Monday, February 11, 2008

Arab News article defending Saudi misogyny

This (obviously male) author is all over the place trying to deflect the problems of Saudi women on anyone and anything he can find:
The United Nations’ interest in the situation of women in the Kingdom really puzzled me. It looked as though Saudi women live in a huge prison guarded by people whose only interest is to humiliate and degrade women as much as possible.

It seemed as if the women in this country were desperately seeking words of help and promise of rescue from these organizations so that that they can begin life afresh enjoying all the freedom they lost a long time ago.

I wonder how members of such organizations — whose hearts apparently bleed for those oppressed and suppressed — are so concerned about the Saudi women, but fail to realize the tragic plight of the women in Palestine and Iraq.

UN organizations are not concerned about Palestinian women languishing in Zionist jails. They are being held unfairly without any charges or trial. They are being kept away from their children and husbands. How I wish these organizations opened their eyes and talked to us about these continuous tragedies and traumas. As for the situation of Iraqi women, they’re in endless distress. They’ve been traumatized with no end in sight to their miseries. How come these organizations don’t see a tragedy that TV screens bring to our living rooms?

I won’t say that the reason for their silence is that all these catastrophes are caused by America and Israel and they don’t want to annoy the global superpower and the regional superpower. I’ll only assume that they have good intentions and are trying to find out the truth. Maybe they want to make every nation feel happy.

OK, so the reason the UN criticizes Saudi Arabia is because it is way too Zionist. Obviously. (BTW, the UN has spent countless hours whining about PalArab women.)

These organizations should realize that every nation has its religious distinctiveness that’s taken into consideration when it comes to enacting laws. Islam has its Shariah rules, whether in granting women their rights or treating them as equals to men. Islam doesn’t deny other people their religious distinctiveness.

The Jews guard their religious distinctiveness with zeal. The same applies for Christians, Buddhists and others. This religious distinctiveness is respected in their laws. I’ve never heard a country or an organization objecting to Jewish religious regulations. No country, individual or organization can criticize Jews without inviting charges of anti-Semitism. In fact, nobody can question the truth about the holocaust even if it is scientifically and historically documented.

No, it is not that the UN is too Zionist - it is that it is Islamophobic! (And that sweet extra touch of Holocaust denial is always a welcome part of any article defending Islam.)
It would’ve been fair and more acceptable if the person who prepared this report considered — integrally — the primary role of Islam in the laws of the Kingdom. Since he didn’t, I’ll make some observations.

Let’s take the issue of women driving cars. The way the issue is discussed abroad would give the impression all the problems of women in the Kingdom would vanish once they were allowed to sit behind the steering wheel. The point not to be missed here is that no one in the Kingdom, whether rulers or religious scholars, has ever said that it’s religiously forbidden for a woman to drive a car. The minister of foreign affairs has clearly stated that if women don’t drive in the Kingdom it is because of the force of social custom. There are those who approve the idea of women driving and those rejecting it. We must find out what the majority wants and I believe a decision one way or the other will be taken very soon.

No, its not Islamophobia - it is not understanding that social customs that have nothing to do with Islam, although very much shaped by Islam, drive Saudi laws. It is up to people to decide whether women can be treated as human or not, not the UN.
As for the freedom of women when it comes to marriage and divorce, I know that the system in the country obliges the person who will tie the knot legally to directly communicate with the woman and make sure she agrees with the proposal.

As for divorce, I also know that it’s a woman’s right, under the Shariah rules, to ask for kulu (to file for divorce and give the husband back his dowry) the moment a she dislikes being with her husband. Judges are aware of it.

I know there are instances where these rules are ignored or violated by fathers or judges. Some judges delay the procedures of kulu because they want to sort out the problems between a man and his wife to avoid a divorce. But these violations don’t mean that women in the Kingdom are oppressed when it comes to marriage and divorce!

Of course not - the fact that women are treated like cattle doesn't mean they are oppressed! These are all aberrations, you see.
The issue isn’t about good intentions, but about ruining religions, ruining women and men and then corrupting societies. I can’t eliminate the political factor in the report. The UN seems to be thinking that taking away the religious identity from Muslims is the first step toward reforming their societies.
Hold on, we've switched gears again - apparently all of the misogyny really is from Islam, not social customs, and therefore it is correct.
Finally, I say to all those who cry over the situation of women in Saudi Arabia, whether they are outsiders or citizens: Leave the woman alone. Saudi women are capable of taking care of themselves without the help of these busybodies.

I also tell them that this country has a religion that can’t be ignored or destroyed. As for other habits or traditions, those are negotiable. Women have problems in Saudi Arabia that need to be addressed; men too have problems worthy of attention. If you really want to address these problems you should be fair in your comments and free from preconceived notions.

Luckily, the Arab News has also published some articles from real women. As I mentioned in November, here is what one wrote:
It is surprising and frustrating to see that women in Saudi Arabia, despite all their achievements, continue to be treated as underage dependents who need and are forced to be managed by their male guardians.

We cannot claim that a Saudi woman has all her Islamic and civil rights when the system insists on considering her immature, irresponsible and dependent on her male guardian no matter how old she is, how highly educated and intelligent she might be or what she has achieved in her professional career. At what age and under what circumstances is a woman in Saudi Arabia considered an independent, sane, responsible adult?

...Why does a young intelligent, ambitious woman needs her guardian’s permission to enroll in a university or apply for work? Does the system even realize that this male guardian does not necessarily have the best interests of the woman when he denies her the right to an education and a job?

...what about the daily obstacles women face if they want to purchase property, apply for divorce, gain custody of their child, or travel abroad? In all these cases, she needs a male guarantor or a male representative or permission from her male guardian.
So which person represents a more accurate view of women in Saudi society - the man who can't put together a coherent argument as he sputters all over the place, or a real live woman who lives there?