Saturday, April 23, 2011

What's Saudi Arabia's Woman Problem?

If I'd started writing this before I knew the #KhobarGirlsUnite campaign (check Twitter) had succeeded in registering women to vote in the municipal elections coming up, I would have started off angry and confrontational. At this news you can all take a breath of relief, I suppose...

False alarm. I've decided I'm still going to be angry and confrontational. Especially with these topics - it's too much fun.

Now first of all, I really don't care about the relevance of these municipal elections. I'm not sure they carry any clout in the first place. But, as I and others have said on Twitter - who cares? It's the PRINCIPLE, the audacity of standing barefacedly against the undeniable, unalienable rights of women. What would the Prophet Muhammad say, he who had taken the pledge of allegiance from some of the most empowered women ever to grace history? May God's peace and blessings descend upon you, O Prophet... If you could see what those who claim to be your followers have done while announcing their dedication to marching in your footsteps...

How many times has religion been used to stuff women into the background, COMPLETELY GROUNDLESSLY? Trust me, it's groundless... A deep and thorough examination of every single accusation leveled towards Islam of abusing women should be made and completely debunked. it can be and it should; no big deal, wouldn't even take a very long time. The truth is obvious. Really, we Muslims need something like that to back us up when fighting against stuff like this. Every accusation in general, actually. We need a website like that - sound like a good idea, anyone?

Anyway, back to our topic.

"We won't let women vote because Saudi society's not ready for it," their excuse was. Oh really, sir? Since when can one person (or even several of those 'higher-up', whatever) determine what an entire society would think of such a matter? If King Faisal had waited until 'society agreed' to ban slavery or to start educating girls, I guarantee you the country of Saudi Arabia would be more stuck in the past and more backward than it is right now - and that's saying something.

They've been using that excuse for years, years, years. My mother - American, has been driving for most of her life and is a better driver than 90% of the men here - continually brings up what Prince Naif said a few years ago: "It's up to the family to decide." She turns to my dad and says, let's go to where you can sign something and get me a driver's license! (Notwithstanding the fact that she has an international driver's license, with Saudi Arabia one of the listed countries. We get a kick out of that, say she can use it as an excuse.) And my father can only shake his head with a rueful smile.

The excuse of having no women-only places to vote is also pathetic... Make some!

So what's with it? Seriously, what is people's problem here? What is this awful, horrible, outdated, unfair attitude (to say the least) that comes to anything that could possibly empower women here? Not even 'empower', you get the most ridiculous reactions to the least of things. the attitudes themselves are... Astonishing!

I'll give a quick example. Go to this article in Arab News today and check out the comments. The worst of the "we're not OPPRESSING women, we're HONORING their poor dear helpless selves!" on display. Here's one: "We respect our women more than any nation in the world. and we don't like them to be on the streets."

Something not fitting together there? Jeez, if you respect them, don't shut them up!

The man in the article who speaks about himself not liking his womenfolk to go out alone speaks FOR himself, he can go ahead and do whatever he wants - but do not impose that opinion on the general population with a dictatorial law. Same goes for the women who titter "Oh, heavens, dearie me at the very IDEA" of being able to drive: DO NOT PREVENT OTHERS FROM THE OPPORTUNITY TO DO THAT WHICH YOU WANT NO PART IN.

Do people here not understand the meaning of 'women must be able to function on their own'?! In case of emergencies, at least! This past year my father had to work and stay in Riyadh, a different city, for a few months. My family was stuck without a man and we were practically under virtual house arrest that whole time, going out only for necessity. He's back now, thank God - we don't have to waste our money and effort on taxi drivers who give women leery looks in the rear-view mirror, or stand in the sun on the street waiting for an empty cab to pass by, trying to ignore the honks that come from every car that passes our way. Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world in which women are sexually harassed while dressed in tents. It's disgusting and only serves to incorrectly undermine the role of hijab further...


Long post.

I need a break.

So do you.

I'm not finished, though. I don't think I ever will be.

Letters on Vittorio

This is the letter I sent to our local English newspaper, Arab News, on Vittorio's murder.


Who killed Vittorio Arrigoni?

The brutal killing of the Italian activist Vittorio Arrigoni shocked the world.

