Friday, March 17, 2017

More Thoughts on Women's Rights in Oman After Reading Dhofari Gucci's Last Post

I just finished reading Dhofari Gucci's post on Women's Day, and women's rights in Oman. My Omani husband always says, "well, at least we don't live in Dhofar"... but then....I've seen major abuses of women's rights even in Muscat.

I saw one girl who was denied access to her own ID, and passport, by her father, and they live in Al Amerat in Muscat. She went to the police with this, because the law does support freedom of movement for Omani women. Nonetheless, the laws were not enforced, and no one gave the woman her ID. She was effectively imprisoned in her family home. I have never, ever heard from her, or seen her, again.

When I have visited the women's protection section of the courts, I saw incompetence (no follow-up by case-workers even in cases where violent abuse is a factor) and the attitude of "the family always wants what is best for a girl" prevailing. Case-workers also were racist.

Families don't always want what is best for a girl. Believe me.

My own mother once tried to stab me with a knife and the police told me "heaven is under her feet" so I should give it time, and try to make that relationship work.

If I had grown up as an Omani girl, where my family controlled my ID cards, I wonder if I would be able to move away and escape them? Would I be able to work and support myself? Would I be able to live by myself?

All the laws in Oman, support these things supposedly, but the enforcement of the laws then, is not there.

And there are some things in Oman a girl cannot do because of the lack of enforcement, because of her family.

I am sure my mother (not Muslim, not Omani) would have loved the ability to control what I studied, who I worked for, and to be able to choose who I married. I know for certain my own thoughts and best interests would never have even occurred to her. She would have used me to improve her lot in life, or to make herself look good to other people, and what I needed or wanted would not matter if it didn't do those things for her.

Even my father, bless him, for he has always wanted nothing but the best for me, would choose someone totally unsuitable for me. Someone who wouldn't beat me or abandon me, and who would be financially stable, those would be his goals, but that would sort of be my minimum for myself, and not really amount to my emotional happiness. He'd choose someone I could live well with, not necessarily love or be fully loved by. Not because he wouldn't want what is best for me, but because he simply doesn't know what is best for me. There's a reason  Islam gives a girl a yea or a "no, I don't think so", to every marriage, even if the law in Oman, really does not ask for her signature on her original  marriage contract, or even on notice-of-her-divorce papers.

That is something society in Oman needs to learn to accept. Not every family knows what is best for their girls. Not every family is the same. Your father might actually be great at picking out a husband for you, but that doesn't mean that mine is good at the same for me. And your mother might be the sweetest, most selfless soul that breathed, while another woman's mother would sell her daughter for a head of lettuce, or another might enjoy controlling more than loving (,ie see the Fairy-tale "Rapunzel" to get that lettuce reference).

As I apply to be Omani, I know I should apply for Canadian citizenship for my daughter. As an Omani girl, the law simply does not give her all the rights that she should have under Islam. So at the same time, my readers might wonder why it is okay for me to give up my Canadian citizenship to be Omani? Well, you see, I don't need a family or a tribe for anything, to fight for me. I can fight for myself, apply for things myself. Not every Omani woman, however, can, as long as she has a family with male Muslim relatives to hold her back. These men are supposed to protect her, but even they aim to do that, they may not always know what is best for her,

If there is no choice in something, there is no freedom to it.

This remains an important issue internationally, concerning hijab, the Muslim woman's headscarf.

There is no law in Oman that says you have to wear hijab, or in Islam that says one person can punish another for not wearing it. But try to not wear hijab in Oman (even non-Islamic hijab but hijab that your family or tribe think a girl or woman should wear, and see how free and Islamic hijab is in Oman). It is reduced from the beautiful, religiously significant symbol of freedom and belief that I wear---and fight to wear---for the sake of my belief in Islam, to a piece of cloth worn to hide, for a husband, or a father, or a tribe.

Like, for example, I remember this one time I got so mad at my husband I went outside to yell at him (he's a good guy despite everything I blog here about, really) and forgot to put on my headscarf/shayla...and he was so upset, like really mad at me. Not for being mad and yelling at him, which I'd respect if he had been mad about that, but he was mad about the state of my forgotten hijab.

