These past couple of weeks have convinced me that the government has made a huge scientific discovery, the time machine, and is now using it to pull the whole country back into the eighties. The King’s decrees, which included a generous package for the ultra-conservatives and gave absolute impunity to the senior clerics council from media criticism, were just an indication of what was coming. Since then, it has been made official instead of being just a religious recommendation; women are banned by law from working as cashiers. This was due to a complaint and proposal by sheikh Yusuf Al Ahmed to the Interior Ministry.
A forum, “Women and Development”, on March 13th here in Riyadh called on the authorities to grant women incentives and stipends to encourage them to stay at home, and to push forward early retirement by reducing service to just 15 years. Also they suggested a special system of part time work just for women and to limit their hospital work to women only wards and ER.
The only moderate muttawa in the PVPV, Dr. Ahmed Al Ghamdi, has been relieved of his post as head of the Makkah PVPV division. He was the only PVPV member who stated openly that women are allowed in Islam to not cover their faces and that there is no such thing as extreme gender segregation in Islam. The latter view is also shared and researched in depth by another high official in the ministry of Justice, Shiekh Eissa Al Ghaith.
Yesterday the interior ministry has announced (ambiguously) that over five thousand detainees were released in the past after they repented from terrorism and others are awaiting trial. Why was this statement made now though? Many of those in political prisons in Saudi were arrested because they belonged to the same ultra-conservative group in the eighties and nineties that produced people like Osama Bin Laden. The free ultra-conservatives are currently apolitical and have focused their energy on the safe and easy misogyny trend except when it comes to the matter of their imprisoned brothers. So this statement can be categorized as of more of the aforementioned appeasement of the ultra-conservatives. Don’t get me wrong though, it’s a huge leap forward and I completely support and celebrate their release. Imprisoning anyone without a clear case and fair trial only creates more terrorism. I just hope that the human rights activist Mikhlif Al Shammary would also be released.
Another blast from the past is that women again will be banned from voting. The municipality elections were announced to start on April 23rd and it was confirmed that women will be completely excluded from the process. For a country that states that it’s constitution is the Quran, excluding women does not fit in with the statement; the Prophet (PBUH) and later caliphs took pledges of leadership (very close to the concept of voting) from both women and men. These are the second elections to take place in the kingdom, and the first excluded women too under the pretense that the logistics of including women and avoiding gender mingling would postpone the elections too long. This was six years ago, and all these years obviously have not been enough time to prepare for the impossible task of actually treating women as full citizens.
I prefer to end on a happy note. The Saudi Women Revolution is now a healthy cooing toddler. A group of women headed by one of Saudi’s biggest women rights activists Dr. Hatoon Al Fasi have decided to start their own municipalities parallel to the government’s. If only we would start parallel cities where women can enjoy their full rights, I bet more and more Saudis will want to move there until the parallel becomes the majority and the current status becomes a margin.
Also this video is a actually a collaboration between a multi generational group of Saudi women who prefer to remain anonymous for now but are currently planning and working towards a bigger online presence.
I can’t wait until the women revolution here hits it’s teen growth spurt.
Finally, in case you missed it, the BBC had an excellent video documentary and radio show on Saudi women. I’m featured in both but more so on the radio show.
87 responses to “Going back in time”
The easiest targets in all this political shoring up are the Saudi women. Leaders shaken by recent events in the ME and here in Saudi naively believe women will remain quiet and submissive and invisible as more of their rights and opportunities are limited or taken away completely to appease the ultra-conservative minority. But, as you pointed out, that belief is wrong. Women have always – globally and historically- been at the forefront of social change, and that trend is evident here in Kingdom. Thanks for sharing the videos. I’m passing them along.
thanks for this, keep up your brilliant work!
oh i loved the idea of parallel cities!
i’d move immediately 🙂
It’s very sad. It seems that real change is yet to happen. Currently it’s all dependent on the government’s whim. Maybe there is a change in atmosphere happening, but I don’t think there is a law to really protect women against a backlash from the ultra-conservatives. I really wonder, what’s islamically wrong with a woman driving, a woman voting, a woman taking part in society?
Why is a guardian allowed to abuse the women dependent on him? What’s Islamic about that? A woman’s life shouldn’t be entirely dependent on a man. She should be able to feel safe and independent. I’m happy to see Saudi women standing up for themselves, and I really hope and pray that their campaigns will be succesfull, inshaAllah.
