I am a Catholic. My Church teaches me to esteem our Muslim friends and to work with them in the cause of promoting justice and moral values. I am happy to stand with them in defense of what is right and good. And so I stand with the young woman in the above video in defense of modesty, chastity, and piety, just as I stand with Muslims like my dear friends Shaykh Hamza Yusuf and Dr. Suzy Ismail against the killing of unborn children and the evil of pornography, and with my equally dear friend Asma Uddin of the Becket Fund in defense of religious freedom. In the great document Nostra Aetate, we Catholics are taught the following by the fathers of the Second Vatican Council:
The Church has also a high regard for the Muslims. They worship God, who is one, living and subsistent, merciful and almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has also spoken to men. They strive to submit themselves without reserve to the decrees of God, just as Abraham submitted himself to God’s plan, to whose faith Muslims link their own. Although not acknowledging Jesus as God, they revere him as a prophet; his virgin Mother they also honor, and even at times devoutly invoke. Further, they await the Day of Judgment and the reward of God following the resurrection of the dead. For this reason they highly esteem an upright life and worship God, especially by way of prayer, almsgiving, and fasting.
Over the centuries many quarrels and dissensions have arisen between Christians and Muslims. The sacred Council now pleads with all to forget the past, and urges that a sincere effort be made to achieve mutual understanding; for the benefit of all men, let them together preserve and promote peace, liberty, social justice and moral values.
Let us heed this teaching. Let us, Muslims and Christians alike, forget past quarrels and stand together for righteousness, justice, and the dignity of all. Let those of us who are Christians reject the untrue and unjust identification of all Muslims with those evildoers who commit acts of terror and murder in the name of Islam. Let us be mindful that it is not our Muslim fellow citizens who have undermined public morality, assaulted our religious liberty, and attempted to force us to comply with their ideology on pain of being reduced to the status of second-class citizens. Let all of us—Christians, Jews, Muslims, and people of other faiths who “esteem an upright life” and seek truly to honor God and do His will—embrace each other, seeking “mutual understanding for the benefit of all men [and working] together to preserve and promote peace, liberty, justice, and moral values.”
Through the great work being done by my friend Jennifer Bryson—who is a devout Christian and a great American patriot who spent two years as an interrogator at Guantanamo—I have met hundreds of religiously observant Muslims over the past several years and many are now my close friends. They are among the finest people I know. Like faithful Christians and Jews, they seek to honor God and do His will. They work, as we do, to inculcate in their children the virtues of honesty, integrity, self-respect and respect for others, hard work, courage, modesty, chastity, and self-control. They do not want to send their sons off to wars. They do not want their children to be suicide bombers. They do not want to impose Islam on those who do not freely embrace it. They thank God for the freedom they enjoy in the United States and they are well aware of its absence in the homelands of many of those who are immigrants. It is not right for us to make them feel unwelcome or to suggest that their faith disables them from being loyal Americans. It is unjust to stir up fear that they seek to take away our rights or to make them afraid that we seek to take away theirs. And it is foolish to drive them into the arms of the political left when their piety and moral convictions make them natural allies of social conservatives. (A majority of American Muslims voted for George W. Bush in the 2000 election. A majority of the general voting population did not.)
I admire Muslim women and all women who practice the virtue of modesty, whether they choose to cover their hair or not. There are many ways to honor modesty and practices vary culturally in perfectly legitimate ways. Men and women are called to serve each other in various ways, and women who refuse to pornify themselves, especially in the face of strong cultural pressures and incentives to do so, honor themselves and others of their sex while also honoring those of us of the opposite sex. They uphold their own dignity and the dignity of their fellow human beings, male and female alike.
I have no doubt that in certain cultures, including some Muslim cultures, the covering of women is taken to an extreme and reflects a very real subjugation, just as in sectors of western culture, the objectification of women (including the sexualization of children at younger and younger ages) by cultural pressures to pornify reflects a very real (though less direct and obvious) subjugation. But, of course, we are in the happy position of not having to choose between the ideology of the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and that of Hugh Hefner.
Of course, defenders of pornification claim that they are “liberating women” and “celebrating female beauty.” The liberation claim is the very reverse of the truth. As for “celebrating female beauty,” let me ask you this: Is there an actress in all of Hollywood who when appearing at one of these absurd awards shows dressed in a see-through gown, bra-less and wearing a thong, can compare with the beautiful young Muslim woman in the video I posted? I submit that there is none. Oh, yes, to be sure, the actress will appeal to something in her male viewers. (I’m a man. Take it from me.) But it will not be their sense or appreciation of beauty. It will be something much lower and brutely appetitive. Their experience will be one in which who she actually is as a person is utterly submerged. The men viewing her will not be drawn in to wonder about her thoughts and feelings, her experiences of joy and sorrow, her strengths and vulnerabilities—the things that actually make her the unique person she is. Their experience will, quite literally, be an experience of de-personalized desire—the very definition of lust.