[Note: I get really, really mad sometimes, leading to things I regret later, like hitting people, and like, forgetting to wear clothes. Being mad in Islam? Is bad. Guess that's why. But anyways]

I was like, "what are you mad about? I don't wear hijab for you! Did I wear it in Canada, to hide? To be what some man wanted me to be? No. So, if, like, you divorced me because I took off my scarf I would stop caring for you that instant. I wear my scarf for Allah. If I feel bad about what I did, I'll ask Allah to forgive me for it, it is not something I have to answer to you for. Of course, I feel bad about it, I should never be that stupidly angry from the first, so I ask Allah to forgive me. But I won't ask forgiveness of you, I won't care if you are mad.I am not a child. I should care for the sake of Allah, not any other human being."

So my husband, being the man that he is, then got it: Hijab is between a woman and Allah, and if she isn't wearing it for that reason, as her own choice, for her own reasons, then she isn't really wearing hijab---she's just wearing extra clothes.

Also, the neighbours everyone has trouble with in our 'hood? They were keeping everyone awake until 3 am. So, of course, I went outside and asked said neighbour to be quiet.

I barely stepped out of my yard. I was respectfully dressed. The street was filled with construction workers. We were not alone.

Still, this man tried to make my husband mad by saying to my husband: "I talked to your wife in the street at midnight."

My husband, at first, wanted me to see that my behaviour should be changed, but in the end, he realized, it is this mindset that needs to be changed.

Why can a woman not speak up for her own rights? Why must a man speak for her? Why is it shameful for a woman to speak publicly to a man of things she is allowed to speak about? Why is it shameful for her to go out of her home and be on her own street if she needs to do something, no matter the hour? Does a man have to do everything for a woman? And, if there is a man who can do something for a woman, and she still insists on doing it herself, is she shameful? Should a man be ashamed that this willful woman "belongs with him" "in his home" "under his roof?"

So it is the culture that made my husband feel "ashamed" he was not there to speak for me. As if being a useful human being who can do things for herself, was a shameful thing for his wife to be, as if it made him any less of a man....

Rather than it being "shameful" and "immature/backwards" for the neighbor to imply there was anything untowards in my sinless behavior.

Alhamdulilah, my Omani husband gets it. He forgets sometimes. Culture runs deeps. But he gets it. He sees which way is right, and which is backwards, mere tradition, tradition that shames, rather than tradition that builds.

So...until that sort of culture changes in Oman, then laws will continue to do naught but pay lip-service to the status of Omani women in Oman.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Random Thoughts About Life in Oman: how people park their cars and what they do with shopping carts

Generally, I can tell what kind of person someone is (Oman, Indian-expat, White-expat) by how one parks their car, and what they do with their shopping cart here.

Before I became friends with other women, I wish I could see ahead of time how they park their car, and what they do with their shopping cart/trolley after buying groceries.

PARKING THE CAR

My general observation is that drivers who steal other peoples' spots (where another car has been waiting for the spot) don't care to understand or put themselves into the shoes of others. I've yet to see a person who turns out to be contrary to this.

People who take up more than one spot, or don't notice the disabled sign, are not necessarily uncaring people, but careless, forgetful, and often arrive-late-for-things kind of people.

People who park behind another car, blocking them in, for more than five minutes. These people are always jackasses, swear, think the rules don't apply to them, that they're "special". I've never met a "nice" "good" person who did this. Ever.

There's those people who are okay with driving around for hours looking for a spot in the first three rows, even though they could park and walk a bit. They are usually inefficient people, or lazy. Not always but if they have to do this all the time, then yes.

I like the people who park far away and walk. Especially if they walk fast. They are usually the people who get stuff done. Without bothering others. Without asking questions. Independent thinkers.

WHAT PEOPLE DO WITH THEIR TROLLEYS

My general observation is that people who ask the 3rd world country worker in the store to push their trolley for them when they are not unhealthy, unreasonably burdened already, or disabled, are either privileged to the point of being spoiled, or ignorant of basic life concepts. Like, all the women I know who do this, think someone is poor if she can't afford 70 omr for a new abaya every month or new gold bangle.

And those are the nice girls. They are usually bad with money, sometimes naively sweet about politics and social issues, might have heart-of-gold, but no grounded concepts of how to do good. The bad ones? They are usually racist, prejudiced, and feel superior to others.

Then there's that person who leaves their cart in a parking space or touching another person's car. These people, again, usually don't care to understand or put themselves into the shoes of others.

