I slam is more than just a religion - it is a way of life. For just about any situation you might find yourself in, Islam has answers on how to handle it. Let's take, for example, plastic surgery. One might assume that plastic surgery might be "haram" (forbidden) because it alters the physical appearance of how God made us. After all, Muslim women are not even allowed to pluck their eyebrows because it changes the look of what God gave them. You might recall that I wrote an earlier post about women's beauty in Arabia, in which I talked about how women who pluck their eyebrows are cursed in Islam. I still don't pretend to understand the reasoning for why plucking is haram while dying the eyebrows a lighter color is permitted. To me both of these options are temporary fixes which don't permanently alter a woman's appearance.
That's why it surprised me recently when I read that three years ago religious leaders and plastic surgeons in Saudi Arabia arrived at an Islamic ruling which says that plastic surgery is permitted. Of course there are guidelines that must be followed, and choosing to have plastic surgery performed merely for one's vanity is not supposed to be acceptable. So what exactly makes plastic surgery acceptable? If someone has been disfigured in an accident, plastic surgery is allowable. If someone has a feature, like a huge bent nose, which causes the person distress or embarrassment, she can have that feature fixed to her liking. And if a woman has uncommonly tiny breasts, it would be allowed for her to go under the knife to have implants put in to make them larger.
But with the numbers of plastic surgeries skyrocketing in Saudi Arabia, I cannot help but wonder how many plastic surgeries are being done that fall under the realm of vanity. Just a few short years ago, the number of plastic surgery centers could probably be counted on one hand. Today the competition is fierce in the country. The most popular procedures performed on women in the kingdom are nose jobs, liposuction, and breast augmentations. Men go in to get nose jobs and hair implants. From the sounds of it, the rise in plastic surgeries seems to have more to do with vanity than anything else. I read about one woman who is thinking about having more than twenty different procedures done to her, from her breasts to her lips, from her bottom to her nose. She wants parts of her body to look like certain personalities she has seen on television or in the movies. It sounded as though she is striving for unattainable perfection.
I personally am all for people feeling good about themselves. But in a society where vanity and obsessing about one's looks is frowned upon stemming from religious reasons, it just becomes another one of those blurry contradictory areas that I find so difficult to understand here. Women here in KSA seem to be feeding into the idea that they believe about Western women - that women are merely sex objects. Can the women in Saudi Arabia really believe that about themselves, despite all the measures in place to supposedly prevent that image? Like the severe segregation of men and women, the shrouding of the female form, and the covering of the hair. I thought all those things were supposed to prevent a woman here from feeling like a sexual object ... so wouldn't getting plastic surgery directly contradict the religion and make it seem somewhat hypocritical?
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