A Family-Plus Outing

One frequent and unimaginative critic of mine keeps calling me “Islamophobic.” Here is another proof!

I am at the beach in that state of dreaminess that watching children playing in the wavelets on a warm day induces. I am keeping an eye on my lovely and tough grand-daughter who is three. She is doing interesting things in the shallows of a Pacific Ocean that’s not too cold for once.

My eyes are drawn to a small girl in a short wetsuit who looks a bit like my grand-daughter from a distance. But the girl is both smaller and older, maybe around five. And she is a blonde with very white skin while my grandchild has apricot skin and brown hair. (It’s a long story, another one! Let’s just say that she has Indian blood, from India, that is.) The little fay stranger holds a tiny boogie-board in both hands and fiercely throws herself into the small waves brandishing the board in front of her. This goes on for a long time without the girl ever coming close to catching a wave. I can only admire that strange little girl’s determination. She seems even tougher, even more determined, than my grand-daughter and that, has never, never happened on that particular beach, not once!

There are plenty of parents at the water’s edge keeping an eye on their offspring. I notice from the corner of my eye a woman who is looking at the little girl from a fair distance. I guess she must be in charge of the girl. There is something strange about the putative mother though. She is covered from head to ankle and she wears a full hijab, the Islamic head covering, and there is even a straw-hat on top of of the hijab. I inch close to her because I am a conscientious social scientist. Soon, it becomes obvious to her that I am watching a little girl in a wetsuit as is she. I smile at the woman and make some anodyne comment. She answers calmly in an equally meaningless way. She has said enough for me to notice that she has a foreign accent that sounds more or less French. I ask her in French if she speaks French. She responds in the same language in a sing-song accent but with perfect fluency. She says she is Romanian. The Romanians I meet all speak good French, even once a traffic cop in Bucharest, a long time ago. (That’s in a story published in the periodical “Liberty.” ) I can’t see any of her hair but the veiled Romanian lady has bright blue eyes. Hence the little girl’s coloring. She adds that her husband knows French very well because he is from Morocco. (Most Moroccans get most of their schooling mostly in French.)

In the meantime, two boys, seven or eight or nine, in full wetsuits, approach the little girl and talk to her kindly in a language I don’t understand. I just know it’s not Romanian. They handle her sweetly for a little while. The youngest boy plants a kiss on the girl’s cheek. The two boys are rather dark skinned and they both have brown hair. They could be my grand-daughter’s siblings in fact. Do you see where this is going?

Then, the Romanian lady begins looking outward, toward goings-on in the bigger waves, one hundred yards off the beach. A man in a bathing suit is frolicking there quite competently. This draws my attention because I seldom see a man over twenty-five in water over his head, and almost never one who does not wear a wetsuit. Few contemporary American men seems to be competent ocean bathers. Or those who are all take up surfing and never show up on family beaches. And others may be competent but too lazy or too wussy actually to swim in our cold central California ocean. It’s remarkable because I see women swimming in simple bathing suits fairly frequently.

I notice that the man the Romanian lady is watching is not alone. He is in the company of a woman who also seems to know what she is doing in the waves. That second woman is also clad in a full Islamic outfit. A hijab that must be tightly held to her hair by numerous pins covers her head. She seems dark-skinned. From a distance, she appears attractive. You can tell she has a slim body. She does not swim much but it’s obvious that she can and it’s obvious she enjoys the fairly big waves. After a while, the man and his woman companion do what loving couples often do in the ocean when they think they are far enough. They feel each other up. I wouldn’t be surprised if the man had attempted to prove to the woman that the cold water had not diminished him. It all looked familiar to a habitual beach-goer like me except the woman’s outfit, of course.

After a while, the mermaid leaves the water and goes with a beach-bag toward the building where you can change. The man also comes out of the water after a little while. He exchanges a few words I don’t hear with the Romanian lady. Then, he walks toward me a with a friendly smile. He offers his hand and introduces himself as a Moroccan. Not to brag but I already guessed this, down to the town where he had lived in Morocco. (Rabat, on the Atlantic Ocean where there are big waves and the water is on the cool side.) He and his family have been in the US for nine years. They live in Santa Clara (in Silicone Valley). And no, he is not associated with the large Islamic center there. He is an accountant. I don’t want to pry. I tell him I used to be French. He is a little puzzled, a little interested but his peripheral vision grasps something that draws him to the spot where the children and the lady swimmer, now changed into long dry clothes, are sitting.

