The problem lies within

With the exception of the Human Rights Organization, to my knowledge there are no organized associations or unions of women rights activists in Saudi Arabia. Those who care are doing it individually and at the local level quietly. Most of them, like myself, are talking to the outside world more than the inside. On the other hand, women who believe in their own oppression are organized in so called religious groups; Quran circles, charity organizations, and teach their point of view in schools. They have seemingly infinite financial backing to publish all the literature they need to get across their narrow interpretations of Islam. Some women even work for the vice cops. And this is the problem. It’s not the government that oppresses women, it’s the women themselves who believe in this ideology and pass it along to their daughters. The problem lies in the imbalance of information. The ultra-conservative interpretation of Arab traditions and Islam is officially sanctioned by the government, so it is taught (actually drilled into) students through the curriculum and occasional lectures by sheikhs and women Islamic missionaries. Then outside of school they are reminded of it through the distribution of free pamphlets at social gatherings, hospital waiting rooms, and even when shopping. Sometimes street ads are paid for to show an abaya and a flower where the face is supposed to be to get across that women are flowers that should be covered and protected. Ironic, considering that flowers don’t thrive unless they are out in the sun. And if you try to discuss this oppression of women and human rights with these ultra-conservatives and their selectiveness in the use of Islamic texts, it all boils down to “the prevention of sin” argument.

At the same time people who believe in a more broad interpretation of Islamic texts are not allowed to express their opinion. When they do, they are quickly dismissed as secularists and liberals as if these were profane terms. They are also quickly assumed as not being really Saudi. I can’t count the number of times that other Saudis have assumed that I am from mixed heritage. Your mother must be Syrian, Egyptian or Turkish, they tell me. When I tell them that my parents were neighbors who grew up together in the Qaseem region, they are unfailingly shocked. All this just because I happen to voice a different opinion from the accepted walking jewels who are put on this Earth for the enjoyment of men, shopping and popping out kids. I digress. My point here is that we should have a more moderate Islam that is grown locally through Saudi literature, women rights awareness and respectable examples. Young ladies should not be made to feel guilty or rebellious just because they don’t like covering their faces or want to drive. As if wanting these means they carry some lewd ulterior motive.


Filed under Culture, Gender Apartheid

21 responses to “The problem lies within

  1. Kalimat

    I can relate to your post. Women can sometimes be their own worst enemies, i have come across women who believe they cannot do certain jobs as well as men because they are mentally deficient or emotional.

  2. Norah

    I cannot agree more. I believe the true “enemies” of women are women themselves. Thats why we need awareness in school and colleges. Because how can we ask for our rights if we don’t know what they really are? people need to know their rights whether as Muslims or as citizens of this country.
    I hope we as the image and voice of Saudi women will bring about prosperity and justice to all 🙂

  3. si

    so what’s your interpretation of Islam? and what’s your definition of ‘moderate’?

    i would appreciate if you would reply.

    • AQSA

      yea I don’t know weather the question is wrong or the user who asked this question is not gud but

      I also would like to ask the same question ?

      so what’s your interpretation of Islam? and what’s your definition of ‘moderate’?

      i would appreciate if you would reply.

  4. saudiwoman

    Si, Muslim, A or whatever you want to call yourself.

    Why do you keep changing your name and posting a fake Email? Is dishonesty part of your definition of Islam?

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  6. H

    With the exception of the Human Rights Organization, to my knowledge there are no organized associations or unions of women rights activists in Saudi Arabia.
    Thank heaven’s for that. Can you imagine if NGOs started running about in Hasa or Ar’ar? Man, that’d be the end of cultural heritage and identity.

    Most of them, like myself, are talking to the outside world more than the inside.
    And until you do this right, let’s hope that no NGO is allowed to enter the borders of Saudi Arabi.

    The thing is, Madam, I’ve worked with NGOs. If they’re internationally recognized, they must be standing on view points that are accepted by the international body of donors.

    It’s more like cultural colonialism. And if its only work is to make women drive in Saudi, then the only reason that it stays there is because there’s more money – and a different agenda – to milk.

    On the other hand, once you are capable of talking to your own kin, there’s more difference and control, and less damage as consequence. For example, if you want to allow your daughter to drive, then teach it to her; send her to the desert or to a neighboring country for lessons. Like my father did with his idea of an education, in Kuday, Mecca.

    Whether or not she will later use the skills is no really the issue anymore, because her bargaining power, her self-respect that she is intellectually and skillfully equal to men will make the more targeted difference in your campaign for gender equality, with less the negative impact, and the added bonus of sustainability.

    Simply because it starts from within. And that’s a lot of NGO jargon!

    I apologize for this lengthy rant; your post just rubbed on some sensitive toes. I realize that I’m guilty of intellectual-bullying on a naive perspective. A thought-provoking post indeed.

  7. si

    My name doesn’t matter, and i don’t like giving away my email address to people I don’t know. seeing that you won’t even reply to any serious comment, I would give you my email if you are willing to talk in private.

  8. Maria

    I don’t think that covering of a face or hijab have something to do with human rights or liberty. Saudi women first must obtain basic Islamic rights such as freely going to mosques to pray any time of a day or being able to leave their house for their needs without being harassed.

