Respect to the Female
"Oh Children of Adam! We have bestowed raiment upon you to cover your shame as well as to be an adornment to you. But the raiment of righteousness---that is the best." [Al-A'raf 7:26].
The leafy Manchester suburb was enjoying a warm summer’s day – a very warm summer’s day, but unlike other areas of the city there were very few people walking round in shorts or t-shirts, and in particular no females wearing short dresses. The predominant population group in this area of the city were Muslim, and although the wearing of the Burka was very rare most women were more modestly dressed then may be expected in the city.
This did not mean the area was poor – far from it, it was one of the more affluent areas, as evidenced by the large gated entrances to the houses. Very few people paid attention to the houses as they walked up and down, but for the two men in the modest grey van that was parked discreetly around a corner, one of them was particularly catching their eye.
“So how long before we move?”
It was the smaller of the two men who asked the question, as he checked the contents of a rucksack that he had on his lap.
“Give it five minutes – I want to hear…. Ah!”
The sound of a male voice calling out a chant could be heard in the street.
“That’s the call to prayer – let’s move.”
The two men stepped out fo the van, locking ti behind them, and made their way to the back alleys that ran behind the houses. Both were identically dressed, in dark t-shirts and jeans, with black leather jackets over their backs.
Walking down the alleyway, they stopped behind one fence and looked around.
“Over you go,” the taller man said as he gave his companion a boost to the top of the fence. He quickly climbed over, and unlocked the rear gate to the house to allow his friend to join him. Walking quickly through the large garden, they stood either side of a large set of patio doors and peered in.
“All clear,” the taller man said as he took a screwdriver and a lighter from his bag. Ten minutes later, the two men were closing the patio doors behind them as they stood in a large and ornately decorated room.
“I’ll take care of the alarm,” the smaller one said as he walked off, leaving the tall man to walk into the kitchen and cool the blade of his tool under a running tap.
“So, why this house, Mister Tall? I was under the impression that followers of Islam did not try to make money off their fellow men?”
“Very true, Mister Small, very true, but that does not stop them having items that we may be able to make use of. So, where shall we start?”
Faiza walked down the street with her friends, talking and laughing as they always did. A student at the local college, she was comfortable with who she was and what she represented – the new generation of young Muslims who did not want the restrictions that others tried to impose on them to be their life.
That said, she still followed the teachings of modesty in dress, so she wore clothing that was both practical and covering. On this particular day, despite the warm weather, she was wearing a long sleeved white polo necked jumper, under a sleeveless dress made of grey material with darker checks that fastened up the front. She had a pair of grey slacks over her legs, and a grey checked scarf wrapped around her neck as well as a black scarf tied over her hair.
She approached the gate to her house, and punched in the access code that allowed the gate to open. Within the house, Mister Tall looked up from his search of the master bedroom, and glanced out of the house.
“Mister Small,” he called down the stairs, “We appear to have someone returning home.”
“Understood,” Mister Small called up in response as Mister Tall took a black balaclava from his jacket pocket and slipped it over his head. Both men stood behind doors as Faiza opened her front door and walked in.
“Anyone home,” she called out in a local accent. Mister Small watched as she headed up the staircase towards her room, her books in her arms, then turned and discreetly closed the curtains in the main room.
The young girl reached the top of the stairs, and opened the second door on the left. Mister Tall crept out from his hiding place in the room next door, and quietly walked to the open doorway. He could see Faiza putting her books into the bookcase, before she suddenly stood up.
“Mother?” she said as she turned round, but the scream that began to come from her mouth was quickly stifled by the black leather gloved hand that pressed against it.
“Please, dear girl, do not make any noise or any sudden movements. I would hate have to resort to violence against one as lovely as yourself,” Mister Tall said as he pushed her against the wall. “If I remove my hand, do you promise not to scream?”
“Ys,” Faiza mumbled as she stared back at this man, dressed in black with only his eyes and lisp showing.
“Very well, I’m trusting you to keep your word,” he said as he removed his hand and stepped back. He looked at the young woman as she stood there staring back.
“What is your name?”
“Faiza – who are you?”
“You may call me Mister Tall, Faiza. Be assured that so long as you do as we ask, you will come to no harm.”
“And why should I do as you ask?”
“Because,” Mister Tall said as he waved a knife in front of her, “I do not wish to be impolite or disrespectful to you, but I will be if I have to. Do you understand?”
“Yes,” Faiza replied, “I will do as you ask as I would any other man.”
“Excellent. Please, come with me and meet my companion.”
Taking Faiza gently by the arm, he led her back down the stairs and into the front room. She noticed that the curtains ahad been drawn, and that another man was standing there. He was smaller than the one who had her arm, but otherwise identically dressed.