After a little while, he ambles back to me holding a metal mug full of very hot, mint flavored Moroccan-style tea. When I am finished, I am smart enough not to walk to his spot to return the mug. (I keep telling you I am a distinguished social scientist!) The two hijab-covered women and the three children are now bunched together on the warm sand. The man comes back to me with a half of a Moroccan cookie. And then, he returns to pick up his mug.

The Moroccan accountant has been more than friendly. He has been more cordial, has shown greater hospitality than would come forth with Americans casually met at the beach (and Americans are almost always very friendly at the beach except when they are drunk which makes them territorial). Yet no intimacy has developed at all between me, a man alone with a small child, and the Moroccan family. He has kept me at a distance while befriending me. Any contact with another man who is not a relative is haram for certain kinds of Muslims. It’s simply forbidden, even on a beach, even in California. I don’t know the Moroccan’s name though he knows mine. We will not contact each other again as is common here among francophones after a chance encounter.

There are several stories in my story. First, a polygamous family is thriving in our midst. It resides in this paragon of modern life, Silicone Valley. How they manage their family life from a legal standpoint, I don’t know. But there is probably no California law preventing a man from living under the same roof with both his wife and his mistress. (The main reason non-Muslims like me seldom try it is simply abject fear of their wives.) There is obvious affection between the children from the two wives. Of course, I don’t have the answer to the main and louche question: How do the wives get along? Yet, I noticed that they wore outfits of similar colors, grays and blues. It’s not far-fetched to guess that they might borrow clothes from each other, like sisters. Their common husband seems perfectly at ease. In the short span of our tiny conversations, he used the words, “my wife” with respect to both women in turn. No explanation necessary, he thought.

Second, America is open-minded and California is both open-minded and excessively cordial. Relax! The old underlying charges of racism and xenophobia against Americans have become absurd. They have lost all their currency in my lifetime.

Third, I am pretty sure that there are not native-born Muslims in Romania. Have not been for at least a century. (A Romanian reader of mine will correct me if I am wrong on this point. He corrects me on everything else, so, why not?) The blue-eyed woman Mom with the hair veil is a convert to Islam.

Fourth, something happened to me on that beach (again). I am realist. I know that more than 9/10 of terrorist acts worldwide in the past twenty years were committed by people who called themselves Muslims. And all terrorists acts against America and Americans. The connection with my beach acquaintances is fairly straightforward, I think. Islamic garb is not a fact of life, it’s a chosen part of a chosen life-style. The choice also constitutes a forthright rejection of my civilization and of some of its central values. Notwithstanding what silly feminists want you to believe, central among those central values is the Western belief that women are full human beings. Full adult human beings are sexual beings. Any repression of the harmless affirmation of their sexuality is an attack on my civilization. Sex repression is repression; it’s usually the first repression, in fact. As I often affirm, with practically no contradiction: Show me a woman who never acts a little sluttish in her appearence and I will show you a repressed woman or a depressed woman.

There is more: When they are allowed to, women everywhere advertise their wares. Often, they even do it where they risk their lives by doing so. That’s hard-wired behavior. I has to be. That’s the normal way and the natural way for women to attract a mate. Where this path is closed, women are the object of arranged marriages. Mostly, with arranged marriage frequently goes the status of women as chattel. To a large extent, it’s either cleavage or slavery.

A combination of crass ignorance and of benevolence causes many Americans to believe that Muslim women who wear full Islamic garb, including the hijab, are just following their religion. It’s not so. The Koran says nothing about women covering their hair. Neither do the oldest hadiths, the most valid sources by Muslim jurisprudence. The Koran simply recommends in general terms that women be “modest.” The people on the beach have decided to follow a certain brand of Islam. To believe otherwise is to affirm that the millions of Muslims women who dress like my sister are all, without exception, bad Muslims. That’s ridiculous. The rejection of my civilization implicit in female Islamic garb is deliberate, aggressive, in my face

And polygamy is rare today in the Islamo-Arab world. It’s especially rare in the middle-classes. There might even be only one Moroccan accountant in the whole world who is a polygamist and I know him! Although it’s explicitly allowed, polygamy is considered backward. It’s also a conscious rejection of the modern world I inhabit and in which millions of Muslims reside happily.

