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The Veil and Muslim Women in France

Religious and Political Aspects

Aref Abu-Rabia

The right of Muslim schoolgirls in France to wear the veil (hijab) raises questions concerning the meaning of the veil for Muslim women. The debate about Muslim dress codes and whether Islam belongs in Europe has become a critical issue. The debate that began about the veil in Islam has evolved into a large discussion about Islam itself: as a religion, the Islamic movement in France and the relationship between Islam and fundamentalism. The purpose of this article is to examine some definitions of the hijab and its meaning in the context of the Qur’an, and to analyse some of the understandings of the hijab, as articulated in the late twentieth century by Muslim and non-Muslim scholars. It also explores the nature of Muslim reactions in France as well as their tensions with the surrounding society, as a result of the French ban on wearing the veil in public schools.

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Aref Abu-Rabia

The main purpose of this article is to describe traditional breastfeeding practices among the pastoral tribes in the Middle East. It also examines beliefs and attitudes towards breastfeeding and related issues, including pregnancy, infections of the breast nipple, sources of milk, 'bad milk' syndrome and breastfeeding as a contraceptive method. The most significant findings are that mothers relate breastfeeding to their physical and psychological state. There are also symbolic and emotional relationships between human babies and the colostrum of animals. A survey of medicinal cures for problems related to breastfeeding reveals that these cures are based on substances found in the desert pastoral environment.

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Mourning Palestine

Death and Grief Rituals

Aref Abu-Rabia and Nibal Khalil

This article presents various mourning rituals and death rites as they are practised in Palestine. It focuses on differences in the mourning experience among fellahin and Bedouin Arabs but also shows certain parallels in their mourning and grieving customs. The article provides information on the prescribed set of rituals that Palestinians perform, beginning with how the body is treated and the way that it is prepared for burial. Combinations of mourning practices, which vary from rending one's garments to throwing earth on one's head, provide socially sanctioned expressions of grief and sorrow. Mourning practices differ between women and men: the former lament loudly and scratch their faces, while among the latter tears are neither encouraged nor welcomed. Parallels can be seen in these rituals with mourning for Palestine.

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Aref Abu-Rabia, Salman Elbedour, and Sandra Scham

The continuing practice of polygynous marriage on the part of the Bedouin of the Negev in Israel is generally seen as resistance to modernity for the sake of maintaining semi-nomadic ways of life. By this logic, the numerous anthropological studies that have shown that polygyny is more widespread among older generations (particularly among men of means) can be explained. In Israel, however, there is an added factor of modernity as enforced by the state and its alien Western values. Recent studies of the Bedouin in Israel have found that polygyny is on the increase among all age groups, regardless of their socio-economic status. This article addresses this seemingly surprising finding, discussing some of the main social and political motivations that underlie the growing prevalence of polygyny as exhibited by the Bedouin in Israel.

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Gideon M. Kressel, Sasson Bar-Zvi, and Aref Abu-Rabia

Human beliefs in resurrection and life after death, based on lasting exchanges between earth and heaven that prevail in human societies ubiquitously, are presented here and analysed with regard to the customs and rituals of the Negev Bedouin. The article looks at patterns of the mourning process and the different social functions and outcomes of that process. The influence of mystics and the Bedouin's views on death are discussed. Pre-Islamic burial practices and grave visits that reflect both legend and tradition are shown to be on the verge of change as they collide with proper Islam and modernity.