“Mister Small, may I introduce Faiza to you. I am afraid I have to ask you to keep her company for a little while, while I complete business upstairs. I trust this is nto a problem?”
“No problem, Mister Small. Faiza, please come and have a seat here.”
Mister Small indicated a large round cushion with his goved hand, which Faiza sat on and placed her hands on her lap.
“Who are you men?” she asked.
“A fair question – I will let Mister Small explain,” Mister Tall said as he left the room, closing the door behind him.
Placing a small pistol on the table within Faiza’s eyesight, Mister Small knelt in front of the young woman.
“To speak plainly, Faiza, we are robbers, and we intend to steal some things from this house today. We do not wish to cause you any sorrow, as things can always be replaced, but I do regret to say that we need to ensure you cannot interrupt us in our work.”
“How do you propose to do that?”
Reaching to one side, Mister Small picked up a rucksack that Faiza had seen on the floor and opened it. Reaching in, he drew out a number of coils of white rope.
“Please, do not look so worried,” Mister Small said as he started to unravel one length. “I promise you it will not be too uncomfortable.”
“Is it respecting me as a woman to truss me up like some animal?”
“My dear Faiza, I promise you it is not like that at all. Here – please feel the rope.”
Staring at the man, Faiza reached put and took hold of the rope he held out, feeling it in her fingers.
“It is soft – not hard or rough as I had expected.”
“Unlike what you may hear in the news, we do respect and take care of the people we have to deal with. Now, I would like you to hold your hands out, palms and wrist together.”
Handing the rope back, Faiza watched as Mister Small doubled the length, passed it round her wrists in front of her and quickly pulled the ends through the centre loop, holding them together. He passed the rope round three more times, pulling with each pass, before passing the ends between her wrists and cinching the rope. Faiza gasped as she felt the cords constricting around the fabric of her jumper, but realised that although it was tight it was not uncomfortable or cutting into her skin.
“There now – as you can see, I have not hurt you and your wrists are secured.”
“So I see – and you intend to do the same to the rest of my limbs.”
“In good time – but I must first secure your ankles in the same manner. Watch.”
Faiza could not stop herself watching as Mister Small pushed her legs together, took a slightly longer length of rope and quickly bound her ankles firmly together, cinching the rope between her legs at the end. She tried to twist her legs free, but to no avail.
Mister Tall entered the room again, carrying a second rucksack that jangled as he placed it on a chair nearby.
“How are things progressing, Mister Small.”
“Tolerably well, Mister Tall. Faiza here is a most trusting and accepting young lady. Now we….”
The sound of metal grating on gravel came from outside, and Mister Tall quickly walked to the curtains. Peeking out, he motioned to Mister Small who stood up, walked round behind Faiza and said “Please, not a word – it appears another member of your family has returned. Do I need to place my hand over your mouth?”
“No,” Faiza whispered as the sound of car doors opening and closing came from outside, and then someone walking on gravel. The front door was opened and closed, and a female voice called out “Faiza – why are the curtains closed?”
Faiza looked at the two men, who nodded at her. “My apologies Mother,” she called out, “but I was doing some work in the main room. Why don’t you join me here?”
“All right,” the voice called back, and the door opened as an older woman, about five foot eight tall walked in. She was wearing a loose fitting grey robe that reached down to the floor, and a dark top whose long sleeves came out from the shorter sleeves of the gown. Her head was covered with a white scarf, which was also wrapped around her neck and shoulders and secured at the back of her head.
“So what are you working on…. Allah preserve us!!”
She stopped short when she saw her daughter sitting on the cushion, her wrists bound in front of her and her ankles bound together, and a man dressed in black standing next to her. The next thing she knew was a gloved hand over her mouth, and a voice whispering into her ear “Please, preserve your modesty and do as we ask. Your daughter has been most accepting of the situation; I suggest you follow her example.”
“It is all right, mother; they have not harmed me,” Faiza said as her mother stared at her. “In fact, they have been most polite, if also most insistent.”
“My colleague is going to remove his hand,” Mister Small said. “When he does so, please do not scream or call out, but do as we ask. Do you understand?”
The older woman looked down at the pistol on the table, and nodded. Mister Tall removed his hand, and she said “Are you sure you are all right, my daughter?”
“I am fine mother – please relax,” Faiza replied.
“Now, Mrs Askiri,” Mister Tall said as he stood in front of Faiza’s mother, “I must ask you to come with me for a few minutes to your husband’s study. Be assured that you will come to no harm, and that Faiza is perfectly safe with my companion here. I will bring you back to join her in due course.”
“Please, mother, go – I will be fine,” Faiza said as she looked up.
“Very well daughter – if it means these two men leave earlier,” the older woman said as she stared at Mister Tall.
