A long-winded discussion
(Aati thought that if I posted this conversation, a lot of people would get offended. I'll take my chances, I guess. I think if people read it carefully, they can see that the intention is not to offend. Comments have been edited for readability. )
Aati: I have noticed a similarity between a lot of girls who grow up in liberal families, then don the hijab. Consider this my offensive and ignorant opinion, but I have noticed a lot of these girls were what you call 'shallow' before they 'got religion'. Matlab, the girls who based the identity and worth on appearances, whether they were taught to or chose to, who were prone to peer pressure and people's perspectives of them contributed a great deal to their self-image. That kind. Every teenager shows such behavior, but for some it rings true to their actual self whereas for others it is associated with adolescence and decreases as they develop a personal identity and a concept of their own worth. A lot of these girls, and I'm including Western women who convert, never seem to do that till religion steps in, slaps an identity on them, and tells them to stop focusing on their appearance.
Me: Is it like moderates, which were previously too thoughtless to see their own contradictions, becoming more religious (or its opposite) in an attempt towards a consistent meaningful life?
Aati: A lot of these girls don't progress from moderate to conservative. It's a 'bad girl gone good' or 'Barbie goes Hijabi'. And then they become the poster children for the tableeghi jamaat.
Me: Hmmm. Religion gives them an identity they couldn't create for themselves?
Aati: Exactly. So you don't generally find women with a strong identity -- whatever it is, with the exception of 'religious' -- turn to religion this way. By this way, I mean donning the hijab, or burka etc. The 'visible' ways.
Me: What do you think Y would say about this?
Aati: Y would be very offended! She would also jump into an argument with me to show me how wrong I am in so many ways. She jumps in to defend before hearing out and trying to understand what someone's saying. But I have a feeling this is one thing where I'd have a LOT of explaining to do. She's not a Barbie-turned-Hijabi though, and this would only add to her missing this trait in others.
Me: So what kind of a Hijabi is she? The one whose true inner personality developed into that?
Aati: Yes. She was a classic example of a curious mind seeking higher meaning -- she found it in her Religion, you found it in Philosophy, and I found it in Love. I respect all three of us making a choice, even if I don't agree with all the choices made.
Me: I don't really respect the-religion-that-must-not-be-named, and it makes me hard to respect people like Y.
Aati: I try to respect TRTMNBN because blanket condemnations generally make me uneasy. There is both good and bad, while there is oppression and draconian punishments, there is also encouraging honesty and [feeding the poor.] My actual problem is with individual beliefs and values.
Me: Then you shouldn't say that you respect TRTMNBN. You should say that you don't judge it at all as a whole, and that you only respect or disrespect individual beliefs :)
Aati: No, I do try to respect it. [...]
Me: If you are justified in (trying to) respect TRTMNBN as a whole, then I am also justified in disrespecting it as a whole :P
Aati: *Lol* Yeah. One can look at the negative aspects just as easily as one can look at the positive aspects. Religions are like that. They claim to be an absolute truth, when they couldn't be farther from it.
Me: You know my minimum for respect? I cannot or will not respect any ideology or person who believes that I deserve to be killed or that I deserve to go to hell for all eternity. I cannot respect something or someone that doesn't respect me.
Aati: *hugs* That was for three reasons. 1. You are right. 2. I can empathize with you. 3. I was suddenly reminded of your 'maleness.'
Me: Maleness? Lolz. How? I think I sound like Nietzsche. 'If there were gods, how could I bear not to be a god?' Demanding that God respect ME :D
Aati: According to my society, I am respected based on how socially obedient I am. The way I am, threats of death and punishment are something I got used to since childhood. Same story with a lot of girls. The idea that we can be killed or punished isn't 'odd' anymore. At its best, it's someone's delusional raving or just a jest. At its worst, it's something to brace ourselves against, a warning to heed, or a fate to escape. So for 'females' like me, our minimum working standard for respecting someone moves away from the more ideological or ego-focused stance of being respected in return. I am not saying that's how it should be, but that's the way it is with many of us.
(* Y is someone me and Aati both know, and you, the reader, won't know.
**Sorry, comments aren't allowed for this post. If you have something genuine to say, please email me. If it adds something meaningful, I'll post it on the blog.)