Next linkage: Do violent jihadists recruit from social milieus where women act just like Methodist Americans, or yet, from that part of Muslim society where young women wear crotch miniskirts (I have seen those)? Or do they focus their recruiting attention on the men from families where women are covered from the top of their heads to their ankle and where a man may have four “Moms”?

And here I go again, I have to tell you what I did not say. I did not say that all, or most, or many hijab wearers engender terrorists. Or that polygamists do. I would bet good money that the extended family on the beach are not terrorists and are no aiding and abetting terrorism in any tangible way. What I did say is that terrorists are unlikely to come from groups were women go bare-headed and from women who have one husband each. So, I have every reason to detest that particular brand of Muslims. That’s the brand whose very appearance proclaims that they dislike and feel contempt for my world. In fact, I am ready to dislike them on sight and I am suspicious of them. Men whose women wear the hijab I suspect of being capable of routinely committing horrendous crimes against women and little girls, with the approval of their brand of religion. And mass murder is only one of those crimes and not necessarily the worst crime.

So, did the chance meeting on a Santa Cruz beach change my mind about anything? No, it did not as the last paragraphs above indicate. The encounter, and the kindness of a mug of tea and half a cookie have done something to me though. Together, they have smoothed my angles. They have made my potential hostility less potent, at least for a while. It did not take much. And it always works out that way. I have known Muslims all my life. I can’t remember a single individual Muslim I disliked. A handful of Muslims are close to my heart as I write. Over the years, my liking of individual Muslims has murkied up my analysis quite a lot. Also, and I doubt the polygamist was thinking that way, I would bet he was not because a strong sense of hospitality is a big part of Arab culture but, if his hospitality had been an intended investment in peace, it would have been a good investment.

I wonder if our own national policies are ever based on the same model. I wonder if any part of our federal government understands the art of rounding off angles, of smoothing relations with small gestures. When I was in Morocco, five years ago, Dolly Parton and Ray Charles traveled in the taxis with me and they walked though the souks alongside me. I am hoping that the State Department or any branch of the federal government is handing out fifty cent music CDs through the Arab world the way the polygamist handed me a mug of tea on that Santa Cruz beach.

Note: Of course, I will publish integrally on this blog any comment or, at least any comment that is not an appeal to crime. I welcome especially comments from Muslims. I may add my own comment to any comment, of course.

About Jacques Delacroix

I am a sociologist, a short-story writer, and a blogger (Facts Matter and Notes On Liberty) in Santa Cruz, California.
This entry was posted in Socio-Political Essays and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to A Family-Plus Outing

  1. Filip4084@aol.com says:

    Correction,Romania has 50-100k Muslims,leftovers from 700 years of Turkish occupation…although I bet you the woman on the beach was not…the Southwest of the country by the Black Sea is where most Muslims
    are…..

    PS I love the word “wussy”
    PS I completely share your liking of individual Muslims you met which murkies up your analysis…me too ….the answer I have to the riddle is what conservative Daniel Pipes said :
    “The biggest problem in the world today is radical Islam
    The solution is Islam”

    • Immy says:

      Urmm what was the point of this article

      Borrrrriiingggg

      • Immy: It’s not an article, it’s a story. Stories normally don’t have a point. The subject is polygamy where you would not expect it. I am pretty sure that topic is not boring to many people in the US. The comments the story triggered suggest that I may be right.

        I am very curious about the bases for your judgement (which made me cry, of course) Where do you live? How old are you?

  2. Siamak says:

    I’m from Iran and I’m Shia. At first I should say that I was impressed by your article and I praise you for being realistic about Muslims in general. As I was reading your article I was searching for elements of your article in my country and my culture. Look, there are too many differences between The Persian Shia Iran, Othmani Sunni Turkey, Shafei Sunni Egypt, Vehabi Sunni Saudi and so on. You can’t generalize Muslims as a whole integrated society anymore. A Morrocan man is more like an Egyptian, So he can’t be dangerous and he is probably kind. Probably her father had money, sent him to France to study and he has never came back to his country for living there. Sometimes it’s all acting! When you walk in the streets of a western country and people know that you’re Muslim, their looks and whispers make you feel uncomfortable and believe me, trying to show that you’re Muslim and acting like them is the least violent reaction to that! And Egyptian and some Iranians and Iraqis Reacts like this. A Saudi Arabian probably (again probably) chooses a more radical way to react. Other part of Iranians try to hide their nationality and religion and some other may just try to get used to it! I just wanted to tell you an experience of mine, an idea as a Muslim. The only thing I think I should tell about your article that I don’t think seeing all the Muslims as a whole culture isn’t true. there are many differences between a Shia and a Sunni or even a Shafei Sunni and a Vehabi Sunni. The nationality also is very effective. tnx

    • jacquesdelacroix says:

      Hi, Siamak. I am very glad that you took the trouble to respond and to comment. We simply don’t hear enough from individual Muslims. And thank you for many interesting points.

