“Cats are intended to teach us that not everything in nature has a purpose.”
Garrison Keiller

I have survived another two weeks in feline hell. For their part the cats didn’t seem to notice my presence so much until the dinner bell, sound of the can opener, rang. Of course they also believe all the food in the house belonged to them, so I had to fend them off every time I eat. Two would even jump up on the dinner table, thank you so much Inga for feeding them while you eat. They were kind enough to give me a going away present, two lbs of cat hair on all my clothes.

My cousin has been invited on a cruise to Scotland, so I will be back in cat land between May 7th and the 16th. At least when I get back to my own home I appreciate my personal privacy, and being able to eat in peace, even more.

1) Here in the Northeast US the calendar tells me it’s Spring, but mother nature has yet to get the message. The Boston Globes “Big Picture Blog” slide show “Flower Power” shows me what is so far missing from the view out my window.


A daisy floats in a rain barrel on April 4 in Kaufbeuren, southern Germany. (Karl Josef Hildenbrand/AFP/Getty Images)

Cherry trees bloom during the National Cherry Blossom Festival along the Tidal Basin in Washington April 2. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

A woman sits on a bench in a park wher hundreds of crocus flowers bloom in the warm sunny weather in the western city of Duesseldorf (Patrik Stollarz/AFP/Getty Images)

A couple relax amongst daffodil flowers in St James’s Park on March 29 in London, England. (Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

2) Behind the Veil

Two women, one wearing a niqab, a conservative Muslim garment that only exposes a woman’s eyes, walk side by side in Marseille, France.

Nothing symbolize the control some conservative Muslim religious leaders exercises over women than the niqab. Many Muslim women are rebelling against this control, such as Dr. Qanta A. Ahmed, a british born Muslim woman, educated and trained in both London and New York City, writing in the Christian Science Monitor:


“France’s recent “burqa ban” unveils the ignorance surrounding Islam, an ignorance shared by Muslims and non-Muslims alike. President Nicolas Sarkozy’s push to ban the face-veil, the niqab – put into effect last week – shocks Western elites. Legislating self-expression is surely more the provenance of draconian states like Iran and Saudi Arabia, than secular La France. To many, Mr. Sarkozy’s France smacks of uncivilized intolerance. But is Sarkozy really so wrong?

I first saw a veiled woman when I was six, possibly seven. Fascinated, and – never having seen anything like this – frightened, I looked up at my father, who explained she was from Arabia. Like us, he told me, she too was a Muslim.

Thirty-five years later, veiled women no longer catch the eye of pluralistic Muslim famoles like mine. Instead, in an extraordinary distortion of social mores, I find they now symbolize all of us, even assimilated, heterodox Muslim women like me.

France’s ban of the niqab in the public space is logical and one that many Muslims, myself included, welcome. Why?

Intensely secular societies, which not only tolerate, but actively celebrate multicultural pluralistic diversity, have been exploited by insular, Islamist neo-orthodoxy. They do so at my expense – the expense of the moderate Muslim. Be clear, neo-orthodox Muslims place no priority on the status of their women, whether living in Bamian or Brittany.”

“In the early Islamic period, the word khimar, “veil,” did not necessarily connote face covering. In the Quran, Sura 24:31, the reference to “khimar” reminds Muslim women of the need to “draw…[it] over their bosoms” as integral to female modesty.

Similarly, the verse of the veil commanded only the prophet Muhammad’s wives, as a mark of high distinction, to speak from behind a “hijab,” meaning a curtain (Quran Sura 33:53).

Later, theological scholarship indicates traditions asserting use of the khimar specifically to mean niqab may have been fabricated. Records show Aisha – one of the most eminent of the prophet Muhammed’s wives, a great scholar of Islam and one of the foremost teachers of early Muslims – provided great detail on the color and fabric of the khimars in her day. Nonetheless, no record exists as to how exactly they were worn.

This convenient vacuum allowed others to insert their own interpretation of veiling, for their own motives, including enforcing gender segregation and even gender apartheid – extraordinary, given Islam’s central emphasis on equality of both men and women and profound regard for justice above all other values.”

“As Muslim women, we must always remember that we are more than our womanhood. We are Muslims first, women second. We are more than our modesty, whether it is swathed in fabric or faith. We are more than these practices, whether mandated by men at home, or men of state. In this regard, Sarkozy’s ban is, in fact, not a test of France’s tolerance, but rather a test of our own.

Can Muslims overcome the rigid myopia of Islamism that emerges from within our midst? Or will we, too, be smothered in a veil of our own making – the asphyxiating veil of ignorance that threatens to strangle us all?”