JEDDAH: As if its near-perfect grand slam feat last week was not enough Saudia Ice Cream became the first to repeat as Team of the Week during the 6th session in the FTBJ-ICBL 36th Conference bowling tournament at the Bowling City here.A mixed-sex bowling league in Jeddah? And the women not wearing headcoverings? What is going on?
It turns out that this minor story points to a way to show how even the most repressive Arab governments can be pressured to bend their own rules when it is in their self-interest.
FTBJ stands for the Filipino Tenpin Bowlers of Jeddah. All the people in that league are Filipino. Filipinos love bowling.
And Saudi Arabia is heavily dependent on Filipino labor.
There are as many as 1.8 million Filipinos living and working in Saudi Arabia. They needed an infrastructure and the Phillipines government pressured Saudi Arabia into allowing them to have their own schools and social organizations.
Suddenly, the problems of uncovered women are not as important.
Knowing that, what would Saudi Arabia do if a female diplomat refuses to cover her hair? While there is an element of respect involved, that should be a decision made freely by the diplomat, not under coercion. And it is past time that people stop worrying about offending their Arab hosts. (In many cases the female diplomats indeed do not cover their hair.)
The Saudis might demand respect, but when they need the services of others they understand quite well.
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