Come on Eman, stop incitetion!!! The whole community specially 99.9 of women are happy with islamic lifestyle. 0.1 ( you and pro-lebaration) are very very minority. please leave the country peacefully to any place in the world. i cant immagine why the government didnt take any step aginest you!!!!!!???? you should be exiled to your faviourit free world outside our saudi kingdom.
Then there should be no problem letting women drive and letting them vote or run in elections because none of them are interested in it anyway. Why is everyone sooooo scared of what .09% of the women might do? Are they so powerful they can bring down a whole society?
Anyway- Saudi practices a patriarchal/tribal way of life- not an Islamic one. Most Muslims- and especially those outside the Kingdom- are well aware of that.
Sandi, I love love love your comment!
ur forgetting she can’t leave the country without a male guardian’s permission. So any Saudi women who feels oppressed in the country and is unfortunate enough to be stuck with a backward guardian, is imprisoned !! you can’t just tell her; hey if you don’t like it here, leave!!!!
plus she’s a citizen!! just like anyone else, and deserves to live the way she wants, and is free to fight for her rights!!!
“she’s a citizen”
Saudi Arabia does not have citizens. It is an absolute monarchy and therefore has subjects, not citizens. Whatever the King decides, his subjects must do.
Not only the Saudis are not citizens, but the only people on this planet who are coerced into identifying themselves after the family that rules them: ” Saudis.”
This simply means, the people are property of the Saudi ruling family, the state. In other words, people and commodities are interchangeable.
This is a really sad reflection of a minority. Anyone who would limit participation in their society, because of gender, only hurts themselves. You never know when someone, male or female, will have an idea that could benefit all of society. If you limit half of your population, you cut your pool of ideas in half…so sad.
Or Everyone that she is talking about could. I believe you have the prayers of all women, All colors, All religions, ALL WOMEN, Our prayers will be with you. I pray that they would give women one day, give them a few months notice but one day to move and create this city they want. But if they leave, the can’t come back and we will not assist the city. If families want to help individuals that’s fine. I pray you see the truth, there is freedom, with joy and happiness. Bless you ladies. To the other’s you will be defeated.
Yes I watched the BBC programme. I am from the UK and as a TV licence payer, i believe the BBC should not broadcast from Saudi. Its a waste of time and embarassing for Islam.
The World needs to see. See what horrors go on. Women give life, life to sons and daughters. Bless the women, freedom, joy and happiness is real and available.
LOL! Is’nt it funny how frightened and angry all the men are who responed to this article.
كلما أقرأ أخبار الوطن يتملكني شعور باليأس و فقدان الرغبة بالعودة
يا همج يا بقر متى تتحضرون؟
لا نحتاج الى الدين لكي نعرف أن وضع المرأة لدينا غير صحيح
كفرت بكم و بدينكم
يسقط التخلف و الرجعية
لن أعود اليكم، لن أربي أبنائي بينكم، لن ألغي عقلي و أسمن مثل البقر
oh dear, it’s only about a matter of time, and it’s only going to be as fast as you have lost your identity and sold your country till you realize that you’re a worthless human being. Reading your low-class thoughts and words make me wonder how come a person like you were qualified to receive a scholarship! You don’t deserve any citizenship from any country, beacuse you would betray them all for any cause and within a blink of an eye.
knowing that useless/ignorant people such as yourself dont want to go back to my county brings me more hope that the future of Saudi Arabia will definitely be much better! It will be much better by relying on those who care and work with dignity to improve the whole country and to identify/fix/prevent its mistakes and flaws.
This comment is a great example of stupidity. Women are much stronger than men. that is why women have children. Men are selfish and lack the ability to do anything. Whoever wrote this blog, I hope you read. Do and say what you want to, but you will see the truth one day. when Jesus Christ comes and the ENTIRE WORLD realizes HE IS THE MOST HIGH GOD, every person will bow before him and he will apply his wrath. I will pray for the Women in your country that God protects them. To the people killing the people, you may be able to do as you please now but God will WIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The desire of so many Saudi men to imprison women (through custom and law and fear) is shameful. It is a disgrace. It is the worst display of character I can imagine. That a society could work like this – a society which pretends to treasure honor – is beyond belief.
I place my faith in all those who fight for justice. You will someday succeed.
