This is in reply to a comment made by um Maraym in the previous post:
Salam Um Maryam
Just by your “kinya” I can tell you are one of those “reverts” who treat Islam as though it was a cult or an exclusive club that is defined by outer appearances ( tent like abaya) and completely confuse religion and Arab culture.
No those women who you say:“rather than your religious police, the only people who I find ridiculous are a particular class of saudi woman. One sees them at the Kingdom center or the Faisalyah, aimlessly wandering around, caked in makeup.They way they wear their abyas, would make a western prostitute blush, I’m not sure why they are so shallow, perhaps its lack of education, or its the inbreeding, or perhaps its the free money from the govenrment that has lead to this dysfunctional social pathology.”
These women are never going to be written about on my blog because these women have never banned others from driving their own cars and have never jailed and deported 75 year old widows because they had bread delivered by an unrelated man…etc. It’s your like and your Saudi versions who work against their own sisters. Tell your point of view to the Saudi women who are forced to guard toilets for money while next door in the same mall a foreign man is brought into the country for the sole purpose of selling lingerie for three times the salary she gets. And express your adoration of muttawas to the countless women I know who have been harassed, stalked, traumatized and publicly insulted by them. Why would I write about women minding their own business when I can write about women like you who judge them. Why don’t you say the same about the desperate pathetic men who troll around the malls in the latest designer wear and reeking of expensive perfumes? Why don’t I write about my cousins who have had to borrow thousands in order to get out of abusive marriages when Islamic shariah law clearly states that women who are abused are allowed divorce. And what about writing about how a friend of mine was asked by a taxi driver if she would like him to pimp her out? A respectable woman whose only problem is that she had to resort to a daily taxi because she is banned from driving her own car. And how about newly appointed teachers who monthly pay half their salary just for a ride to work?
26 responses to “Bad day + bad comment =”
What you say reminds me of an incident my mother went thru. My mother did not cover her face in Saudi. Once she had gone shopping at the new kuwaiti souq i think it was and a mutawwa repeatedly asked her to cover her face. When she didn’t listen he took her iqama. My father wasn’t in the country at the time. My mother got angry and started arguing with the mutawwa. To her surprise he was a well educated man, who explained to her why she was wrong and returned her iqama.
The way you explains mutawwas… you categorize them all in one class, as bad people. There are people who abuse the power of being a mutawwa, no doubt, but then there are those who actually do uphold the core of what being a mutawwa is.
Instead of mocking the moral police maybe you should start lobbying for compromise? Use religious texts and interpretations to state your views. And here i don’t mean your interpretation of these texts but interpretations provided by ulema.
Islamically it is the rulers duty to make sure his citizens adhere to Islamic precepts. And he will be asked about it on the day of judgment. Now is the method set up in Saudi perfect? No, but then help your government refine it.
Additionally women potentially have a lot of power in your country. You are essentially responsible for raising your kids. Make sure your sons don’t fall into the same category as the ignorant mutawwas you so dislike.
eh, this argument could go on forever….. but in the end that’s just what it is, an argument.
It is true that the Muttawa are not all bad.
The sad thing is that they sometimes recruit recently released prison convicts who memorized the quran to do thier work. I am not against the religious police as an establishment but think that they need proper traning and education for their employees.
I agree with both sides of the story, women are sometimes unjustly treated but on the other hand thier are some women (& Men) that go to unethical extremes. Umm Maryam has a point about some people who over do it. I have been to the west many times and I can honestly say that there are things that some saudi youth (male and female) do (wheather its the way they act or what they dress) that are far worse than in europe and north america.
The sad thing is that human beings tend to be extremists either to the right or to the left. people have an attraction to being either extremly religious or extremly unethical. I’m no imam but I personaly try to follow the middle path as long as it does not contradict anything in the quran, sunnah or is agreed on by the MAJORITY of scholars.