And then there's the people who return the carts even across a blistering hot parkade. These people are usually thoughtful, kind, tip the 3rd store workers if they do get help. Maybe they don't return them all the way, but at least they get them off the road, in a place where it is easy for the cart collector-guys to get them.

Maybe I am over-psycho-analyzing the whole parking and trolley return habits of Omanis and better-paid expats in Oman, but generally, I've seen this in people I know over and over again.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

New Vogue Arabia cover released: I have high hopes

The new Vogue Arabia is about to be released. I am excited. I hope it is better than AD MiddleEast. With a genuine princess for editor-in-chief (and that Princess being Deena, who is superbly modern and yet modest) I personally have high hopes. And Gigi Hadid is very pretty, even if not my favourite "Arab" or "Arab model" but I am loving the "re-orienting perceptions" promise from the English cover.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Pretty Pinterest: What's Inspiring Me This Month

 Abayas in summer whites and coffee creams.
 This Rosie Assouline sun hat.
 13th century Iranian tiles and ceramics.
 15-18th century Portuguese tiles and likewise inspired prints.
 Navy blue abayaat and dresses.
 The "Timbuktu" linen print fabric.
 British Colonial desk top arrangements.
 Serving pineapple slices like this.
Valentino Couture Brocade Fabrics from the 2016 collection.
 Woven straw sandals.
And the Met. Museum vintage Christian Dior "Palmyre" couture dress piece, in its detail shots.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

FIGHTING WITH MY OMANI HUSBAND ABOUT HIJAB: so I wasn't going to force a 100-year old dead woman to observe it, is all

My Omani husband and I had a fight about hijab the other day. I wasn't going to force a 100-year old dead woman to observe it, is all.

You can't ask people in the West to support the right of Muslim women to wear hijab, if you don't do the same in the Middle East as well, for non Muslims, and of course, when those non Muslims are my sister and my grandmother (even if she's dead) well then, I'm going to fight for it, even if it seems a stupid thing to fight over.

Because it isn't. It is the start of larger prejudices, and we cut those at the quick.

So here is the story:

I have pictures, photographs, in my house, framed, of my family members. My little sister. My grandmothers. None of them are Muslim. None of them wear hijab.

So my husband is having over an old family friend.

I clean the house for said family friend. We even put away the oil portrait of my little sister since it shows (gasp, almost a flash or shadow or hint of her fake painted cleavage). ...Because like, she totally wouldn't wear that cocktail dress to walk around Mutrah or to visit my in-laws anyways, so whatevs. I carry giant large platters of meat and rice and kids nap routines are interrupted, and I have to eat rice for lunch which I actually don't like to do.

Normal stuff for guests.

But in the middle of this I realize my husband has put away the photograph of my dead grandmother. Only her ankles are showing in the picture. She is wearing a boxey World War II era suit and hat, and her hair is covered. Very modest. Modest enough to visit our village. Super respectful dress. If she wore such to Oman, Omanis wouldn't be offended by her.

So I ask him, why he put her picture away? [he doesn't believe pictures are haraam].

He says out of respect for the guy who won't understand why he (my husband) has a picture of his Muslim wife's relative with her hair out and ankles showing.

I get soooooo mad.

I tell my husband to tell the man the truth.

I don't care if people don't understand or like the truth, but the truth is what good, right, true people use.

The truth is, his wife has and had non-Muslim female family members who are not discriminated against by his wife (me) just because they don't wear hijab. If I have a photos of my grandfather and my father and uncles out, it is DAMN DISRESPECTFUL to hide the photos of my sister, my aunts, and my grandmothers. Islam doesn't tell non-Muslim what to wear, period. It doesn't tell us as Muslims to police them in anyway, or accord them respect  or lack-there-of based on their dress.

If my little sister is dressed too damn sexy for someone to see her in Oman (I can still advise against but it is her choice in the end), well, I won't hide her, or refuse to go out with her...Because she had people make fun of her because I chose to wear black abayas in our non-Muslim country. She even tried to dress like a Muslim woman so she could listen to our Mosque lectures on Fridays out of respect to try to understand my beliefs. No one gets the right to tell me to hide her or talk to her over here about her clothes. Allah didn't ask me to focus on non-Muslim people's bodies. He told us to speak to their hearts.

I have the same respect for her rights, which, my religion protects and respects as well.

