Miles Kington: Veiled mutterings among the gods on Mount Olympus

Hera said she had to put up with constant adultery from her husband Zeus, who tried to seduce anything that had a female aspect
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The Independent Online

I know I said I was going to tell you about my hols today, but I have just heard that they have been having a very interesting discussion at the United Deities, so I think we will go straight there and leave the other stuff till tomorrow.

The United Deities, of course, is that all-seeing, all-talking gathering of gods past and present which looks down on our world and isn't quite sure it likes what it sees. Here are the minutes of their latest meeting.

1. The chairgod said that the next item on the agenda was the veil as worn by Islamic women, about which there had been some fuss in top British circles. As far as he was aware, this was the first time that the British government had bothered itself with the wearing of the "niqab", if that was the right expression.

2. Allah said that it was the right expression.

3. Well, said the chairgod, normally there was live and let live among religions when it came to costume. Nobody kicked up a fuss when strict Jews went around wearing skull caps, or when strict Buddhists wore flowing orange robes. So it seemed strange that anyone should object to the niqab.

4. Perhaps Allah could explain.

5. Allah said he would do his best.

6. There was great emphasis in Islam on the modesty of womenfolk, and the prophet had therefore ordained that clothing should tend to conceal femininity rather than flaunt it.

7. The Jewish God said that that was cock-eyed thinking, to his mind. If women went in danger of inflaming men's desires, then it was up to men to be controlled, not up to women to be concealed. It was like saying that if it was dangerous for women to go out late at night, they should stay at home. Absolutely not! It was men who should stay at home and make it safe for women to go out.

8. Allah said that he was unused to feminist speeches from the Jewish God and congratulated him on his liberal views. However, it was a matter of historical fact that most if not all religions were male monopolies and reflected a male viewpoint. One need only point to the Catholic Church, where all priests were male, and indeed all popes seemed to be.

9. Hera, the Greek goddess, and wife of Zeus, said never mind about priestesses, that even top goddesses had had a rough deal.

10. Allah asked if that meant she had had to wear a veil.

11. Hera said she would ignore that remark. What she meant was that she had had to put up with constant adultery on the part of her husband, Zeus, who tried to seduce anything that had a female aspect. If the veil had been around in classical times, maybe Zeus would have had fewer bastards.

12. And then again maybe not, she said, as Zeus was always changing himself into a swan or a bull or heaven knows what in order to abduct anything on two legs with a bosom.

13. The chairgod asked Zeus if he had any comment to make.

14. Only, said Zeus, to remind people that Hera was his sister as well as his wife, and when you are married to your sister, you need to get out of the house more than most other people.

18. The Catholic God said that he did not think the niqab was an Islamic thing. It was an Arabic thing. Did Muslim ladies wear veils in Indonesia? He thought not. Did anyone wear the burqa outside Afghanistan? He thought not.

19. Allah said they were approaching the subject from the wrong angle. The problem was not Islamic women wearing a veil. It was of Western Christian women wearing very little at all.

20. The Catholic God said he agreed, except that the little tarts who went around flaunting their bodies in the West were not Christians at all, but pagan.

21. Rhiannon, the Welsh mother goddess, said she was sure she spoke on behalf of all pagan gods when she fiercely resented the use of the word "pagan" to mean irreligious.

22. The chairgod said, yes, well, they had perhaps better move on to the next item, which was the proposal to pull down limbo and redevelop it.

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