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I believe that it was the great American Suffragist who said “Failure is impossible.” Please always remember this. 🙂
The fear of men seems to be that the natural power of women will become unleashed, never to return to the binding chains that for so long women through lack of action agreed to accept. This fear is also evident in American and Asian cultures. Even though Islam is often credited with being the force defining traditional patriarchal/tribal Saudi culture it seems to me that many traditions probably preceded Islam by thousands of years. If so, no wonder such ancient traditions are so difficult for women to change or even modify.
Women standing together for their right to live ( as a human being it’s sad to say) is for ALL HUMAN BEINGS. Bless you
A really good piece. I particularly like the analogy “The Saudi Women Revolution is now a healthy cooing toddler.” I fervently hope this is the case and look forward to watching it grow in the years (or perhaps just months?) ahead.
I’ve just discovered this blog after listening to the Assignment piece on BBC radio. Americans like myself hardly ever hear much about Saudi Arabia in our media outside of news on oil or regional security. The majority of my nation know little to nothing about the inner workings of Saudi Arabia so hearing your perspective feels like something really unique. I’m happy to say I will be checking back regularly for new postings.
It would have been cleaner, shorter and to the point had King Abdullah said: From the caves we came and to them we return.
The Saudi autocratic and theocratic institutions’ war on Saudi women can only be defeated by Saudi women and that’s in the making. At the same, Saudi men, in general, can breath a sigh of relief because Saudi women are not the enemy; nor are they responsible for men’s obsession with women sexuality.
I have to really say something. I am an American woman. I wish you had the power of the women’s movement here. Never ever would other women allow for their “sisters – that’s what we call each other – to be submitted to this abuse. Never, ever would it be in the horror you have described. My heart goes out to you. I dn’t know you but I feel that you blog allows me to somehow speak to all Islam women. I pray you can somehow make your life better for you and the little girls you are raising. I am Christian but I feel for you as a woman. I will pray that you become safe and aware.
** Clairfication : We would never have those stories to tell. I did’t want to be misunderstood. These things take place all over the world. They happen here in the city that I live in. But as far as that being a prinicple that is taught to son’s. That is the exception, thankful for me it is not the rule.
“The only moderate muttawa in the PVPV, Dr. Ahmed Al Ghamdi, has been relieved of his post”
When I had first read this in the Arab News all I could think was that this is not a step in the right direction. If you go to Turkey and see the Ottoman mosques (1400’s) you will see a place for the women to pray behind the men. But in many modern mosques the women are in seperate rooms, the only connection is the imams voice through speakers. SIGH 😦
At least there are separate rooms. I’ve seen places in India where they just forget women even exist. Most women are ‘recommended’ (beat that!) not to go to the mosque, because it’s best to sit at home and do religious activities. And India is supposed to be free! If you think that liberal laws allow women’s development, then let me by the cynic and shatter that dream for you. India is as free as you can get, and getting freer by the day. But many rural and middle-class/lower middle-class women still suffer the same abuses. It is unconstitutional to restrict a child from education, but the number of illiterate Muslim women is shameful. In the rural areas, young Muslim girls are propositioned by their teachers sexually to as a ‘fee’ for their examination halltickets.
But I also think it is this ‘at least’ mixture of defeatist and minimalist attitude that is humanity’s greatest enemy.
Best of luck, though! The only way to do things is fight hard and fight loud.
I wonder if this has anything with Turkey slide back to its roots.
Wednesday, 16 June 2010 – 04 Rajab 1431 H
Kingdom to invest $400b in Turkey over four years
ANKARA – Saudi Finance Minister Ibrahim Abdul Aziz Al-Assaf said Thursday Saudi Arabia would invest a total of $400 billion in Turkey in four years, the semi-official Anatolia news agency reported.
Al-Assaf made the remarks at a joint press conference with Turkish Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek in the Turkish capital of Ankara, noted that the two countries planned to organize a forum for joint investments. He said the two countries had great potential in the areas of economy and commerce, adding the governments of two countries should provide opportunities for the private sector.
Turkey and Saudi Arabia were determined to boost their bilateral trade volume up to $10 billion, Al-Assaf said.
Al-Assaf invited Turkish businessmen to make investments in Saudi Arabia, vowing to solve the problems faced by businessmen in investments.For his part, Simsek said Turkey wants to draw funds from the Gulf countries to finance its current account deficit. “The Gulf is a region which has current account surplus. Turkey on the other hand is a dynamic fast growing country which relatively has a savings gap. Turkey and the Gulf region can complement each other,” Simsek said. He added that the financial crisis increased the importance of regional cooperation. – Agencies
Ali – of course it does. All that money being thrown around to fund and support mosques and imams and schools and exchange programs comes with strings, and those strings are directly attached to the ultra conservative and extreme interpretation of Islam which is practiced in Saudi. Anywhere there is moderate Islam, you can bet Saudi will step in and seek to turn the tide in the direction of ultra conservatism.