He lived with the Palestinian people, worked and suffered alongside them, and his death and kidnapping was finally blamed on the people he loved and was loved by. He was a loud and vocal supporter of the Palestinian cause and backed his words with action: He stood by the Palestinians in good times and bad, and was one of the only foreigners to stay in Gaza during the December 2008-January 2009 Israeli assault. Hundreds of people took part in a remembrance march across Gaza and the West Bank for him; hundreds across the world mourned him with no less sorrow.

A Salafist group has been accused of the heinous crime. One of their members, we are told, has confessed.

The question to ask when looking for the perpetrator of a crime is always: Who stands to gain from it? Who has the motive to plot an atrocity and the capability to carry it out? The answer here is, beyond a doubt, Israel. The 2nd freedom flotilla to Gaza is scheduled soon; Goldstone recently retracted his report on Israel’s 2008 Operation Cast Lead that relentlessly bombed Gaza; and Israel has evidently decided to strike when the iron is hot.

If it is the way it appears, this crime only serves to underline the “brutality” of the Palestinian people. They are ruthless even to those who help them. Do they deserve peace?

Let us not allow Vittorio’s death to go in vain. Let us not willingly swallow the story spoon-fed us by those in power. Let his work continue on unabated. Let us honor him as he should be honored."

The next day I was pleasantly surprised to find a reply to me in the Letters section:


Gruesome murder

I was amazed by the logic put forward by Maryam Al-Dabbagh in her letter “Who killed Vittorio Arrigoni?” (April 20).

She builds her case on the assumption that since Palestinians got a bad name because of this killing Israel should be held responsible for this murder. She chose to simply ignore the information that an extremist religious group kidnapped Vittorio and killed him in cold blood when Gaza officials didn’t agree to free their leader in exchange for the Italian hostage. Mind you, the extremist group didn’t demand release of Gilad Shalit, so why to blame Israel to safeguard an internal enemy?

This is the same logic employed in Pakistan by the sympathizers of suicide bombers who first try to accuse the American agents for the mayhem in the country. But when a suicide bomber is caught and his relations with extremist organizations becomes evident, they try to justify the act by calling it a protest against American occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq.

There is no doubt that Israel will try to defame Palestinians for this brutal murder. But there are some people among Palestinians who are giving this chance to Israel. I agree with Maryam’s closing line that we shall not allow Vittorio’s death to go in vain. Palestinians should look for black sheep within their own ranks who are blind by hatred of other faiths. Palestinians need to understand that extremist groups are not going to help them; they simply want to exploit their sufferings for their own nefarious designs."

I replied to Mr. Khan in today's newspaper:


Vittorio Arrigoni

In response to Masood Khan’s reply (April 22) to my letter of April 20, I will say that baseless accusations against anybody, whether it is a country, individual or organization, is unacceptable and counterproductive.

I also admit that in the Arab media Israel gets blamed for things it has not done.

However, my charge of Israel’s possible involvement in the murder of Italian activist Vittorio Arrigoni was not a knee-jerk reaction in an attempt to exonerate Palestinians; it was put forward after a thorough examination of the motive and developments during and after the murder.

The motive is clear. Arrigoni was a foreigner well loved by many and his death would serve Israel’s interests very well, especially with the advent of the second international flotilla to Gaza (which, incidentally, was renamed “Stay Human,” after Arrigoni’s motto). What better way to prove the “inherent brutality of the Palestinian people” than to have someone like Arrigoni killed by Palestinians for whom he was working?

Vittorio was killed 24 hours before the elapse of the deadline set by the kidnappers; that is hardly the action of people who wanted a prisoner of their own released and were not intending murder in the first place. I also doubt a devout Salafist would shoot himself at the prospect of capture, as one of the three did, cornered by Hamas earlier this week.

There is no doubt that the ones who tightened the rope around Vittorio’s neck were murderous Palestinians who deserved the death penalty and much more for their crime. I merely wish to put forward a definitive statement — along with many others, including those who knew him best, such as activist Ken O’Keefe — that after examining the murder, motives and intent, it is more than conceivable and quite believable that a nation-state with Israel’s track record would be more than capable of masterminding a gruesome crime such as this.

