Thursday, February 16, 2012

"The Shield" - by Brooke Van Buskirk

"The Shield" is a poem about Islam, in particular about wearing hijab - the head covering worn by many Muslim women. It was written by Brooke Van Buskirk, an American writer who embraced Islam at the age of seventeen. Brooke has been a Muslim now for six years. Her poetry, songs, and essays are reflections of her passion for religion, politics, family, and those kind, fleeting moments in life where beauty can be known.

Below is a video of Brooke reciting "The Shield," followed by the poem itself.

THE SHIELD - by Brooke Van Buskirk

By day I wrap this shield around my head, across my chest
This world is a prison - my mind and heart I must protect
Why? Because without it there's no limit to be observed
What is modesty and decency?
Man can't properly determine
They say my choice to cover is old-fashioned
They say our religious practices are backwards
They spew cliché democracy and liberation
Little do they know there's little knowledge in what they're saying
My argument is that 'the times, they are a-changin'
And slowly but surely approaches an 'anything goes' day
When no rules apply
Whats wrong is called right
And crimes of the heart creep like a thief in the night
Modesty discouraged and nakedness condoned
We've forsaken the values mankind held long ago
Yes, history is riddled with mistakes and evil stories
But shall we not filter the good and maintain some of its glory?
Just think of it this way, I'm just dressing like Mary mother of Jesus
Or a nun
Or a woman who wants to be seen as an observant follower
A lover of Gods word
And you not mad at exploitation of femininity, but you mad that I cover
Sex may sell, but I'm not for sale
It's your path to bankruptcy, time will tell
My an expression of self-respect
And a rejection of a misogynist culture daily breathing down my neck
Telling me all my value lies in the guise of my demise.
Flaunting what Gods blessed me with, its lies and I don't buy it.
Because I'm told I'm so much more.
So, to avoid distracting you with what my momma gave me,
I'll let you focus on my core
I say the passing of time doesn't determine my beliefs
Islam teaches that truth doesn't change with the year
What's good is good, and what's wrong is wrong
And those values don't change as the years pass along
Our standards are lowered and we become desensitized
But regardless of what time it is
Men should lower their eyelids
When I pass along my way minding my business
this shield reminds them that yes, I'm religious
I don't want attention and I don't want your compliments
I'm not looking for love, so save your games for them
I'm a Muslim under here, I don't mind being a stranger
Coz if the norm is lady gaga, then we're all in danger
I'll be called a trader
I'm not scared of that label
Ethnocentric discourse in the west is the only reason
I have to write a poem to justify way that I dress
The cloth on my head
Which I love to wear
I'm not forced, which I struggle with,
But my choice is solid as stone
It's my comfort
My home
My will
My uniform
My suit
My command from God
My style
My identity
So let it be
My shield.

More of Brooke's work can be enjoyed at:


  1. There is no known picture of Mary or Jesus. There is no way of knowing what they wore or did not wear. Cloth never made a person pious. Often times people of the cloth are the worst offenders of humanity. In additon, there is actually no proof that Jesus or Mary ever existed.

    Nuns for the most part have given up the habit.

    One day maybe she will actually research the beginnings of the Abrahamic religions and see it for the lie that it is. Then of course the koran has 1/5 of it that cannot be properly translated and it wasn't even codified until the ninth century. Until that time they had numerous problems with the text and all those missing dots. There is over a 1000 different variants. She has no ideal if what she is following is even properly translated.

  2. Very beautiful poem :) If a woman wants to wear hijaab, then it's her right and no one should question her motives or say she is wrong. Some people believe, some people don't, but religion shouldn't be ridiculed. If someone wants to be respected, then he/she should give respect in return.

  3. I agree with bigstickl1. I am glad that my religion has no dress code.There are Christian women who are not allowed to wear trousers. Neither are they allowed to have a haircut. They are not allowed to watch TV or go to he cinema, but they do things I would never do myself. I have always been religious but I would feel humiliated if I was forced to wear a hijab or nikab or burka.God never told us what to wear. I live in a free world.
    All the same: thanks for your visit and kind comment.

  4. Safiyah:

    I will agree to disagree with you. Her poem actually degrades women and is judgemental. Archeological and history has shown how these religons were formed. Religions were designed to control the masses generally for political gain and subjugation of those who are weaker or of a different sect. Yahweh was a minor pagan war god before becoming the one and that is what Abrahamic religions are built upon. In fact, if you go back you will see that the earlier gods had both a male and female side until the Abrahamic religions. Religion has been the source of war, rape, slavery, murder, and so much more. Religion has sanction all of this and more. Quite frankly make believe religions that harms humanity should never be respected. These religions have harm humanity long enough and respect is something I chose not to give to an idealogy that is harmful to mankind.

  5. What passion and conviction!

    Though I don't necessarily want to wear a hijab myself, I certainly respect the right of others to do so.

  6. I think people should wear what they want- I wish hijab wasn't associated with Islam as the idea of concealing women pre-dates it and doesn't belong to a specific faith, though segments of Muslims were happy to add it to Islam.