Umm Abdulaziz makes a very stroing point…
A child raised right at home will do right outside the home no matter what the society imposes on him/her. I find that one major problem in saudi is that many people have lost thier internal morals and focus on the outside more. The divorce rate is higher than ever and parents tend to neglect their kids with the maid while men go to work all day and watch tv or hang out with the guys all night while women shop all day and go to weddings/parties all night.
I hope that Allah gives as all hidaya to do the right thing.
Inbreeding?!! Lack of education?? How insulting! And what a betrayal of your sex to only ridicule such frivolity when it’s portrayed by women – Never mind the equally aimless youths following any girls they see and trying to put their phone numbers into their handbags… Or the Saudi men who drive across to Bahrain in their hundreds to hit the nearest bar and then drunkenly chase women as they drive down the street? I was once (in my youth!) followed all the way home by a saudi man who held up a A3 sized LAMINATED card with his phone number! I had to get my Dad to chase him off! Are these MEN not equally worthy of ridicule as silly girls? Except wearing too much makeup is unlikely to cause permanent harm beyond giving small children nightmares…
Since Um Maryam has by her own admittance only spent 6 weeks in the country, I rather think the opinion of the locals counts for more.
I am not sure if Um Maryam is a reverts or not. However, there is a tendency for reverts to view everything from the Muttwa and the Ultra religious point of view in most cases. The issue here is that the majority of the converts in the west receive most of their books, Islamic teaching, Mosque donations, etc. from sources supported by the Saudi religious establishment. It is no wonder that they take these views, because this is the only Islam they were taught.
I think Um Maryam and others that have joined the faith, should consider diversifying their Islamic readings and look at sources other than just the rigid Hanbali teachings.
I leaved in the country 14 years
It is interesting to see my entire life story and outlook dissected so expertly.
It is however completly wrong.
My family has been Muslim for 1400 years, I am not revert, I do not follow the Hambli madhab . I am not a Saudi funded automaton. But I don’t really mind the name calling, keep going if it makes you feel better!
I did not intend my comment to be “bad” or to give you a bad day, but a blog which invites comments, will occasionaly (and unsuprisingly) invite comments that offer a differing perspective to that of the blog’s author.
Welcome to the world of debate.
Clearly you have a more detailed knowlege of the religious police than I do. However I must remind you that I went to KSA being warned about how bad Saudis were, and my experience was quite the reverse.
Perhaps the best way to improve the religious police is to make them accountable to each district or town where they work. Therefore the different social mores in various parts of the Kingdom, would be reflected in the behaviour of the religious police. Any disputes that citizens had with them, they could challenged them directly and locally.
For example, they would be uber strict in Buraida, but in Jiddah they might hand out bathing towels and suntan lotion. If one did not like the factor 30 sunblock they gave out, or there was not enough fabric softner in the towels, then you could go to the local Masjid and have them lashed.
If there is a major problem with indiviual rights in KSA, then it is with third country nationals (low paid workers) who are treated very badly. Human rights watch and others have documented this in details, and my own short experience seemed to back it up.
I do accept the grave genocidal crime of confiscating flowery abyas (as deeply distressing, and crime against humainty, the anti-woman holocoust that clearly it is). May Allah protect and the preserve the mujahda who bravely fight for our rights to wear a bowler hat in public.
But your country also(unlike many others) pays women to study university level abroad, pays for public education for girls and has free health care for all nationals. That does not happen in the US.
I do like your blog, and read it regularly. I do not want to be a regular commentator on it or to annoy you, that would be a grave sin. But I am suprised by what upsets you to the point of outrage and what does not.
This will be my last comment.
Saudi in US makes a good point; reverts tend to the extreme, partly because that is what they are taught in Saudi Arabia– the extremes— and partly because their character probably feels more comfortable in the extreme ends of religion.
The problem with diversifying their Islamic readings is twofold. First, anyone living in the Kingdom will be hard pressed to find fiverse readings. Second, once people are convinced of the Wahabi interpretation, they feel no need of expanding their horizons. In fact, they guard against being lead astray by such “deviant” writings.