If any man has a problem with what non-Muslim women wear they should do what the Qu'ran tells them to do, and that is, have respect, give dawah based on the oneness of Allah nothing else is important compared to that, and if that is beyond you, well then, lower your gaze.

Period.

I told my husband if he has any friends who can't respect these aspects about fair rights for non-Muslim women in Oman, they also don't respect what I am fighting for in terms of rights to wear hijab in my non-Muslim country, and I don't want them in my house, period, if I have to hide the people that make me who I am from them. Period.

Respect is a two way-street. Educating and giving dawah is a two-way street, and I feel a lot of Omanis need "dawah" on what and how they should deal with non-Muslims.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Applying for an Omani Passport: for spouses of Omani Nationals



For the non-Omanis married to Omanis to apply for an Omani passport you have to meet the following criteria:

1.) You should be married and residing in Oman for 10 years. Trips outside of the country cannot have been for periods longer than a couple of months a year without a reasonable excuse and legal documentation of such (like the illness of a parent).

And you have to submit the following documentation (always bring photocopies and the originals):

1.) Your permission documentation. ***Will add more on this section for those who obtained permission after being punished for marrying without permission at the end of this post***
2.) Your current passport .
3.) Photo-copy of the page in your passport with your visa on it.
4.) Letter from your home country that says that they have no legal objection to you obtaining an Omani passport.
5.) A criminal record check from the ROP (they may request one from your home country as well).
6.) Another piece of photo ID from your home country. If your home country (like mine) does not have national ID with photos beyond passport, a photo copy of your birth certificate may be notarized by your Embassy to be accepted.
7.) You exhibit sufficient fluency in Arabic. [This is the one that kind of sucks because there is no standardized test, and some people are interviewed, others are never tested].
8.) Standard passport size photos with white background.

That's what they officially ask for anyways.

***For those who married without permission but went to court and then received allowance to have every allowance of being married to an Omani but not permission, this is where the process sucks, because currently, there is no formalized one. The law basically says you have to "wait" until the Ministry of the Interior decides to give you permission to be able to apply to be on your husband's card (which legally, you can't work if you're on this family visa although I've never seen ROP or manpower be strict on this because they seem to hate the permission laws too).*** For those who do get permission after the fact, the passport application process may decide not to note the number of years you've been married, but will look at the timing from when you got the permission, even if it was 8 years after you've been married and residing in Oman etc., depends on who you get at the Ministry apparently.

Hope this helps some people, and doesn't disappoint anyone else.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

OMANI WEDDINGS: the melka day

Above is a photo of an Omani bride on what I assume is her melka (wedding contract signing) day. It is the actual "Islamic" or legal part of a Muslim or Omani wedding, but the "walimah" party for handing the bride over to the groom is usually the more celebrated by Omanis, and is the part of wedding services expats in Oman are more frequently invited to attend.

Below is a photo of the Omani groom.
On this day (or sometimes---more commonly these days---the occasion is celebrated on another additional day beforehand) the bride receives her dowry gold.
In terms of what to wear for these, in Oman I have been to both mixed and segregated melkas. I usually wear a super dressy abaya with a headscarf to be safe anyways, unless I know for sure women are separate, and then a dressy caftan or something similar is likewise a safe choice.

About gifts, if I know the bride, this is the best time to give her a gift. The walimah party is too hectic and impersonal to manage usually. If we are super close, that's the only time I give a gift, because otherwise I end up with people buying me dishes sets or chocolate trays when they visit me.

For photographs, as most of my friends (and if not them, then their husbands or families) object to having their photo taken, I find, if you ask, sometimes detail shots, like hands and feet are okay (and the room if decorated for sure is) to photograph. Also, maybe the bride can pose with an object blocking her face if culture says she shouldn't be photographed. Ask first, because some brides are okay either way, or are not okay no matter what.
 The whole point of the melka is to sign the marriage contract (pictured above).

The bride may wear Omani traditional dress, or another formal kind of dress (I've seen Omani brides choose Indian saris with hijabs, or sleeved coloured designer gowns like Eli Saab and Valentino with headscarves, but Omani dress is still more common).

At all the melkas I have been to there's rice and meat and snacks like sambusas afterwards, but not to the extent of the walimah buffet-type dinners in halls.

At that's about it. All photos by Abudisphotography taken from the Instagram account: [ https://www.instagram.com/abudisphotography/ ].