I slept for about four hours between the muddled cried of Saudi tots. I tried to watch the newest release of Total Recall with Colin Ferrell, but I was reminded of the extreme right-wing, police-state, surveillance-state, censoring mentality that comes with extreme religious governments.
Mild violence was never shown. No blood was allowed to be seen. Even women’s low-cut shirts were pixilated at the breasts. So by the time I’d finished the first half hour of the film, I’d had enough bleated, fuzzed out and muted scenes to realize that I wasn’t even getting the full story to keep a decent understanding of the plot line. And for a movie like Total Recall, that’s cutting out a lot.
The thought occurred to me that they do to their movies the same thing they do to their women. Cover them up. If you think it’s indecent, cover it up. If it’s a little embarrassing, cover it up. If it is a bad word, a bad sight or could lead to a bad thought, cover it up. Pretend it doesn’t exist and hide it away. That’s the way it works.
I guess I should feel good that I was born with a penis. I am perfectly okay walking around in public wearing whatever I want. But dare I show even a little skin, no matter what blistering temperature the sun is cooking this arid land at, if you’ve got breasts, you’d better be draped head to toe in the darkest, least revealing, hottest attire we men can think to force upon you. At least that is one man’s impression.
Perhaps I am wrong. But covering up is a very foreign concept for me – and I am assuming it is for most westerners as well. We automatically feel like maybe there’s something to be ashamed of or that we’re ugly if we’re asked to hide away. And perhaps that is going to be one of the greater challenges to Islam taking hold in western countries.
That thought passes as we land and taxi into the terminal. I am reminded of just how religion finds its way into all facets of life here, not just in the burka which must be donned by all women. As the pilot begins to speak into the PA system, he praises Allah for a safe flight and successful landing.
Personally, I’d rather him be thankful for his gauges functioning properly and that the laws of physics didn’t suddenly shift during our time in the air. I’d even be happy if he was prideful of his skill in putting down plane with a dry weight of 84,100 lbs. and more than 300 bodies on board.
Islam is not just a religion here. It’s a way of life. The uniform dress on the streets is as important for men as it is for women. But not for the same reasons. For the men, who are generally found sitting and smoking or talking on a mobile phone with one hand and shaping every syllable they utter with the other, it seems more of a uniform of status. And they hold that status dear.
I’s a simple form of honor that is paid from one man to another when they see they’re part of the “club.” And while it’s a bit archaic, it’s probably more than the tradition than it is the significance that will fuel this trend to the last breath of the last Muslim in this land.
Nevertheless, we’re here in what’s got to be the creepiest airport on earth. Jeddah is a very “short” city with all the buildings being under three stories. And while its infrastructure is constructed chiefly of mud-brick and earthen supports, it’s home to three million people and is said to be one of Saudi’s premier resort areas.