As for mutawaa, we needn’t waste time asserting that some mutawaa are moderate and helpful. Of course, there are always people along the full spectrum of any particular activity. However, the evidence against the mutawaa overwhelms that which supports them.
For the record, I am not a revert; I am a convert.
There is a difference.
Marahm – why do you make a distinction between “revert” and “convert”? I tend to use the two interchangeably (hope this causes no offense!) so I’m interested to know why one might prefer “convert” to “revert”?
Sorry for jumping in.. but I was just curious as to what the difference between a convert and a revert is? I recall some people who embraced Islam, chose the term revert, as they say they were born Muslim (as everyone is) and then were raised as a different religion, and later reverted to Islam.
As for the the topic, yes I agree there are good and bad religious police, same way there are good cops and bad cops. So we shall blame a lot of what they do on their own actions, and another problem where a LOT of what the follow are TRADITIONAL rather then Islamic. There are a lot of problems in the institution, and as I believe that we need some sort of religious policing in this country (I have had awful experience with people here, and believe the religious police makes it such instances occur less )- I believe that they should be properly educated, and be given stricter guidelines on what they can do. One of which should NOT be giving lashes to a 70 something year old widow for having bread delivered to her!
A revert is a person who believes that he/she had been born into a state of Islam (submission to Allah) and had then become indoctrinated by parents and society into something different. After growing up, and finding Islam, the revert claims to have “reverted”, that is reversed, whatever enculturation took him/her away from Islam.
A convert, on the other hand, is someone who does not believe that all people are born into a state of Islam, but are born as empty slates, religiously speaking. A convert does not necessarily hold one religion higher than all others, but has chosen to follow a religion different from that into which he/she had been originally enculturated.
That is my own distinction, and I make it because I noticed a difference between people who call themselves reverts and those who call themselves converts. The reverts tend to accept the Wahabi extremes, while converts recognize the validity of religions other than Islam.
That does not mean that we can determine which group is closer to Allah, though the reverts think they are, but Allah knows best.
I wrote about the subject briefly: http://marahm.wordpress.com/2008/02/26/revert-or-convert/
I’m neither a revert or a convert, I’m a Hindu.. born and bred , living in KSA with my saudi husband off and on for the past 12 yrs. and know for a fact the muttawa are a pain , arrogant and ignorant. can’t beleive the number of times me and my daughter have been harassed by one. We were covered and all.. tolerance and the concept of minding their own business seems to be beyond them.
We could do without the PVPV goons and if there are intelligent ones there they may be put to better use in some other dept, maybe womens betterment 🙂
What a waste of time and money.. chasing people during prayer time. why should they do that..Don’t grown adults know when they need to pray and when to not. C’mon how much of forcible prayer is really heartfelt..
If i can get married/reproduce/be responsible for another life/cook/clean and provide for a child, what makes you think we need to be told to pray???
sorry just venting..
The fact that when Saudi women are harassed, blackmailed and stalked, they turn to the Mutawwas for help shows the Mutawwas aren’t that bad, nor abusers of women as projected in the media.
I agree they must be having behavioral issues which they must work on. Treating people nicely is v important.
can someone please tell me where this free money from the saudi government is??
Um Maryam- I find it curious that you would insult saudi women on a saudi woman’s blog than wonder why you get the reaction you do. You had to have known with the insults you put forth you were sure to get some back. Perhaps that is why you put them forth to begin with.
Now while I would love to hold your six week observation as the norm in saudi when it comes to the religious police I have 8 years in and I would have to disagree.
You think because a woman wearing a bowler hat, who in your judgement looked rediculous, is wrong for giving the religious police a piece of her mind for telling her not to wear it. Question is with all that is going on in Saudi society, past what youve seen in the malls, why is it is so imperative that they tell her anything about her rediculous hat? Is she wearing an illegal hat? Is the hat itself causing a social uproar? Is she chasing someone with the hat using it as a weapon? Does she have some writing on the hat that insults the King? What is it about that hat that made them just have to stop her and tell her not to wear it?
