Burka Barbie

Welcome to Islam’s self-esteem issues.

Any American who believes that radical Islam does not represent a clear and present danger to western civilization should be required to spend a month living under Sharia Law in a Muslim country. It would ultimately be a less expensive, and more lasting, means of energizing the nation than waiting for a terrorist to successfully complete the kind of mission of destruction that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab came so close to executing on Christmas day.

My first experience with Sharia Law occurred more than a decade ago, shortly after I had deplaned from the British Airways 777 that deposited me in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, in the course of a consulting project involving the Kingdom’s oil industry. Waiting to pass through customs, I observed a Saudi soldier swinging a machete, casually decapitating a score of Kewpie dolls that an unsuspecting westerner had tried to bring into the country. The torsos were returned to the traveler and the heads were dumped in the trash, all in accordance with Sharia Law. As a “how do you do?” there are better ways to make a first impression.

But Sharia Law prohibits any representation of the human form, and it is quite strict about depicting Allah’s other creations among the animal kingdom as well. Fish seem to be exempt from this prohibition, for reasons that I still do not completely understand. In any case, Islam also assumes that portraying mythical creatures, from golden idols to Kewpie people, might tempt gullible believers away from the true path. Thus it is entirely logical – under Sharia Law – to separate the head of a Kewpie doll from its shoulders with extreme prejudice.

That fact made the recent appearance of Burka Barbie all the more amusing to those westerners in the know. If Mattel were to ship a case of these dolls to a nation living under Sharia Law, Muslim girls would be allowed to play with them, or at least part of them, but only after Barbie’s cranium was separated from her shoulders.

Religious police prowl the streets of Saudi Arabia, as they do in most Muslim nations, looking for those who dare to resist the will of Allah, as that will was recorded by his prophet/stenographer Muhammad. The religious police in the Kingdom come in both the official and unofficial variety, the latter mostly composed of elderly male busybodies who revel in the opportunity to harass a western woman daring to wear a dress whose sleeves leave a portion of her forearms shamelessly exposed. These amateur versions of Bharney bin Fife are, not surprisingly, even more fanatic about their mission than their professional counterparts.

During one of my stints in Saudi Arabia, an American woman was arrested by the religious police while walking her dog, a Scotch Terrier. The Scotch Terrier is distinctive in its appearance, with a face that features a long chin beard. Long chin beards are also a requirement for Muslim males living under Sharia Law. Put these two facts together and the unavoidable Sharia legal conclusion is that the Terrier’s beard must go, lest it serve to mock the sacred traditions of Islam. Thus this unfortunate American woman was compelled to bring her pooch in for an appointment with one of Allah’s barbers.

It’s patently obvious that any religion concerned about the threats to it posed by dolls and dogs has some serious self-esteem issues. These sorts of amusing examples of Islamic insecurity, of which we have merely scratched the surface, get virtually no play in western media circles. Surely that would not be the case if – say – a Christian or Jewish sect found it necessary to take barber shears to Rover in order to preserve religious purity. But, as we have learned, diversity has its limits.

Critics of Islam focus on the more horrifying aspects of the religion, and justifiably so. Honor killings and suicide bombings are far more troubling issues than toy mutilation and offensive canine whiskers. Still, there is a lesson to be learned here. Even if one discounts the murderous, fanatic elements of Islam that apologists assure us merely represent a disenfranchised minority motivated by the need to defend themselves against western bullying (aka: “Bush’s fault”), that which remains – so called mainstream Islam – doesn’t provide much comfort.

At its questionable best, “mainstream Islam” has no room for western traditions and values. That fact has been made painfully clear to any American who has spent any significant amount of time living in the nations subject to rule of Islamic governments. Back in the days when I was commuting to Saudi Arabia, I learned of the quiet joke that many Americans regularly repeated when their flight was on final approach to an airport in the kingdom. The joke privately replaced the usual before-landing announcement issued by the flight crew. It went something like this: “Ladies and gentlemen, we will be landing in Jiddah shortly. Please set your clocks back one thousand years.”

Recent events clearly demonstrate that this jest, with all of its ominous implications, still applies.