SILVER LININGThe paradox of “Mashaqir”” and the religious police [Archives:2008/1176/Opinion]”

July 28 2008

Dr. Mohammed Al-Qadhi
I think the best response to the establishment of a religious police force, under the banner of promoting virtue and curbing vice, is the mashaqir (traditional flowers women put on either side of their head) function run by the House of Folklore. I was extremely thrilled with spiritual joy with the function that revived in everybody nostalgia for a simple and pure life for both men and women free from extremism and fanaticism. The mashqour, a singular form of mashaqir, is a symbol of chastity and freedom women enjoyed in an ordinary rustic life. It also stands for an abused femininity now by a puritanical interpretation of life where everything is devilish and hellish and a male-dominated and masculine culture that considers women inferior to men.

See the paradox between a group of fundamentalist clerics that want to kill life and a function organized by Arwa Othman, director of House of Folklore, that wants to revive and breathe life into the society and women through restoring the culture of the mashaqir. I have so much respect for this woman who has been relentlessly working to preserve the Yemeni abstract folklore, collecting both verbal and nonverbal heritage that represents a very significant aspect of our society fabric. The irony is that some are devoted to life and its beauty and others to death and its horror.

Anyway, by this commission the regime is ensuring its continuity in power through its coalition with the religious establishment. It is a revival of the cozy marriage between the tribes, clergy and the rulers. The president is using those clerics led by Sheikh Abdulmajeed al Zindani, the hardline rector of the Islamic Al Eman University, as an instrument to blackmail the US which has been exercising pressure on the regime to hand over terrorist suspects. They will be also an instrument in the political fights the regime is having now in Sa'ada and in the southern governorates as well as the upcoming elections in 2009. That is very clear from the statement of the clerics who opted for a military action in Sa'ada, condemned the protests in the south. They also rejected the accusations to Sudanese president Omar al-Basheer as well as called for dropping the name of al-Zindani from the UN and US list for terrorism financers. I do not know where virtue lies here. It is all about politics. We all know well some of the puppet clerics or tribal figures who set themselves as guards of “virtue”” have no clean history either at the moral or political levels.

If these guys are serious about their objectives which are to promote virtue and curb vice