      I think I can generalize about Muslims. I can also generalize about Christians, and about bus drivers, and about zebras. If I don’t generalize. I can ‘t really think. It seems to me you are really raising two issues:
      1 Does it make sense to generalize about Muslims or are Muslims, as a category, more or less like people who have hair on the second phalanx of their index fingers. There is actually such a category of humans. We don’t hear about it because it’s meaningless and useless. I think the category “Muslims” is meaningful and useful because of the Koran as a central reference and because of a historical experience that differences markedly from that of the Western, formally Christian world. More on this later, if anyone is interested.

      2 The second issue I think you raise implicitly is whether my generalizations are valid. “Muslims are car mechanics” would be an example of an invalid generalization.

      You tell me, Siamak whether I made invalid generalizations in that piece. Our readers will be interested.

      • Siamak says:

        At first I should thank you for responding me and also I should apologize for my mistakes in writing English!

        I never called your generalization of Muslims or the phrase “Muslim Society” an invalid one. It’s not about making categories and names. These kind of categorizations and labeling is valid and useful too. Look, there are differences between the examples you noted and what I said. How many times you have used the phrase “Christian Country” or seen that in press and newspapers and how many times you’ve seen phrases like “Western Country” or “Muslim Country?
        That’s because most of Christians live in western part of the earth! and western countries have mostly secular governments and people’s lifestyle is kinda modern and most of the member’s of the society that call themselves Christians aren’t religious at all.
        What I said was not about the validness of these categorizations. It is about the vision. I think as a person who is professional in social science like you, should have a different vision when he looks at different societies. There is difference between the “application” of phrases “Christian Country” and “Muslim Country”. and you know why? because a christian country is a model or an exact type! They are a modern country that are mostly Christians and a big part are just Atheists and there are some people that are Jew or Muslim etc. They have a modern lifestyle and there is no trace of religious Fundamentalism. You said you can use the “Muslim Society” because of the Koran as a central reference! But when you say the word “Muslim Country” What comes in mind?! “A Shia Country like Iran that most of them are Shia and aren’t radical at all, some of the aren’t religious at all, some other think that Sunnis are traitors and aren’t Muslim at all and have a leader that thinks he’s the leader of all the Muslims” or “A Mostly Sunni Country like Saudi Arabia that most of them are Vehabi and they think by killing ten Shia they can go to heaven as Koran says!” or “A Sunni country like Egypt that is somewhere between Tradition and Modernism” or “A mostly Sunni country like Turkey that is going towards modernism and democracy so fast with no problem” or even “A Country like Afghanistan that Shia Kills Sunni and Sunni kills Shia and Taliban does Suicide attacks and kill women”? Which one is a Muslim Country? All of them believe in Koran. What happened? That’s the difference. your categories aren’t invalid at all. the use of them isn’t invalid too. But seeing differences help us to have a better view. The use and application of the phrase “Christian Society” is completely different from “Muslim Society”. Because what comes in mind is this: “Which Muslims? The Vehabi Sunni Muslim who is mostly dangerous or a Sunni from Turkey or Morocco which is acceptable. A Shia from government of Iran or an ordinary Shia from north of Afghanistan?

      • jacquesdelacroix says:

        HI, Siamak. Don’t thank me. This kind of blog is just what’s needed for this kind of discussion. And your English is fine.

        If I understand you well, you want me to make finer differences. But when you rely on very fine differences, eventually, there are not categories left, just Peter, and Hasan, and Siamak. And then, I can’t think anymore and neither can you, I believe. I know I am repeating myself and it’s worth it.

