A Mennonite bonnet, a Muslim hijab: Why do many of us feel differently about them?
A Toronto, Muslim, assimilation-assisting group recently brought an assortment of hijabs, niqabs, and burkas, and installed them beside bonnets, caps and snoods, in the local Mennonite Museum, as a prompt for debate and discussion, with the above question.
As with so many other things, each of these sets is far more than what it merely appears to be, women’s head-coverings. Each of them is representative – a sort of visual shorthand – of an entire subculture. Here in Canada, we have had 200 years to accustom ourselves to what Mennonites are, peaceful, law-abiding and reserved.
Sadly, after 50 years of immigration, the same cannot be said of all Muslims. There is no Mennonite jihad – a drive to force the world to obey its tenets. There is no published agenda to establish a Mennonite Caliphate. Mennonites don’t put people in cages and drown them, or throw them off tall buildings, or burn them alive, or blow their heads off with explosive cord.
In many people’s minds, these actions and attitudes are represented – at least condoned – by these head coverings. If you come to Canada to be Canadian, don’t continue to wave the bullfighter’s red cape that reinforces the Us and Them stance, and expect to be accepted.
Like many Muslim women, Conservative Amish and Mennonite women wear an bonnet in obedience to the Biblical commands given in 1 Tim. 2:9-15, 1 Peter 3:1-6, and Titus 2:3-5 that a Christian woman should be discreet, chaste, modest, sober-minded, in subjection, (Emphasis mine) meek and quiet, and shamefaced.
A local Mennonite lady took offence at the printed statement that such headwear was a symbol of oppression. Her Op-Ed letter read, “I read with interest the article by the female columnist. I am a Mennonite woman who wears a head covering, and I was disappointed the real reason we wear them was not explained. Mennonites are Bible-believing Christians, and we believe the head-covering is a God-ordained requirement for a Christian woman.
I find it offensive that the Mennonite head covering is seen as a symbol of oppression. There may be some such cases, but I am convinced that the majority of Mennonite women feel very secure and protected, and not oppressed.
In society, it is perfectly acceptable for businesses to have people with different levels of authority, from CEOs, down to janitors. A business functions best this way and we believe that a marriage also functions best when we follow God’s pattern for it. This is for the man to have the leadership role, and the woman to be his helpmeet. My head covering is a symbol of that headship order. I find it unfortunate that the Mennonite woman’s head covering is so misunderstood.”
I don’t think that there’s much misunderstanding. This just an updated version of The Scarlet Letter. I feel badly for her. I respect her – just not her beliefs. From an objective, external viewpoint, this has all the hallmarks of an abusive relationship. She might be accepting, even happy, with the order of things in her (religious) life, but probably because she’s undergone the Stockholm Syndrome conditioning.. She may have been convinced, or convinced herself, that this mind-set is valid.
Even if it were, like the displays of burkas, etc. just flaunt the I’m-better-than-you, Holier-Than-Thou belief, she’s setting up another Us vs. Them situation, and doing neither group much good.