You mention the religious police be accountable localy. Issue is they aren’t accountable at all which is a major part of the problem in which they create for themselves. Yea, being nice is bound to change the fact that they overstep, abuse, and oppress the sinful members of their society. Bowler hats are such an important sin after all.
And while I love sarcasm I assure you it does nothing for your side of the argument. In fact it probably hurts it.
I must apologies for the two comments made my “Um Maryam”, that was not me but my husband, who is a hardline super-salfi, using my kinya.
He is the sort of salafi/wahabi whose beard is longer than his thaub.
I have reprimanded him and locked him in the closet while I write this.
I totally agree with your comments, I would rather the religious police not harass and intimidate people on the street.
When we came to Riyadh, my husband went out and grabbed a muttawa, and angrily demanded that the muttawa be much stricter and harsher. He actually threatened to report him for being too liberal. He made the poor man walk around the entire Granada mall, pointing out the “corruption” that he saw. He also grabbed the agaals from saudi men’s turbans and told them that it was a bidaah
Here he works as a lifeguard on a nude beach. I have never been able to reconcile my husband’s religious beliefs and his job….
Anyway, Inshallah we will come to Riyadh as he is being interviewed for a job as a religious policeman. He has been practicing striking things with a bamboo cane (and he is getting pretty good).
I love your blog, and read it all the time, and wish you the very best.
i’ve been reading this blog for long time and i always woundered, to whom it is written ? is it really for saudi women ?. why isn’t it written in arabic then ? don’t u want all saudi women to read it ? if u r interested in people who can read english then why don’t u write it in english and arabic at the same time ? a true saudiwomen would like to write what she thinks of in arabic IF she want these things to be changed ! why don’t write in arabic not for guys like me but for Muttawas to understand . instead of talking with people in network why don’t u try to write somthing directed to muttawa’s and to the “frustrated” women u r talking about !
i’ve always disliked muttawa and disliked women who does not want to be an arab if she is originally Arab and reminde me with the saying ” Ya Sheen ASSarj Ala ALBeqir “.
i’m a 23 years old, tribal guy, from Najd (not Riyadh) ,and i want to marry to a women who like saudi arabia, who is truly from saudi arabia not just a passport but a one who like desert who like to speak with her region accent proudly not to a one who feel ashamed just when she speaks differently.
Salaam, Abdullah, most blogs are aimed at a target audience, and as a reader, I, too, am interested in the target audience. I want to know whether the blog will be enriching for me, or whether I’d be better served by other blogs. How many hundreds of thousands of blogs are available? I don’t know, but I do know that each blog is written by a unique person, with personal qualities additional to the ones that would be suggested by nationality alone.
If you read the About page here, you’ll notice that Saudiwoman uses her real name, and tells a few facts about herself. You might realize, then, that a “true saudiwoman” can express (in her blog) many other qualities, desires, and intentions than writing in Arabic for the purpose of enlightening mutawwas and other young men.
Do you really think a mutawwa would be interested or receptive to a blog in Arabic, for the purpose of encouraging a moderate attitude toward women? If so, do you think such a blog shoud be written by a woman, or by a young man like yourself?
What IS a true Saudi woman? From what I have read here and other places I can subjectively say- they are women that comes in all shades, with a variety of opinions uniquely theirs; who cannot be cubby holed as if they were like the Spartans of olde who wanted one way of being, doing, saying to keep the Spartan way alive- in this day and age with so much information, travel, swapping of ideas and goods around the world- not even the language should be cobby holed anywhere on this planet including Saudia- that would be in my opnion a mistake that would probably earn a few the title of a truly “closeted person”…
When the world sees you in your varied colors the ink on any paper ceases to be just black and white.
Salams to everyone,
I have not been to Saudi Arabia yet, but I have some experience with another Arab country (no not Lebanon). I live in the US and I used to think that in Arab countries women were more religious and more observant, simply because the majority of population is Muslim…
After few years and many visits, I did to my disappointment find that it all just like in the US depends on the family, and there are scores of women (some wearing scarf) who don’t fast, don’t pray, and they smoke, watch those obsene music videos with singer’s cleavage practically falling out of her dress/bathing suit, listen to haram music and chat with men on the internet and post suggestive pictures of themselves… I mean, I actually found that observant and truly pious women and few and far in between. And I thought US was bad…
I was going to post something longer here, but why bother? How can hatred be eased by my pithy comment?