Conspiracy theories or not, we will never know what really happened. Either way, I do agree with Masood: The presence of such people within the Palestinians ranks in the first place — collaborators with Israel or not — is detrimental to their very cause, and hurts their case in front of the eyes of the world.

I think we just need to hope with all our hearts that Vittorio’s death will serve no interests but the cause he believed in — the cause of complete, thorough and permanent justice for Palestinians.

So, did I handle it right? Waiting for tomorrow's edition to see if I get any further surprises... :)

Thursday, April 21, 2011


Before he was kidnapped, I didn't know *of* Vittorio Arrigoni, much less know him in person. I'd never read about him, or encountered anything he'd written himself. I didn't even follow him on Twitter.

I do follow many people from Gaza, however, and @AmoonaE, residing in Paris, was the first I saw to tweet the news. An Italian activist has been kidnapped, she said - let us all start with prayers. Then she changed her Twitter picture to one of a dashing, very Italian-looking man with a pipe (read: handsome).

For the next couple of hours, I was intently following what was happening. Many other people began to tweet about him using the hashtag #FreeVittorio - I did too. @EbaaRezeq90 tweeted about how she was sure her friend would be back and safe, laughing with them about the ordeal, and would watch the Real Madrid-Barcelona game with them day after tomorrow; he was a Barca fan. I smiled at that - I was looking forward to that game myself, backing Madrid. Then it was late, and I went to sleep.

I woke up at 5 to pray; I woke up to the news of his death. And I began to cry.

For the next few days I was, to put it mildly, obsessed with what had happened - not because of my hormones, no - he was good-looking, sure, but an exemplary and heroic man first and foremost. I voraciously read about it, watched Al Jazeera like a hawk until their segment about his death, and got suspiciously shiny eyes once more at the sight of such a vibrant, good-hearted face, so alive!

I really cannot say more than the people who knew him have. I just wanted to share my own personal experience (and maybe explain to some of you tweeps why I was constantly tweeting about him for a few days). In his death he touched so many of our lives; once again I only wish I had known him before his heart stopped beating for Palestine.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Book Review Of 'Miral'

I recently wrote a review of the book Miral - set in Palestine, detailing the lives of four Palestinian women and their struggle, recently made into a movie directed by Julian Schnabel and starring Freida Pinto - which was published on the Aslan Media website.


Monday, April 11, 2011


Finally I've gotten around to updating my blog and ONCE MORE an unholy amount of time has elapsed since my last post. Hopefully this one and the ones that will follow soon will make it worth it. This is an introductory post; I'm tackling a meaty subject, after all, and not one I can give credit to in a single sitting, or attempt...

Feminism and Islam, and Saudi.

The very mention sends a shiver down your spine with the negative, uncomfortable vibes we're saturated with from all directions. We are told that women are oppressed in Islamic countries & especially Saudi Arabia by media of all kinds, whether through books or TV or Internet; by hearsay; and - most rarely - come to realize it through personal experience. The latter of which I have a lot of. Some of what you hear is true: I've told enough horror stories about my experience with Saudi misogyny in my time.

What enrages me, however, is not the attacks on the way my country of residence treats women. All too often, the criticism is justified - and needed. I take part in it myself readily. But when it begins to stretch to Islam's treatment of women, my claws are out. After all, as a Muslim woman, as a thinking and rational human being - how is it conceivable that I could possibly remain a follower of a religion that oppresses me? The suggestion that Islam oppresses women leads to that assumption and I refuse to be taken as such.

As always, the disrespectful treatment of women in Islamic countries stems from the everlasting problem of culture vs religion: how a religion's origin differs from its practice. It happened with Christianity and Judaism, with, I daresay every mode of thinking in the world; it's happened, sadly, to Islam as well. The Saudi version of Islam is certainly not *the* version of Islam, just like there is no one version of Islam itself.

I digress. Certain things have happened within the past few weeks that have pushed these issues to the front of my mind further, and I'll be talking about the experience in Saudi interposed with how it is SUPPOSED to be. In REAL Islam. Taken directly from its sources, the Qur'an and the traditions of the Prophet Muhammad, not clouded by patriarchal systems or closed mindsets.

Keep a heads-up and please feel free to bug me on Twitter (@thelogicker) if I haven't updated soon!