It was quite an ordeal setting up the indoor pavilion for Ladies' Only Night. It wasn't connecting the cords to get the music playing, or moving pillows, the ordeal was keeping away the little boys who hate to be excluded, who, if left unchecked, will tear at the plastic walls to see inside. Yet, keeping them away was crucial to the night out.
Free from male company, a Muslim woman who adheres to the strict dress and behavior codes of Islam, is free to remove her head covering, is free to dance, and that is why it was so important to keep the little boys away--a woman can only do so if no males can see her.
I was told that Ladies' Night is a treat to participate in, and the night unfolded as predicted.
"They will come in, and once their scarf is removed, they smile." Or "they let loose and dance." Or, "We never see them smile like they do at Ladies' Night Out."
The music was a rhythmical Middle Eastern rock infused with an energy that required dancing participation. The dance was a well known Syrian repetition I'd seen the young men have fun with.
I wanted to dance too; I joined hands with two young girls who went slowly in order to help me learn the pattern. An inner circle who knew the dance well, added intricacies to the basic moves.
We were all swept up in the joy of Ladies' Night. To let loose didn't require the removal of what many people consider oppressive clothing-- a view I tend to have myself. The full Muslim dress is confusing and hard to understand for women who can wear shorts and bathing suits in public, for women who wouldn't think of covering their heads and faces in the company of men. It is a difficult subject for western countries where a Muslim woman lives. The hijab, the burka, have at times been banned, and the wearing of a burkini has even invited arrest.
Yet I am unsure if it was the removal of the headscarf that allowed the women to let loose. We all acted in the same way; we smiled and danced in the company of just women, all of us getting a well deserved break from the living and working circumstances of a refugee camp.
The only way to do this work, to serve and love women of the Muslim faith, is without judgment. Yet, this truth, this fundamental need, is at the core of all meaningful service.