Misunderstanding Modesty

Just to get it straight . . .


A 24-year-old man has been sentenced to six months in a French jail for assault. He assaulted a female nurse, punching her in the face. Wait, it gets better. He punched her while she was helping his wife, who had been in labor for two days at home and was finally brought to hospital to deliver her baby.

Why would a man assault a nurse attempting to aid his wife, who was probably in her early twenties or perhaps even younger?

Because, in an effort to determine how far the prospective mother’s cervix was dilated – to see if it was safe to push the baby out – the nurse did a manual exam of the laboring woman’s vagina. Which the husband claimed was “rape”. Then, after he had been forced outside to a room where he could watch through a window without interfering, he broke through the locked door and punched the nurse when she removed the woman’s face coverings (presumably to let the laboring woman breathe and to make it easier to understand her accented French during a very painful, fraught time).

In another part of the labor area was a male physician. The Muslim husband did not want his wife’s face exposed to a male to whom she was not related. Rather than express his distress, he decided to break open the locked door, assault a woman helping his wife, and thereby threaten his child’s entrance into the world.

The husband, Nassim Mimoune, was hustled outside by security personnel, arrested, and charged. At his trial, the presiding judge noted that Mimoune had set “his religious dogma above the laws of the Republic and his French citizenship,” and that was unacceptable in France.

Many commenters from the UK expressed relief that a French jurist would uphold national standards, wishing that British judges would act in similar ways.

I think modesty is misunderstood by Muslims.

It’s not being dressed a certain way. It’s acting in ways that affirm one’s intelligence and humanity without stressing one’s sexuality. When a Muslim man commits rape, is he acting modestly? Definitely not. He’s a criminal who’s abused his own sexual self, as well as someone else’s body.

For the record, I am not in favor of showing a lot of skin away from the beach, as I perceive it as disrespectful to self regardless of one’s sex. Yet irrespective of how a woman dresses, she does not deserve ribald comments, much less assaultive behavior. This is what SlutWalks point out – that it’s the person who commits assault who is at fault, not the victim. Would we blame a forty-something, male executive for wearing his Rolex and thus bringing down upon himself an assault and theft?

Didn’t think so.

When it comes to modesty, it’s not about the hijab or niqab or burka or any sort of covering. It’s about treating people as human beings. It’s about not pushing oneself on them, attacking them.

It’s about restraining one’s own immodest thoughts and language and actions first, rather than concerning oneself with restricting others’ attire.

It’s also about recognizing that your wife who’s giving birth – perhaps for the first time – needs the help that medical personnel offer her, whatever their sex, and unrestricted air to breathe. You would want that, too, if you were trying to birth a child.

Perhaps in prison, Mimoune will learn that he’s not his wife’s owner. Not in France.


Filed under Burka, Burqa, Domestic terrorism, France 24, Law, Misogyny, Rape, Violence

3 responses to “Misunderstanding Modesty

  1. This is a great post! I will be promoting it on my Sunday Link encyclopedia because it addresses a very important issue in a very intelligent way.

  2. Pingback: The Last Link Encyclopedia and Self-Promotion of 2011! « Clarissa's Blog

  3. NancyP

    “Muslims” – that’s a big generalization. Some Muslims define modesty as a philosophy, not as a set of clothing and strictures concerning contact with non-family. “Blending in” is how a friend of mine, an uncovered female physician, describes her strategy. She dresses in the American/ European conservative professional style, skirt at or below the knee, shirt not skin-tight, no low-cut collars or sleeveless shirts. One would never guess that she has been president of her mosque, a position held by respected lay elders. She has to wear chador when she goes to visit her parents overseas, but there again, she views it as “blending in”.

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