Anyhoo, I came by to ask if you are familiar with this text “Voices of Change: Short Stories by Saudi Arabian Women Writers” – Abubaker Bagader, Ava M. Heinrichsdorff, and Deborah S. Akers
I haven’t been able to find anything on it and was wondering if you had read it and/or have any thoughts about it?
Love and Peace,
No I haven’t seen it but if you get ur hands on it, please tell us about it.
Very Interesting post! Thank you for such interesting resource!
PS: Sorry for my bad english, I’v just started to learn this language 😉
Your, Raiul Baztepo
@Saudi in USA,
Not all of us converts are extremists. Some of us, Alhamdulillah, have happily found a nice middle ground and run like mad from the extremists just like you do.
The use of a kunya isnt always a sign of anything in a convert. I started using it because it is what my Saudi Mother in Law calls me because she doesnt speak any English and has a hard time remembering/saying my real first name.
As to what a “real Saudi lady” is like, it could be almost anything. Why do some people always want to pigeonhole people into little classifications and exclude them for the stupiest things?
My wife is Saudi, educated here in the West, married to an America convert. She doesnt wear hijab, she has no issues being an equal, or superior to the men she meets. She is just as much of a “real Saudi” as any Saudi woman.
Tolerance and acceptance of differences is what is sorely lacking in Saudi, the Arab world, and the wider Muslim world.
@Saudi Woman: I didn’t see any accusations. “Um Maryam” was just pinpointing a problem, and you were pinpointing another! That’s all there was!
Also, I think you, when you write a post, you’d like to hear the other’s point of view, and that’s all “Um Maryam” did… she gave you her point of view! I think we should teach ourselves not to get carried away and hastily consider opposing views as accusations. Just my two cents about this post!
Rather interesting blog to spend some time on reading it to my mind. A small question, why don’t you send that article to social bookmarks? It should bring pretty big traffic to this page.
I am a muslim, born in a non-Muslim family. I have never liked the word convert/revert myself (I am a Muslim, period), even though I do believe (as a part of Islam) that all people are born with a fitrah that God is One.
After reading, watching and listening to first hand information it is clear that the Islam developing in Saudi is “quite” extreme . It is going beyond the limits, Islam is the golden middle path which is clearly shown in the texts. Rhe problems arises when people either want to pick and choose what to follow and what not to follow or when they go to extremes in implementing certain parts. Or even worse, they change some into being contradictory to Shariah and then still call it “Islamic Law and custom”…
I wear the niqab, i support all women who wear it just like the hijab. The hijab is mandatory in Islam, some people wear it some don’t. Niqab is disputed, but I condemn people who force women to wear it, or who force them to take it off! Both in Muslim countries like Saudi or in the West.
As a comment on what you said in earlier posts, to ban something which is a part of Islam is just like being against Islam, but you do want Saudi to start implementing correct Islamic laws instead of the crazy, disgusting women-hating laws they call Islamic at the moment… But maybe you don’t want Islamic laws at all, what do I know 🙂 As we say in Sweden, it’s like choosing between “pest eller kolera” (plague or cholera) for some people (?).
Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that the system in Saudi is appaling for me as a Muslim on so many levels. The “Islamic laws” are being corrupted and implemented only bits and pieces, and what I’ve always been trying to say is that shariah is always unjust if it is only implemeted partially. Saudi needs to be reformed, and I’m not sure if that is possible… at least not in the near future. How can you reform a whole culture and way of thinking, without a kind of revolution in thinking and teaching (just like the one when Islam came to the arab peninsula). The dilemma here is, that same message is being used to justify something that cannot be found during its early period…
PS. It’s hard to find balanced Muslims nowadays, they are either extreme to the right or left – at least in my humble opinion.