    After visiting Saudi Arabia I got a feeling that there is more culture than Islam. I think if people learn how to love Islam and understand it rather than constantly enforce it and also try get rid of their non-Islamic culture I bet everyone will be fine.
    What on Earth human rights we can talk about if Islam teaches us to be physically fit yet in Saudi Arabia there are no pedestrian ways and people are turning into coach potatoes??? Islam teaches us that it is forbidden to smoke as it kills yet it is ok for men to smoke openly in public places such as airports and shopping malls in family areas around children!!! Islam teaches us to be modest in all aspects regardless of sex yet you see women being forced to wrap themselves whereas men dress like hip-hop gangsters and TV is full of nudity and obscure make up. All problems of Saudi society are due to bizarre cultural interpretation of Islamic law and widespread hypocrisy.

    • ali

      Smoking is not Forbidden. Forbidden is Haram and Haram is only what is listed in the Quran and Confirmed by the Prophet. Any other thing would be addition. Your common sense and intelligence is given to worship and define the self, not decide on haram and halal. This is what is forbidden. You can not attribute death to anything but the WILL of Allah. That is what Islam teaches. Humans are still very limited in perception and sciences, what we may call harmful today, maybe called beneficial tomorrow.. thats why.

      As for Dressing; The “SATR” of men is from naval to knee. Thats it. We can pray if covered that much. Satr for women is Hair, Body minus face, hands and feet.

      Rest of what you say, I agree.

    • ali

      Maria, Islam does not forbid or allow.. Allah and His messenger to. To comply to what they have ordered IS the ISLAM of a Muslim.
      Smoking is not Haram. Haram by definition is what is forbidden without doubt by Allah and His messenger, like Alcohol. Also, as per the Quran, CAUSE of anyone’s death is Allah’s will. We, as humans can say this may be harmful – thats it. Reason? because we really do not know for sure YET. What we may call harmful today, we may call beneficial tomorrow. I have read 50 reports about different things like coffee – one says it causes cancer, the other says it is good for the heart and so on. I know a Canadian Heart surgeon who told me this: ” If a person drinks 30 glasses of water every day, smoking will not affect him so much”.. This is a Surgeon, well respected and someone who knows his work well.
      Smoking in Public areas is nothing.. what DUST in the air does is worse. Also, pollution in certain countries makes smoking look like an oxygen tank!

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  10. Dr. M. Abdulrahman

    I can’t thank you enough for not only posting this article but creating this blog where I can express myself respectfully and learn things from women’s perspective. I would like to get educated some matters, especially by Muslim females.

    First my sister has a friend that has a divorced mother because her husband (my sister’s friend’s father) married a second wife. She never got remarried ever since unfortunately. Now her daughter (my sister’s friend) has a daughter and a son, both married. One day her granddaughter’s husband married a second wife and all hell broke loose. I got there and couldn’t calm them down any way, shape or form. I explained God does not like breaking down a house. No avail. Long story short, they made ultimatum; divorce one of the wives. if it comes to divorce, the daughter chose to accept the second wife, but for them they rather die. I was sick to my stomach. He divorced the second wife.

    Here is where you will cover your face and laugh to death; both women are lobbying and trying to get the son four wives. Do you see where I’m getting at? And you know it is not one or two mothers, I don’t dare to give a percentage but we all know how high that is. So any explanation?

    Second, why women oppress other women either Saudi or others? Women complain about Saudi men but abuse their maids and drivers and so on. Heck, we have a woman who said being Saudi woman and maid is humiliating for Saudi women ( She didn’t say all women, only Saudis and guess what? She is a member of the National Society for Human Rights. Go figure and tell me if that make sense to you. She has a job already. How many other women that even some of them beg at the mosque will get employment? All of this while Dr Ghazi Abdul Rahman Algosaibi (a man I love and respect) is lobbying through the King to get women out of the unnecessary house confinement into the working places so they can earn living of their own. He gets slap in the face. From whom? A woman.

    So why women do this to each other?


  11. Jenna

    Dr. M. Abdulrahman,

    Allow me to explain in part your very legitimate confusion about what seems at first blush, women’s hypocracy. Actually, when any section of the human race has been long denied full and equal rights it takes some time to raise their conscience to a full level of understanding. These things happen in small steps and with education and generationally. We can see similar strange hypocratic stories from African-Americans currently in the US, they tear each other down one on one and hurt each other when they should be helping one another gain full rights and access as they have been fighting for since they won their freedom from slavery.

    Under oppression individuals become so tired and beleagured they see it as an individual, rather than a societal issue and so do things which are inconsistant. With time and education these things begin to get better… also once groups are allowed to form then individuals are able to see the many and the big picture rather than the small view.

    • ali

      Woman MAY have been oppressed here at ONE time. But the DR has some very VALID points and I agree with him 100%.
      The “oppression” thing has gone so far now, that MOST women have even termed Islam as oppressive. Most Muslim women. In Islam, a man can have 4 wives. He does not need the permission of his first wife for this. And, he has to divorce no one if he does not want to , she can take Khula.

  12. ali

    And I am not talking about Saudi Women. I am talking about women who have always lived in FREE countries. Countries where women have had freedom for years.. at least from before our generation. These Muslim women are the ones making ALL the noise. Saudi women, like the writer of this blog come up with some points, valid points – give their views and demand a change. But, this is recent.
    My Uncle married a second wife and was treated like a criminal. Whereas some other guy can be totally “loyal” to his wife and go on “business trips” , while “she” knows what he is upto.. ( I KNOW a wife knows when the husband cheats)but she overlooks it. Most do. They have no proof, but they know in their hearts. ISlam?
    As per Islam, there will always be certain sacrifices required from Muslim men AND women. There will always be limitations and restrictions for both, maybe more for women. Would you call that oppression?

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