I  close my eyes and I find Mother Mary before me. Along with the aura of her blessed face, I see a semblance of sorrow accompanying it. I try asking ‘Oh pious lady! One of the most virtuous women to have ever set foot on the earth…What makes you wear that grief-stricken look?’

In reply, silence is all that I get. I open my eyes and say to myself, ‘better luck next time’.

I then happen to browse through the internet and I find one of the pictures of her statues somewhere in France. The typical mournful look on her face is what I find yet again.

I make my own permutations and combinations. I try figuring out what could be troubling Mother Mary so much? Incidentally, I happen to come across a news story as I browse, about the ban on Hijab or the burkha on women in France. I say to myself, perhaps this is it. One might wonder what has Mother Mary got to do with the Hijab? Well, the way I see it, there’s hardly any difference between the clothes that Mother Mary is seen wearing and the Islamic Hijab worn by the Muslim women.

Perhaps Mother Mary wants to say ‘I dread people will call for ban on my clothing as well. They didn’t bother one iota before they made my blessed son look trendy and ‘cool’ not too long ago’. (Yes, it’s about the ‘Jesus in Jeans’ statue unveiled in a Church in East Essex, England) The last thing she would want is people making her wear mini skirts.

Quiet possible that Mother Mary is unhappy about the allegation laid on the followers of a faith that regard her son as one of the mightiest messengers of God, that they suppress their women by making them dress like her. It’s a misconception that Islam subjugates women by imposing the Hijab on them. The reason for Hijab for women in Islam is mentioned in the Glorious Quran which makes it clear that it is to protect women from being molested. A lesser known fact is that the Quran talks about Hijab for men before women. The Quran commands every believing man to lower his gaze on the sight of women in order to restrain him from feasting on the beauty of the female body. Islam has got no issues with a woman being a career woman, gives her the right to education and inherit property, does not approve of a marriage without her consent,  allows her to involve in business transactions and the like as long as she carries out her activities within the framework of the shariah. Ask a lady who wears the Islamic hijab and you’ll know that she wants to guard her modesty and expects to be respected.

In fact, subduing of women is something of a global significance. If you thought women in the West, with all its democratic principles, live a life of liberation and empowerment, think again. Even in our dear country India, which boasts of a modest lifestyle and rich cultural heritage, assault on women is alarming. According to the data released by the Union Home Ministry, India stands third in the list of most registered rape cases in the world, with 18,359 rape cases being registered in the first three quarters of 2008. The first place goes to the US with 93,934 cases followed by South Africa with 54,926 rape cases, as reported by www.newsx.com. The country with the lowest number of rape cases registered according to the report, is Jordan, (only 78 cases) where 92% of the total population is Muslim.

Yvonne Ridley, a journalist from UK who made headlines after her 10 day captivity under the Taliban in Afghanistan, writes in one of her articles ‘How I Came To Love The Veil’ that was published on her official website www.yvonneridley.org, “Western women are still treated as commodities, where sexual slavery is on the rise, disguised under marketing euphemisms, where womens’ bodies are traded throughout the advertising world. This is a society where rape, sexual assault, and violence on women is commonplace, a society where the equality between men and women is an illusion, a society where a womens’ power or influence is usually only related to the size of her breasts.” Further, she goes on to reveal “I used to look at veiled women as quiet, oppressed creatures and now I look at them as multi-skilled, multi-talented, resilient women whose brand of sisterhood makes Western feminism pale into insignificance.

Here’s an unnoticed example of women exploitation that we saw in the Indian Premiere League (IPL) season II that concluded in South Africa not too long ago. In a match played between the Royal Challengers Bangalore and the Mumbai Indians at Port Elizabeth, a venue known for its windy conditions, we saw most of the players on the field wearing double jerseys and sweaters and a few in the dug out wrapped in towels. Even the commentators who would come out on the filed to fill in some telecast time during the 10 minute strategic time out, were seen fully clad in thick jackets and monkey caps, trying to combat the chilly weather. But there was this contingent of cheergirls who continued to be in action (or were ordered to do so) in those skimpy outfits in that very chilly weather, making a mockery of the equal rights for women mantra that the ‘civilized’ societies talk about.

Mr. Sarkozi’s concern for the womenfolk deserves appreciation. But perhaps he needs to ask the womenfolk themselves whether they feel ‘subjugated’ in the hijab before really making conclusions. There are a whole lot of things that decide the actual suppression of women than her abundantly covered body.

Even as her son strived to tell his people what is good and what is not, I wonder if Mother Mary with her fully clad attire ever felt subjugated.

Phew… If only Mother Mary could speak….