Saudi News & Commentary by Dr. Ali Alyami
February 22, 2010
Saudi Women Take Action
Director’s Comment: About a year ago, a few Saudi women decided they had had enough of buying their lingerie from lustful Saudi and expatriate salesmen in major department stores. The women, under the leadership of Reem Asaad who lectures on finance at a women’s college in Jeddah, resurrected a ministerial decree that calls on shops that sell women’s underwear to hire saleswomen instead of salesmen. They raised the issue with the ineffective Saudi Ministry of Labor to no avail. The campaigners wrote to the major department stores yet received no responses. In the meantime, the Saudi and international media picked up and publicized the issue extensively. This small, but empowering, campaign became known as the lingerie campaign or, as described by a Swedish paper, “A Bra Revolution in Saudi Arabia.” Because of the campaign leader’s knowledge of finances and what make businesses twitch (profits), she and her courageous colleagues are asking Saudi women to boycott shops that do not hire women to sell women’s lingerie. Read Article
Four Years of Emotional, Psychological, and Economic Torture Comes to an End
Director’s Comment: Four years ago, brothers of a young Saudi spouse, Fatimah, went to court and asked a judge to terminate their sister’s marriage from her husband Mansour. Why? Because, according to the brothers, the husband’s tribe was not as good as the wife’s tribe. The court blindly honored the brothers’ inhumane demand and ordered the heart wrenching separation of the defenseless family of four—Fatimah, her husband, and their two young children, one of them only one-year-old. Since women cannot rent houses or apartments or work without their male relatives’ (male guardians) approval, Fatimah was ordered to return to her brothers’ house, but she understandably refused and chose the only other option available to her and her one year old child: prison. The father and the other child were left in the cold to fend for themselves and supplicate for mercy from the king, as this is the only option available to wronged Saudis. Not only was the marriage broken up by the Saudi sectarian judicial system, but Mansour’s property was frozen. This tragedy and barbaric verdict never should have happened and has now been overturned, but it still took four years of pain, hurt, humiliation, and gross violation of one of those most basic human rights, the right to choose and live free from their government’s arbitrary judicial system (the Quran is the Saudi government’s constitution and the Shariah is its law). Read Article (in Arabic)
Jihad Encouraged by Saudi Mufti
“It is necessary to fight against the attempts by some to attach terrorism to Islam and Muslims with the goal of distorting the religion and to assail its leadership role in the world.”
Director’s Comment: The two branches of the Saudi government, the Al-Saud and Al-Ashaikh ruling tribes, have persistently called on the faithful around the world to silence critics of Islam and its mostly ruling autocratic regimes. While the heads of the Saudi political and religious branches of government, the King and the Mufti, condemn terror activities inside Saudi Arabia and in Muslim countries, except against Shiites, they encourage it against non-Muslims, former Muslims, and Muslims who question the application of Islam as a tool of oppression, discrimination, and dissemination of hateful incitements. The Saudi ruling elites see and interpret any criticism of Islam as an attack on them because they have appointed themselves as the “Custodians” of Islam and its holy shrines in Mecca and Medina. For example, the Saudi government instigated the Muslims’ violent reaction to the depiction of the Prophet Mohammed by a Danish cartoonist three months after the fact. The Saudis summoned Muslim heads of states to discuss the cartoons and issued a communiqué at the end of the conference condemning the cartoons, which resulted in riots, boycotts, and calls for Jihad against non-Muslims and other critics of Islam. Read Article
“Bombs Are Louder Than Words”
Director’s Comment: Blaming the negative global image of Islam and Muslims on Western media and on misunderstanding of true Islam is erroneous at best. Despite the fact that Arab and Muslim governments and their institutions insist that Islam is a peaceful, tolerant, egalitarian and just faith, non-Muslims as well as many Muslims around the globe judge Islam by what they see and experience. They see horrendous carnage committed by Muslims against other Muslims in Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, and Afghanistan, among other places. They see young men and women strapped in explosives blowing themselves and innocent people up in Muslim and non-Muslim countries. They see women covered head-to-toe in black. They see beheadings, floggings, genital mutilations, stoning of adulteresses, and honor killings in public squares. They see severe gender segregation, marginalization of women, child and forced marriages, and arbitrary judicial systems that separate husbands from wives because of social and tribal status. They see grinding bans on free expression and religious freedom. They see intolerance and killings of Christians and destructions of their houses of worship throughout the Muslim World. They see Shittes and other minority Muslims as being oppressed and denied their divine rights to practice their religious rituals peacefully and freely. These are realities that are institutionalized, implemented, and sanctioned, in one fashion or another, and carried out by Muslims in the name of Islam in many countries.
