodesty as they see it.

It is also interesting to note that photoshopping images in the entertainment media is obnoxiously abused in Western cultures to portray women as more slender, or appealing to some idea of perfect aestheticism that is actually more detrimental to people, especially women, than an imposition of modesty.

Muslims consider the act of modesty to be a wajib, or religious duty. Islam stresses the virtue of modesty because, as Adil Salahi of Al Jazeerah wrote, “it helps us to keep the selfish tendency down and to stress the brotherhood of all believers. One does not seek to stress one’s own position, but rather he considers himself as part of a greater entity, the Muslim community.”

Mariah Carey has a right, as an artist, to express herself creatively as she wishes. But this is in the confines of a Western ideology to which many of us are accustomed. She, nor does anyone, have the right to impose their ideology onto another if they do not believe it to be the right way. Discourse brings about knowledge, but imposition only breeds frustration and aggression. Religious intolerance and ignorance is a disease which is rotting our great Earth, and robbing us all of unity and a continuation of life. We must be wary of assimilation, as homogenization is not the way. Rather our diversity will strengthen us as a whole.

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