MAVIS BECKLES: Customs, religion and the law
I HAVE BEEN FOLLOWING wid interest the issue ’bout the Muslim women not wanting tuh uncover duh heads in order tuh get duh picture taken for a passport, ID card, driver’s licence and these kinda legal documents so. And now the Rastafarian people up and get in the do too.
Well, I gine tell ya, hear: people are just too funny in trute though. Now, tell me something: if I Mavis Beckles, who is a Barbadian by name and nature, a woman whose nable string buried right here in Barbados, a woman who does speak wid a Bajan accent and a woman who nevah live nuhwhere outside o’ Barbados fuh any longer than six months, have tuh abide by the laws o’ this land if I want certain things done, why other people doan think dat dem should do it too? From the time I read the articles, I was trying tuh work out why dem think dat it applies tuh one set o’ people and not dem?
This thing got me real baffled in trute. Now, if I want a passport, I have tuh go and get passport-size pictures, what we does call ping pongs, taken. We does have tuh carry dem tuh a priest, a JP, a lawyer and dem kinda people so, tuh get them verified and signed. Now duh got certain stipulations ya have tuh meet when it comes tuh these ping pongs.
First of all, ya cahn wear nuh kinda head covering, nuh hats. Ya cahn have on nothing on pon ya face apart from ya regular glasses. Ya cahn wear nuh T shirt, the shirt have tuh have a collar. I could remember one time having tuh leave town and head all the way back home tuh change a shirt I had on in order tuh get dem ping pongs.
Now, cud’dear, these are what the law requires and things dat we have tuh abide by; it is the law. It ain’t something dat is fuh me and not somebody else, just because dem belong tuh a different religion. Now, tell me something: a plane land in Barbados and out steps a group o’ Muslims, both men and women. Ya could see the men faces clear but the women all deck out in black from head tuh foot wid only a piece o’ mesh thing cross duh two eyes so duh could see where duh going.
Now the immigration officer does take ya passport, flip through it, look at the picture and then look up at you before flipping through the pages fuh whatevah other reasons. Duh doing duh job. But now wid all o’ dat lot o’ black cloth and only this peep hole, you gine tell immigration officers dat you cahn take off the head gear because it is against you religion or custom?
Now, how in the name o’ God the Customs people gine know who or what up under all o’ dat lot o’ black cloth peeping out at dem? So you mean tuh tell me dat the Customs people is supposed tuh turn a blind eye tuh dah sort o’ thing? Something as serious as dat in this day and age when any and evahthing is possible?
But dat is the passport, what about the driver’s licences? Come tuh think of it, I cahn evah remember seeing any o’ dem kinda people so learning tuh drive but ya does see dem driving all ’bout the place peeping through dah net. If wiunna think I lie, check dem out in the market pon a Saturday afternoon late, late, trying tuh get vegetables fuh next kin tuh nutten.
Now the Rastafarian people jumping on pon the bandwagon, talking ’bout how authorities have been asking women tuh remove duh head gear fuh the taking of official photographs. Look, if ya coulda let dem sorta things so happen one time, let me tell wunna something: it cahn happen now wid the way things going nowadays. Anybody and anything could be hiding underneath all o’ dah lot o’ headgear and black clothes.
It look like the two groups like duh get together and decide tuh write tuh the Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite. Bongo Isaiah say he want tuh hear how the Attorney General gine deal wid it. You could imagine dat these people talking ’bout carrying it tuh court? Well, I tell ya. You think dem could turn up fuh any kind o’ documents in America and doan leh dem Customs people see duh face? Dem Americans suh suspicious of evahbody nowadays, anybody could be hiding underneath dat hair and dat black gear; duh doan trust a soul.
But I only waiting tuh see wha’ gine come outta all o’ this foolishness.
• Mavis Beckles was born and raised in The Orleans. She has an opinion on everything.