Finally, Muslims can build religious houses and open religious schools in almost any country in the world and worship freely. Can non-Muslims do the same in any Muslim country? Read Article
Don’t Blame the Victims, Blame the System
Director’s Comment: With due respect to the well informed Saudi psycho, social and youth analysts’ point of views and analysis of Saudi youth’s improper behavior, they intentionally avoid the root causes of the issue: the social, political, and sexual oppression that Saudi society, especially the youth, suffers from. For fear of government’s reprisal, the analysts, in their attached lengthy accounts, do not address the real causes of the youth misbehavior problem. They seem to forget that the Saudi people are created with natural needs that cannot by ignored, denied, or scared away by throwing people in the religious police’s chambers or in dark soundproof cells in the basement of Prince Naif’s Ministry of Interior. The Saudi people, especially the young, are like all peoples regardless of religion, location, ethnicity, or color, and have innate natural needs, desires, ambitions, and aspirations that have to be met. Otherwise, violence, restlessness, and instability will become a way of life, as is the case in Saudi Arabia today, albeit denied and hushed by the system and its severely controlled media.
The Saudi autocratic and theocratic elites can only hide for so long and now they have run out of places and time to escape the inescapable: The demands of their public’s needs and rights. One needs only to look at the violent youth riots in Al-Khobar on Saudi National Day in 2009 to see that Saudi youth is becoming increasingly discontent with their government’s stifling oppression. The Saudi government has tried to curb social disorder through such dubious actions as arresting motorcyclists in Mecca (Islam’s holiest site) and attendees at a wedding party in eastern Saudi Arabia. These arbitrary arrests, among others, in Saudi Arabia have little to do with the government’s stated reasons and more to do with what the government is trying to prevent: assemblage and a rejection of political and religious taboos. Despite these arrests, social and political demands, especially among Saudi youth, will intensify regardless of the Saudi government’s continuing policy of crushing them. Read Article (in Arabic)
No Women Speakers
Director’s Comment: Saudi women were excluded from participating in the highly advertised and normally well-attended Jeddah Economic Forum (JEF) held every February. The forum draws prominent economists, politicians, and many others who use the event to promote their products and services. A few Saudi women have participated in previous sessions, but after a prominent Saudi woman speaker took the stage at the JEF this year without head and face cover, the Saudi religious police alerted the ruling family that this action could encourage other women to do the same and lead to an un-Islamic cultural revolution and equality for women. However, the official reason given for the exclusion of women in this year’s conference is that the information presented at the conference does not appeal to women. This implies that there are no Saudi women who are capable of presenting sound economic argument at the forum. Someone should have informed Secretary Clinton of this de facto exclusion of women before she praised King Abdullah during her recent visit to Saudi Arabia in having built the best schools for Saudi women. Read Article
Rehabbing or Re-Indoctrinating?
Director’s Comment: Released Saudi religious extremist prisoners have been reported to go through intense rehabilitation processes in lavish villas equipped with pools and living amenities previously unavailable to them. The idea behind this is to give them a taste of the good life so they are open to rehabilitative religious sessions that are supposed to discourage them from going back to their killing instincts. The same killing instincts emphasized and nurtured in religious Saudi schools and mosques. Not surprisingly, the deprogrammers are of the same trade, nature, habits, and religious intolerance as those who programmed the religious extremists. The lavish villas’ clients are asked to re-memorize the Quran, not to kill Muslims unless they are Shiites, and most importantly not to commit crimes in Saudi Arabia, especially against the ruling elites. Some of them have heeded the advice not to commit crimes in Saudi Arabia, or to not use Saudi soil to carry out their activities, but some have not as the attached article demonstrates. Read Article
How Could Red Roses Constitute Threat to Faith and Culture?
Director’s Comment: It’s hard to think of a place in the world where repression is more inclusive and comprehensive than in Saudi Arabia. Political repression exists in many countries; in Saudi Arabia, repression is unlimited. Religious, social, political, educational, sexual, and all forms of free expression are considered un-Islamic and are therefore forbidden. Additionally non-Islamic celebratory and joyous occasions (according to the Saudi-Wahhabi interpretations and definitions) are considered threats to Islam and the sanctity of perceived supremacy of Saudi culture. This is why selling roses before Valentine’s Day is taboo in the Saudi Kingdom, as described in the attached article. But there is more to the prohibition than merely selling and buying roses for this romantic occasion. It is seen as recognition and appreciation of Christianity, a faith the Saudi theocratic establishment considers inferior and blasphemous.
While taboos in Saudi Arabia are attributed to cultural and religious sensitivities, the real reasons are much deeper. The Saudi authorities and institutions’ relentless efforts to poison their captive subjects’ minds, attitude and perceptions against other religions and cultures have to do with fear of new ideas and empowering values. The Saudi system is built on and sustained by emphasis on total submission to rulers and God as well as by creating massive illusions in their subjects’ perceptions and psyche, from cradle to grave. Saudis are subjected to intense and continual religious, social, political, and cultural programming in schools, mosques, and living rooms. They are constantly reminded, coercively in most cases, into believing that their religion, culture, system of governance and dress code are superlatively superior and divine while those of other peoples’ are artificial, unfulfilling, and Godless. The good news is that educated Saudis, especially women, do not subscribe to this deceiving illusion anymore.
Note: Disconcertingly, Saudis are not the only ones subjected to incessant indoctrination. Most Muslims fall into this category, and that’s why they have difficulties assimilating in other societies—even the ones they escape to because of intolerable political, social, religious and economic conditions and oppression in their homelands. Read Article
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