“Mister Small, if you would kindly finish off here?” Mister Tall said as he took Faiza’s mother by the arm and led her out.
“All right, Faiza, I need to make sure you are a little more secure.” With that, Mister Small took a longer length of rope and doubled it over. Knelling beside the young woman, he folded back the hem of her skirt and passed the rope around her legs above her knees, pulling the ends through as he had done with her wrists and ankles and lashing her legs together. He did not, however, pass the rope between her legs.
“Thank you,” Faiza said as he stood up.
“Please, do not thank me yet, I have not finished,” Mister Small replied as he took the longest length of rope Faiza had ever seen, doubled it up and passed it around her arms below her breasts. As he pulled the rope tighter, she felt her arms being pinned to her side. He made two more passes, then knelt beside Faiza as eh passed the rope through in front of her, passed it down and wrapped it around her wrists, then tied th ends off to the rope around her legs.
“This should keep you secure,” he said as he stood up.
“Indeed – it does not hurt, but I know I am nto going anywhere,” Faiza said.
“Just stay on the stool and you will be fine.”
“And my mother?”
“What will you do to my mother?”
“Well, I think we should offer her a seat.” Mister Small walked over to a corner of the room, and picked up a wooden chair with ornately carved armrests. Placing it gently on the floor some distance from Faiza, he looked up as Mister Tall returned with her mother.
“I thank you for your help, Mrs Askiri. Now, please take a seat in that chair, and we will be as quick and painless as we can.”
“Do you mean to secure me as you have my daughter?”
“Not in the same way, no, but we do mean to secure you. Please, be seated.”
“It is all right, mother, it does not hurt,” Faiza said to try and placate her mother’s fears as she sat down. The two men took an arm each, placed it on the armrest so that the older woman’s palms were down, and started to tie her arms down to the wood. Both men ensured the rope went over the dark cloth of her top, but also that her arms were incapable of movement when they had finished.
“Please, Mister Small, ensure this dear lady has her feet well secured,” Mister Tall said as he passed the smaller man a length of soft rope. Bending down, Mister Small lifted up Mrs Askiri’s legs to reveal the flat black shoes she was wearing. Folding the hem of her gown back slightly, he quickly and tightly bound her legs together, while Mister Tall secured the older woman’s upper body to the backrest of the chair.
“Now, I trust that finds you comfortable?”
“I cannot complain of how you have left me, even if I must complain of your presence.”
“Thank you for that, Mrs Askiri. Now, we will be on our way shortly – it will not be too long before the men folk return – but first we must prevent you from raising the alarm by shouting. Any thoughts, Mister Small?”
“Perhaps their scarves?”
Both Faiza and her mother said “No” loudly to that suggestion.
“No, it would not be respectful to the female of their faith to do that. Please, Mister Small, go and see if you can find a medical kit anywhere while I check to make sure their mobile phones are disabled.”
Mister Tall picked up the handbags of the two women, which had been brought in after he had returned the older woman to the room, and began to remove batteries from the phones that were in there. As the last battery was removed, Mister Small retuned with a large green box that had a white crescent imprinted on it.
Opening the box, Mister Tall took out a pack of large cotton swabs and a roll of white adhesive medical tape. “These should do the trick – Faiza, you may go first.”
He walked over to the young girl, and picked a couple of swabs from the pile. “Open wide,” he said, and he gently pushed the cotton into the girl’s mouth. “Now, close your mouth,” he asked, and tearing off a length of tape he gently pressed it over her lips, followed by three more strips.
“Before you do the same to me, may I say something?” Mrs Askiri said as Mister Tall walked over to her.
“You are thieves and you are scoundrels, but I see you are also men of honour. Thank you for treating us with such courtesy.”
“It is our pleasure,” Mister Tall said as he gagged the older woman. As he did this, Mister Small gathered up the two rucksacks.
“Ladies, we must depart now. The Gentlemen Robbers bid you adieu – may we never meet again.”
Departing quickly by the rear of the house, as they had come in, the two men removed their balaclavas and made their way back to the van. Inside the house, Faiza listened to the sound of the traffic in the street outside, while her mother stared at her. She tried to move her hands up to remove the tape from her mouth, but the way the rope was wound around her made the range of movement with her hands too restrictive, and she was unable to think of a way to move over and join her mother. For her part, Mrs Askiri just looked round her at the room and at her daughter struggling on the cushion, as tears started to flow from her eyes.
Eventually, Faiza heard her mother mumble something under her taped lips, and she thought she recognised the words.
"Merasa senang, ya Allah, untuk membebaskan saya,
"Ya Tuhan, membuat saya tergesa-gesa untuk membantu
She started to join in as the sun started to set through the closed windows.