        Some gross generalizations are valid and they may (MAY) also be useful. Want an example? Remember what was the main theme in my little essay? Polygeny (“polygamy,” one husband several wives) I think is only legal in Muslims countries. (It’s not legal in all Muslim countries.) This simple fact gives me a window into Muslim cultures (plural). It’s window that concerns the place of women in many Muslim societies. This is not a theological statement; it’s a sociological statement. Once I have made this observation, I know no more about the relationship of Muslims to God than I did before. The observation is potentially very useful howver. Here is how:

        I think there is a beautiful verse of the Koran that says, “Ignorance is a sin.” (I have a lovely Arabic calligraphy on my wall that says this, I have been told. I hope it does not say something else that is awful!) Yet, it seems tome that poligeny is difficult (not impossible, difficult) to conciliate with well educated women. I think further that ill-educated mothers cannot raise well educated children.

        Any link in this reasoning may be false. If no link is false, the consequences are tremendous. The implication is that this marriage practice, in fact, unintentionally, violates the Koranic injunction to learn.

        Reading between the lines, I suspect that you are burning with a desire to explain to well-intentioned Westerners the great diversity inside the parts of the world that are predominantly Muslim. I encourage you to begin. It’s not difficult to create a blog and to begin tomorrow (I think. It’s true that I don’t know where you live; there may be government impediments. I urge you to be cautious)

        Myself, I see no obligation to do so at all. I am only obligated to not lie. And, of course, I publish criticism and let the reader judge.

        I may have misunderstood what you said but I am pretty sure the statement below is not correct, that the Koran does not say what you state it says:

        “They think by killing ten Shia they can go to heaven as Koran says!”

        I wish you well.

      • Siamak says:

        Your answer was complete an persuaded me. Maybe I acted a little over-sensitive! now I can completely agree with you and tell that it was a mis-understanding by me. Thanks for your complete answers. But about one thing! When I used this sentence: “They think by killing ten Shia they can go to heaven as Koran says!” I didn’t mean that Koran really tells that. For Koran there is one thing and that’s Muslim. No Sunni no Shia. What I meant was that there are many verses in Koran that aren’t candor! So you can get many meanings from that. A Vehabi gets what he likes to get from that and a Shia gets what is in his benefit. What I meant was the plurality between Muslims that is not bad at all! The problem begins where these pluralities don’t respect each other.
        By the way thanx for your great blog, this article and your answers… The answers were complete and precise! I am a big fan.

      • jacquesdelacroix says:

        Siamak: Why don’t you start blogging? We don’t hear enough from individual Muslims in English.

        I understood your explanation about what the Koran says and does not say.

        If you don’t mind, tell me how old you are and where you live. (Don’t do anything dangerous.)

      • Siamak says:

        Thanx bro. Actually I used to blog in both Persian and English. Also I used to publish a weekly magazine in university. But there is a long story. I’m 26 and I live in Iran. The circle of restrictions and limitations started closing day by day. So one day I opened my eyes and saw that I’m out of the circle and I had to pay the price of crossing the red line! The fact is that I can’t do that anymore. This is the only thing I can say. I CAN’T blog or write in press anymore.

      • jacquesdelacroix says:

        My heart goes out to you. I don’t want to encourage you to do anything dangerous but you are welcome to use this blog anytime you want. If you send a “Comment” and ask me to, I will turn it into a regular posting (article) under any name or pseudonym you want. Perhaps, I will find a way to send you my email address so you can warn me if you decide to use my offer.

        I send you my best wishes of freedom.

      • Siamak says:

        Mr Delacroix thanks for your kindness. Thank you for offering this great opportunity. But at first I should say that you know the restrictions. I can’t do this even with a pseudonym! Also I think there is a lot of things to learn. Even if I could write freely, first I would consider learning and studying about the different problems specially economy and social science. For now because of two main reason I told, I prefer reading books and blogs like yours. And also thanks for your beautiful wish for me.

      • jacquesdelacroix says:

        Hi, Siamak. Of course, I can only imagine the restrictions under which you must operate and I probably don’t do a good job of it. I can only offer wishes and space. There is a very brave woman who blogs regularly from Cuba. There are two links to her blog on this blog. One of the two is in English: “Generation Y.” You might want to activate it briefly (for a short time) if it’s safe. I think reading that blog will make you feel good.

      • Siamak says:

        Thanx for your suggestion. That was a very nice blog. I added that to my Google Reader.

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  5. Taleseeker says:

    I so very much enjoyed the story and Siamak’s comments. Within the label of Islam there are many cultures and some of them do not practice polygamy as allowed by Islam. In fact it is safe to say the cultural differences could vary from family to family. It is a micro situation judged at macro levels.

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