“Headscarf debates” – a never-ending story

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The first time I (left) ever wore the headscarf was in Cairo in spring 2012

This picture was taken in Egypt and it was the first time that I ever wore the headscarf. Since then, I have talked to many people about it, I have worn it again several times in several countries, with different people and facing different reactions. It is still always kind of an adventure for me to put it on, because I know that people react differently to women wearing the headscarf. Therefore this is a call to try to see the headscarf differently and unveil it from the whole political and religious assumptions with which it has been covered for at least the last 12 years!

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To eat or not to eat (2) – Ramadan

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Mosque in Issyk-Kul region with obligatory aluminium ribbed roof

As I already mentioned in previous posts (see ByeBye MZB), the main religion in Kyrgyzstan with about 75% followers is Islam (followed by 25% Russian Orthodox). When I arrived in Bishkek, Ramadan was already about to begin. As you will probably know, Ramadan (Рамадан or Рамазан) is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and an entire month of fasting.  This year it coincided with the hottest time of midsummer. Interestingly in Central Asia, the exact days can vary in the different countries depending on the decisions of the муфтияти (Muftiates – special Islamic commissions or Spiritual Boards) that are responsible for the religious administration of a certain region and were installed already under Tsarist rule. In Kyrgyzstan this year fasting time (пост) began in the night from July 8 to July 9 and lasted till August 8. In short, Ramadan is about celebrating the time when Mohammed received the word of the Qur’an. Therefore, following Qur’an, all Muslim people should fast during this month (except for sick or elder persons, children, pregnant women, fighting soldiers and travelers), which means they are not allowed to drink, smoke, eat or have sex during day time. Every evening, the day is closed with breaking the fast – mostly this includes eating a lot and inviting neighbors (unfortunately my neighbors apparently weren’t following as we only shared cigarettes during day time ;-)) and relatives.

So, in the beginning of July, I was totally prepared for shops being closed due to Ramadan because people shorten their working days to have more time to concentrate on their religious duties. I was also ready to stop drinking on the streets in order to not offend people or disturb their fasting. But then – surprise: in Bishkek I almost didn’t notice Ramadan at all. Continue reading

Byebye MZB (Monogame Zweier-Beziehung) – considering Polygamy

A family ought to consist of mother, father and at least two children. The parents live their life to provide for the children, work hard, build a house and have a dog that carries the newspaper into the house every morning!

Call me crazy, I call that ideal you can still find in most Hollywood movies, series and books, outdated. Don’t get me wrong I respect those, who chose this way for themselves. I grew up in the “perfect family” structure and would not miss it for the world. Nevertheless I don’t think it is the one and only right way and we should start thinking outside the box. And it’s not only me: In feminist and queer literature you can find other voices calling for surpassing the limits imposed by the “perfect family”. Mainly because the idealization of this lifestyle leads to a discrimination of LGBT relationships – just remember all those voices calling same-sex-marriage homoherzchen(in German I prefer: “geschlechtsunabhängige Ehe” which is unfortunately hard to translate) or adoption a threat to heterosexually structured families. However, In many views (3 out of 4 in Germany stated support for same-sex marriages), it is just a legitime claim of a right to do what everybody else does – to live up to the above-mentioned ideal.

Because of that, from another, perhaps more radical perspective, you can state that same-sex marriage and adoption rights exceed the limit of the “perfect family” only in a quite narrow way. By that I mean, that they only demand a change in the family’s sexual and gender composition but do not necessarily question the lifestyle and ideas and norms (work, child, house, dog) attached to it.

Not long ago, in april 2013, US feminist Jillian Keenan was causing a media outcry because she quoted Republican politicians warning about same-sex marriage being the first step into legalization of polygamy – and considered the latter to be positive.

Change of scene: in Kyrgyzstan I came across the issue of polygamy already several times. Mostly people were talking about someone. But I also met a person who apparently is married to two wives. A friend told me she was approached by a friendly older man, offering to take her as his additional wife so she wouldn’t have to worry about her income and financial situation. Although not quite obvious and people don’t seem to be too eager to talk about that topic (with foreigners), polygamy (or better polygyny – the fact of one man having several wives, while polygamy is possible in both ways) apparently exists and is accepted and also practiced by at least part of the society.

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