    What gets me is, as it seems to me in this case- the woman feels hijab is so respectful etc. but she doesn't mind putting down western culture. And from the poem I get the feeling she is living in the west. She should try living in a strict patriarchal/tribal culture and see how it disrespects women and people lower their gaze even more than the west and where the legal system oppresses women.

  7. Women told to cover up more are being told that their person doesn't belong in the public sphere. In fact the way she goes on she is actually vilifing the female body. The female body is not a sex object it is a body. A body has a sexual function but it has many functions. The fact is, is that she has bought into the fact that the female body is something that should be hidden and is a the gate way to sin as it represents a sexual taboo. It does not. It is this way of thinking that has and still keeps women from entering the public domain. It actually pushes women into the place of the home where by the public streets are not welcoming. In other words she as a woman is her own worst enemy as she has vilified her body as a sexual object. She has bought into that agrument whereby it is not safe to go out without a man.

    This is a learned condition for both men and women. It creates boy and men who are hostile to women and use them. Women who accept this help create prisons for themselves and other women. Women in fact do this by vilifing other women, ridiculing them and upholding the prison that was designed for them. They in fact help there own gender to suffer.

    The first step in controlling a women is making sure she adheres to a dress code. Once this is in place the next step is initiated and slowly without realizing it your freedoms are taken away. By the time you realize what you have given up, it is to late. It is the gradualist theory and it works very well. In other words by the time the frog knows it is dying in boiling water it is too late to do anything about it.

  8. Whatever Mary wore, conditions were very different then. People lived in dwellings without glass windows (if they had windows). There was no air conditioning. Transportation was by foot.

    In most of the world as mechanical modes of transportation have developed with the ability to control the environment (ie: cars or trains with heaters), people have learned to move about with fewer clothes and clothes that were less restrictive.

    Most ideas of modesty are based on culture. A 19th century European man would probably be astonished at the clothing the respectible people were today in Europe. In Europe though, ideas about modesty have advanced as conditions have changed. What is sad about modesty in the Islamic world is that it is driven by an idea that anything new that doesn't help old men is sinful. So computers are allowed as well as airconditioning, but women will must wear silly bags on the bodies and silly coverings on their heads. When will someone tell Arab men that modesty is about you not about putting bags on women?

  9. I agree with Jerry, the the cultural brainwashing has gone on long enough. And in order to be respected, one must respect themselves. Demanding respect is quite insulting to me.

  10. Some of us are quite ignorant about such things.
    I know that I am.
    No need to justify your "Shield."
    Freedom & Liberation is doing what you want, wearing what you want, and expressing what you want w/out judgement.
    I LOVED your poem. Brava!!!

  11. Nice poem, nothing great but like a million out there it's good.

    Quite judgemental for not wanting to be judjed though!!! and there are plenty of places in the world the author can go if she doesn't want misgonystic culture breathing down her neck...

    It's like th epoet has special insight into the values held long ago :-) how long ago? what values? where?

    don't judge if you dont' want to be judged :-)

  12. One of the worst things about religions, not just Islam, but most religions, is the idea that one has a perfect idea of right and wrong and that right and wrong cannot change. Slavery was legal in Saudi Arabia until relatively recently, Christianity didn't have many complaints about slavery for countless decades (it is only slightly better in that area than Islam). Slavery isn't the only evil that religions have accepted but it is the most obvious. There may be a perfect morality but none of us knows. We must make the best rules for our own time and not continue to allow evils simply because some long dead holy man didn't write them down.

  13. Most of the comments on your post are extremely ignorant, not only of Islam, but of the "hijab" as well. I do not think that most Westerners are qualified to judge a situation that they can never fully understand. I'm not condoning social injustice, only fighting ignorance with more ignorance.

    In order to understand the hijab, one must look past the chauvinist conventions of many cultures of the middle east. The hijab, the scarf, the veil, whatever you wish to call it, is not a form of oppression. It is a command from God in the religion of Islam, to protect women rights, both bodily and intellectual, from being taken advantage of. Whether or not this religious rule is abused is another thing altogether.

    It also allows men to see women as more than a sex symbol.

    In many Muslim countries, the hijab is not enforced by law. Do not condemn an entire religion/group of people because of the misguided rulings of a few people.

    I do not condone any woman being forced to wear hijab. Their should be no compulsion in religion. “Let there be no compulsion in religion. Truth has been made clear from error. Whoever rejects false worship and believes in Allah has grasped the most trustworthy handhold that never breaks. And Allah hears and knows all things.” [Sûrah al-Baqarah: 256] This is clearly an idea present in Islam.

    I do not think that anyone without religion will be able to grasp the concept of absolute truth, or good and evil, as witnessed by the posts above. Part of religion is belief in God, and with that belief comes a belief that one must follow his commands.

    Any human rights violations come NOT from Islam, but from humans. Humans are imperfect, but Allah (swt)and Islam are perfect in every way.

