Remembering Uzza

If Islam was explained to me in a pub

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No Scarf, No Service!

[A slender dark-haired young woman with a tan complexion walks up the stairs and makes her way to one end of the bar. Archie comes over to greet her.]

Archie: Hi. How are you? My name is Archie.

Uzza: Fine, thank you. My name is Uzza.

Archie: Nice to meet you, Uzza. Uzza, that’s an Arabic name, isn’t it?

Uzza: Arab, yes, yes it is; it comes from…

Archie: And can I assume you and Allah are like this [crossing his fingers]?

Uzza: If you mean, am I a Muslim, yes.

Archie: Then I can’t serve you unless you’re wearing a scarf.

Uzza: I am sorry…?

Archie: Didn’t you read the sign?

Uzza: What sign?

Archie: The sign downstairs that says: “Women must wear a head scarf to be served if their religion requires it.”

Uzza: But I am not in a city that is part of the Holy Alliance of Muslim Municipalities.

Archie: I know, but we often get young men from an M & M coming here for a fruit juice – if you know what I mean – and sometimes they get all upset when they see a woman such as yourself not wearing a head scarf.

Uzza: That is their problem.

Archie: No, it's your problem! And, did I mention that it’s the law. One complaint and I could lose my license. They could also take matters into their own hands, and you seem like a nice girl. So, are you going to put on a scarf or not?

Uzza: I think I will go somewhere else, thank you very much.

Archie: Not only don’t you read signs, but you don’t hear too well do you? There is no somewhere else!

Uzza: In Québec I do not have to wear a scarf!

Archie: That is another country. They have a Charter of Values and we have a Charter of Rights.

Uzza: Why would that make a difference?

Archie: Values are values. They are what they are. Rights are different.

Uzza: What do values and rights have to do with my having to wear a scarf to get service?

Archie: Everything in these weird times we live in. Rights can be ranked, and, in the Canadian Charter of Rights, religious rights are right up there[9]. It was a gift from the devil himself for people who won’t take no for an answer and would even kill to get what they want. They used this guarantee − not to mention pompous declarations about the supremacy of God[10] found in many Western constitutions and charters − and the gullibility of politicians and judges, to carve out for themselves a separate reality where the rule of God is the only rule.

Uzza: If freedom of religion is a person’s inalienable right, then it follows that it would also be the inalienable right of the community of believers to whom they belong. It is only logical. But I still do not understand what this has to do with my having to wear a scarf to get served in an establishment that is not in an M & M ghetto?

Archie: Let religion in where it has no business, your business, and religion will make your business its business, and that is why you must wear a scarf or leave.

Uzza: How is religion now running your business? Please explain.

Archie: Municipalities, especially those bordering an M & M, recognize the supremacy of everyone's god in their bylaws which regulate how businesses like mine treat you to avoid problems with vigilantes.

Uzza: Good. Who do I complain to about you not wanting to serve me for not wearing a scarf?

Archie: You have to be kidding me! If your religion requires you to wear a scarf in public, I am required by law not to serve you if you're not wearing one.

Uzza: Why would you assume that?

Archie: For crying out loud! Doesn't your religion require you women to cover your face when going out in public? I only ask that you cover your head!

Bob: What is this about covering your face in public?

Uzza: Only if I have to pee, or whatever, and men might see me. I assume, Mr. Bartender, that your facility has washrooms for women only?

Archie: Of course, but what you just said, that is stupid!

Uzza: Are you calling the Prophet Muhammad stupid?

Archie: Of course not! Only an idiot or someone with a death wish would call your messiah stupid.

Uzza: Muhammad was not a messiah but a Messenger of God to whom Allah sent the angel Gabriel[11] to tell him how we must live and how He wants to be worshipped if we do not want Him to send us to Hell to burn for an eternity.

Bob: And God wants women to wear a veil if they have to do their business in a coed can, if they don't want to have to do their business in Hell. Sounds like a sensible solution to me.

Uzza: That was then, when women had to answer the call of nature in what you refer to as a “coed can" and the wives of Muhammad were no exception.

[The following dialogue is largely based on what the companions of the Prophet reported he said and did: Bukhari 5.148 and 60.318]

They answered the call of nature along with the men at one of Medina's open spaces set up for that purpose, separated from them by a low wall. One night, Sauda (also spelled Sawda), one of Muhammad's taller wives, was recognized by Umar, one of his companions and future caliph when she squatted, and he made fun of her saying “I see you, Sauda.”

This was not the first time he had done that. Sauda had had enough and complained to her husband, who was eating at the time. Then and there Allah revealed the verses of "Al-Hijab." Muhammad, just to be clear, added that women had the right to do their business outside just like the men.

Archie: Unbelievable! The cowboy mask was so that desert-dwelling women, like the bank robbers in old Westerns, could take care of business without being recognized and not about being holier than thou?

Uzza: It is one explanation. And, it is not a mask but a veil, and it has nothing to do with concealing your identity during the commission of a crime, even if some wicked people have used it to do that.

Archie: I agree with your Prophet. It’s not a crime for a woman to use public facilities and it’s also not a bad idea for a woman to conceal her identity if she has to share the privy with perverts.

Uzza: The whole discussion about veils in a country with indoor plumbing and women-only washrooms is all very silly.

Archie: Silly or not, the religious nutjobs who cruise the bars looking for women breaking Islamic law say otherwise, and we do not want any trouble with these bearded avengers and their masked sidekicks, and the law, the regular law, is on their side.

Uzza: Show me the law, please.

Archie: I know the law, it’s part of a bartender's mandatory religious sensitivity training; but, if you insist. Hey Google, show me the bylaw about that degree thing [a bylaw appears on one of the screens near them and Archie starts reading it out loud].

In the event of a disagreement between a Muslim man and a Muslim woman as to the applicability of one or more Islamic decrees as they pertain to your business establishment and their presence therein, the male’s interpretation shall always prevail in accordance with Koran revelation 2:228 which states, in part, ‘women have rights equal to what is incumbent upon them according to what is just, although men are one degree above them’.

Uzza: But, under any interpretation of Islamic law, I should not even be here, especially without a male guardian watching and approving everything I do and say.

Archie: It will probably come to that; it's only a matter of time.

Uzza: How depressing. I am sorry. I just came here to relax a bit, so if you would not mind…

Archie: You can relax all you want, but not without a scarf.

Uzza: I do not have one with me.

Archie: That’s okay; we keep a few handy, just in case.

Uzza: What colours do you have?

Archie: What’s your favourite shade of black?

Uzza: Surprise me.

[Archie hands her a black scarf.]