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Leave Saudi Women Alone

Aishah Schwartz

 

Gentlemen, Leave Saudi Women Alone!

SAUDI ARABIA (Arab News) February 12, 2008 - 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.

I wish the UN addressed the concerns of the women in Gaza who are starving to death because of the Israeli blockade in place for the last eight months. Before that there was a siege that lasted one year. Palestinian women and children are struggling for survival. Children are dying because there is no food and there are no medications. I don't see the UN raising a voice to condemn what is going on in the Gaza Strip.

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?

Don't they know that the US-led war has so far caused the death of more than one million Iraqis, a majority of them women and young girls? Maybe they know it and hence their horrifying silence?

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.

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.

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.

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!

How do some foreign organizations assume that Saudi women are not allowed to choose their education and work? There are thousands of female students in colleges around the Kingdom. There are women specialized in different fields and work according to their majors. I hope I am not wrong when I say that the number of female students in universities exceeds that of their male counterparts.

As for the problem of unemployment, it doesn't concern just women. There are thousands of men who are unemployed and are having a hard time finding jobs. It's a problem for both men and women. I wish that everyone could find suitable jobs.

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.

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.

By Mohammed Al-Harfi

© Arab News 2008

Article originally published by Arab News 12-Feb-08   

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