    Surah Baqara 2:6-7:
    "As to those who reject Faith, it is the same to them whether thou warn them or do not warn them; they will not believe; God hath set a seal on their hearts and on their hearing, and on their eyes is a veil; great is the penalty they (incur)."


  14. I would like someone to point out to this ignorant American, where a woman is commanded to still dress as if she were living in the seventh century desert.

  15. Leigh:

    Amazing that you tend to think that Western's are incapable of understanding Islam and that many are ignorant of the understanding of the hijab. Your understanding of it can be completely different from my understanding of it. Just because you chose to make it into a symbol of your choosing based on what you would like to take from your version of Islam. However, my understanding of the hijab is different from yours. As far as I am concerned, the hijab is meant to cover the awrah (external sex organ). That makes the wearer nothing but a sex object. If anything Islam tells the world that women are walking sex object. You can say God has commanded you to wear this but he did not. You have chosen to read a written book whereby a barbaric society with little knowledge of their surroundings opted to put something into words. It is the words of barbarians that you have actually chosen to accept as God's word nothing more. The words used to create a political system by men who added an additional layer to the system and declared them divine. Now given the fact that I actually like the study of archeology, history and theology I would state that Islam has problems. These problems start with Judaism and the formation of the pagan god, Yahweh and it just goes from there.

    Next you throw out the whole westerns don't get it argument. However, we do get it. That tactic is used to insult a person's intelligence and an attempt at trying to make yourself feel superior. The religious are good at this tactic and frankly, people see it for what it is and that is the whole attitude of my club is better than yours therefore I am superior. It is a red herring. The fact is many without religion came from a religious background and they have studied enough and used rational thought long enough to see it for what it is; which is fables with some historical surroundings and events (often embellished for the audience).

    Now quoting quotes from primitive and often barbaric people is a circular argument. You are using words written by a barbaric primitive man/woman who has determined that a written word represents something divine.

    Just a recap. You see religion has nothing to do with faith or god. It is just an ideology that was created to ensure that people conform to a government and societal construct with an extra added layer of divinity to keep the people in fear of what if's. Thereby ensuring their control by dictators, clerics, bishops and the like.

    Now, I won't even get into the whole problems of time lapse on the Quran, hadith or Ibn Ishaq (accounts of Mohammad's life where the text is gone), no original Quran, contradictions, over a 1000 variants, codification of Quran done in the 9th century, Sana'a manuscript issues, etc. As that is just too lengthy for this topic.

    However, nothing prevents you from believing what you believe. Though to me it is nothing more than words written by backwards primitive warring people who have created a fictious being of their making which has inflicted nothing but horror upon humanity long enough.

  16. @Bigstick,
    There are people of faith, including Muslims that are perfectly capable of allowing people their different opinions, and who don't brand everyone who disagrees with them as "ignorant" ; just as there are those that "know" it is all fairytales who DO brand people of faith as ignorant merely for having another viewpoint.

    Intolerance and insecurity are present in all types of people.

  17. Sandy:

    Your version of Islam is a version that simply isn't practice in numerous Islamic countries. That especially means your country of Saudi.

    People throughout the ages have been killed for not believing in religion or other religions. They have been silenced with death and torture by by the religious often times. The books they profess to hold to the state of divinity never allowed to be questioned. I believe Saudi with at least 30000 muslims are wanting the death of someone who had a pretend conversation with the muhammad. Now what you call ignorance for a viewpoint is not what I stand against. It is the action which is brought forth from these books that hurts humanity that I stand against. That action is also in how women are viewed and forced from the public sphere because of religion. It also is having people killed for questioning, for thinking beyond or looking into the orgins of a religion. It is this that I stand against. This is what religion to me represents and history is replete with continual and on-going saga of religions hate, degradation, etc.

    Now you can go on and tell me that religion doesn't sanction this but I will disagree with you and I will quote from those religious books just where it does.

    The statement that people keep stating, don't blame religion for the actions of people is absurd. As it is religion that these people follow and you can find any number of ways to extract what you want from these books more often than not it is filled with murder, killing, slavery, prostitution, hatred, division, etc.

    Now Sandy you have a viewpoint on religion that is great. However many don't share your version.

    Just a note, no where did I label those who believe in faith as ignorant. Faith is not the problem. Religion is the problem.

  18. @Bigstick,
    I didn't call anything ignorant and neither did you. Leigh called people disagreeing with her ignorant- and you responded to that.

    Given the world situation- It is pointless for me to say, Islam doesn't mean "x,y,z" even if that is what I believe. It would be a waste of time and energy. In the real world I try to convince other Muslims of that.

    And while it is true people throughout the ages have been killed for not believing- they have likewise been killed for belieiving.

    Intolerance doesn't discriminate.

    My only point to you was that there are many Muslim individuals who don't believe people with other views are ignorant. I totally understand how someone views things the way you do- I may disagree but you certainly aren't ignorant. I also said nothing to excuse so called Islamic countries.

  19. Sandy:

    Thanks, for the clarification. I am firmly aware that you like your version of things. However, it doesn't mean I won't try to provide a different agrument to your position. As you probably already know, that this is just in my nature. :)