My personal thoughts on Islamic Topics, not a form of ijtihad rather than applying my mind.

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Location: Cairo, Egypt

Monday, November 13, 2006

Dr. Niqab - Comedy or Tragedy?

My doctors suggested a pneumonia vaccine for me. I suffer from Asthma and with winter approaching this was a sensible precaution.

After running around all over the place trying to get the vaccine for several days, I had to admit my defeat. My doctor advised me to try getting it from Vacsera. Vacsera is a government owned company that works under the umbrella of the Ministry of Health and has a department which specializes in producing and supplying vaccines and serums. Happy to get some pointers, I went to get my vaccine.

Being a government owned company, I was confronted with bureaucracy and red tape and sent from one counter to another, one room to the next, receiving slips of paper to be signed and stamped and what not, but that is not why I am writing this. Finally after about half an hour I was sent to the last room to get the vaccine with the added bonus of getting the injection right then and there to avoid transportation issues.

I walked happily into the room where three nurses were chatting animatedly. I was informed that the doctor will be there momentarily. Before the sentence was complete, something entered the room. It was a bit of a shock to me to see this mass of black!

A black niqab, where even the two tiny holes where the eyes would be were covered in black gauze, entered the room. Thick black gloves sticking out of two wristbands attached to the shapeless black garb, tightly fastened, allowing only the black gloved hands up to the wrists to escape the dark cloud were placed the right hand on top of the left one on the chest, as if in a silent prayer. Only a faintly menacing air escaped. I sighed and thought, even God would have difficulty in peering through that entire black sinister garb all the way through to her heart.

I started wondering how this woman was going to get her injection and where she would start to unravel the various black layers to bare an arm. But before I could complete my imaginative answer to that question in my head, the three nurses said in unison: "good morning doctor." I should have taken the first opportunity to escape, because I didn’t think for even a split second that this was the doctor everyone was waiting for. Doctor? This perfect image of the angel of death is a life giving healing angel of mercy? A doctor!

For a few more panicky minutes I was trying to figure a way to flee without insulting the doctor and making a complete fool of myself. The shapeless formless black niqab rattled down a few question with a very low and muffled voice, almost a like a strangled whisper of a machine gun staccato: "name, age, type of vaccine."

I was too speechless to answer and my mind was racing frantically in dread, trying to come up with a dignified way to flee from this scene, which more and more resembled a farce from a surreal play. I mumbled and stuttered my name and age to the black back, as she had turned towards a closet. In utter shock and complete terror I witnessed her extracting a pair of latex gloves from the closet and putting them on, right over the thick black woolen gloves she was wearing when she came in. I just couldn’t believe this and more and more the surreal farce was turning towards becoming a horror movie. To me it seemed like trying to do open heart surgery while wearing welding gloves and a deep sea diving suit.

Before I could pull myself together and run away, the latex gloves snatched the box with my precious vaccine from me and proceeded to 'load' the injection. I managed to stammer something that sounded like: "I will take that back thank you, I have to go home now." The barely audible muted whisper answered me with a long lecture of which I could only make out a few words, sounding like: "…out of the refrigerator…not more than 20 minutes…transportation…on ice… not allowed to freeze…better here and right now…only a minute…over before you know it…no need to be afraid."

This torrent of words washed over me while I was trying to seize my valuable vaccine from the double gloved clutches of the black creature and murmuring defiantly: "How can you even feel what you're doing with those thick gloves on under the others, I simply refuse..."

Alas, it was too late and I watched wide-eyed as the prized yellowish vaccine was being sucked into the syringe held by that black creature. My resistance faded into nothingness as that black being, now dangerously armed, suddenly and very forcefully grabbed my arm and 'shot' – the vaccine right into it.

The black niqab then turned to the next victim and I was free to go. I almost ran out, happy to have escaped with only a pitiless poke. I will spare you all the now boring and tedious debate about the niqabs, but I have come to understand how it feels like to stand opposite a faceless black creature with a muffled voice and hardly a personal indication of any kind hinting at the humanity and compassion of a doctor, let alone the gender or the living person. The only thought which was in my head now was that this was more a graveside manner than a bedside manner, specially when clad in that monstrous outfit. An Arab proverb eloquently puts it as: "so sad, that it becomes funny."


Blogger Teacher_Ghilsa said...

Hello Ms. Amin,
Your writing about Dr. Niqab reached me via email and I couldn't help but applaud you. I'm not saying that because I myself am not veiled ... I'm saying it because we as a 'people' have gotten so off track. My own daughter is veiled and I'm always after her to either 'veil' from the inside or forget it. And because my girl is a doctor, so ur writing really hit a chord with me. (But I would say considering her age and her mentality, she is doing alright). Truely a pity that we aren't generating all this religious 'effort' towards our inside rather than our outside. For the life of me, I just can't understand why this issue has blown so much out of porportion.
Your whole blog seems so interesting, so I'll keep it bookmarked.

Have a nice day,

5:52 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Ms Amin,

I read your blog about the niqabi doctor & had to laugh. Its amazing how hollywood's image of the angel of death has gribbed the unconscience minds of so many. I know many women who veil in a similar style as the one you described, except for "wool gloves". I know of no one who wears thick wool gloves. I had to wonder as I read that part if it wasn't your imagination running away with you. 98% of gloved niqabis buy their gloves from the same places they get their niqabs & they tend to be thin & nylon so the women can feel what they are doing without having to take them off for any reason, in public. I often wonder if you had been blind if you would have set there calmly, happy to have had the doctor there. Another thought... what if it had been years back when Black doctors where banned from clinics, etc by White society. Would you have had a similar freak out over having a Black doctor help you? Its interesting how prejudice works on the mind & people don't think about it. I believe perhaps we could learn alot from the visually impaired who simply don't see all this bigotry based stuff due to their so called handicap.

Well, I hope you learn something about your own prejudices & come to realize that there was a WOMAN under that "black"... though you didn't appear acknowledge that in your blog. Its easy to dismiss a fellow human being, if you can't see them. But they still exist just the same.

Sincerely, Anisah
(one disabled american, who has experienced multi-levels of bigotry)

7:04 pm  
Blogger jed said...

It's a pity that people like you still live in the primitive age. I would never understand how a woman's hands or hair would arouse my sexual desires. I never heard of someone who ejected after seeing a woman's hands or hair. But of course the kind of obsessed men who live with and are surrounded with such black chimeras would blow their load at the sight of a female toe. Your contribution to this world is that you're making it a world of sexually-obsessed maniacs. Carry on, you're on the right track. You say Ms.Amin forgot that there was a woman behind the ugly pessimistic cloudy black mask. I tell you that Ms. Amin is a human being and we, human beings need to see each other's faces in order to communicate in an non suspicious, comfortable way. If you wear a black mask, it's very normal that you become scary. Human beings don't like darkness, they're afraid of obscurity and they prefer light and clarity. Do you intend to change this human quality that we're proud of? You'll never be able to do that.

12:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I read Anisahs' comments and she didn't mention sexual desire or your arousal so maybe you need to check yourself.

Moving on ,you were making an argument about people not liking darkness,well that would mean over half my family members fit into that "scared of darkness" category,they are darker skinned African Americans.That's a history lesson for another time(whether you are a Caucasian person or not),these color(darkness=scary) issues exist in many ethnicities.

By the way the world isn't made up of only people in a suit /tie ,many cultures/ethnicities and religious sects have some time of face covering within their practice.Stop thinking the world ends at your door.Human beings live all over and are entitled to their "human quality" of personal be.
Nicole W.aka Khadijah

8:22 am  

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