This is a wonderful piece of writing. I am reminded yet again how breathtakingly fortunate I and my daughters are to be born in the West. I wish so very much that you could enjoy similar or better freedoms – the world is the poorer for missing out on the full contribution that women like you can make. It makes me angry that we should be denied that contribution by the political manoeuverings of a small number of limited minds – and by the very human desire of a great many men to retain undeserved power over their fellow creatures…
Unfortunately, the BBC radio show does not scratch much beneath the surface, seen it tries to pack an entire world into 25 minutes. I prefer your blog by a large margin. I keep my fingers crossed.
Poor Saudis, ya miskiinun. If they knew how people from outside talk about them. No, not some criminal and/or crazy Holy Quran burning individuals, not Christians or Hindus or atheists. I spoke to many nice, peaceful and deeply religious Muslims and they all just turn their eyes towards the ceiling when mentioning Saudi Arabia.
I wish Hillary Clinton would make a statement on women in Saudi Arabia, lol, she seems to be speaking about personal freedom in every other country these days (I mean after publicly announcing Mubarak family were private friends of hers).
Oh Yes, but Secretary Clinton has spoken and said Saudi women has it best. She was quoted as saying in one of her visits to his majesty:
“She said that in many of the countries she’s visited she witnessed a lack of opportunity for women. In Saudi Arabia, she said, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah has given women’s education a lot of attention and built the best schools for them”
Most Saudi girls’ schools are in rented dilapidated and unsafe homes and buildings.
Another blast from the past, that sums it all. Well said Eman.
This post gives me an insight into Saudi affairs which I can’t find in the general media. I appreciate the courage of the blogger to speak the truth and wonder how she is escaping censure at the hands of authorities.
Just came across this blog. Thank you for giving us a peek into your world. I sincerely hope the situation for Saudi Women changes for the better..and sooner rather than later!
Three things have to happen in order for Saudi women to achieve their human, natural and divine rights: To be recognized as full human beings by Saudi men in general, to transform the pre and anti modernity nomadic ruling institutions (absolute monarchy) and the quickest way is for leading Saudi women to form a vanguard to end marginalization of women. The problem with the latter is that most educated, knowledgeable and liberal Saudi women are well to do, have good jobs, distinguishable social status and live comfortable life. Most Saudis, men and women, want to go to heaven, but no one wants to die, as the cliche goes.
Thanks a lot for your blog..thanks to explain your point of view and the internal situation in your country.
Came across this blog after seeing the BBC programme.
Please know that women across the world are thinking of you and hoping you prevail.
I admire your strength and patience – focussing on the long game. I think your comment about the exposure to the outside world is very true – good things will come to you, your daughters and sisters and I hope in time for your mothers!
Remember that women’s suffrage, the ability to retain custody of our children following divorce, to own property and manage our own finances have only been possible for women in the West for decades. Your turn will come! May it come soon!
Lots of love
Kate (a New Zealand woman living in Hong Kong)
PS Real men aren’t frightened of their sisters – they will rejoice alongside you!
Another reason why I hate being saudiwoman. We waited for too long and nothing happened and it seems like nothing is going to happen anytime soon. Things are not getting any better instead we’re actully going backward!!!!!!!!!!!
Sometimes I wonder if the next generation would have a better life but now I am not very opstmistic.. not anymore.
This doesn’t make sense! First, they make this big hoopla somewhere in 2009 about KAUST being the first co-ed university, and now this! Or they keep recycling the same old 100 top businesswomen of Saudi Arabia pamphlet, courtesy arabnews.
I’d spent 18 years in Saudi Arabia thinking about everything that had changed for the better. I remember my father telling me how no one even knew what skin colour was pre-dominant in Saudi women, or if there were any at all. As a kid, I never saw a single representation of a woman in advertisements, but about 3-4 years back, every now and then you’d see a face, or hear her voice in shopping centres announcing something. But, sadly, the truth is that most ‘developments’ are superficial- to keep newspaper-readers happy.
The biggest problem with Saudi Arabia is their absurd back-and-forth form of progress. Every time they take five steps forward, they seem to go ten steps behind in some other area of development. It’s even worse when there are no women in the political circle to represent women. In most countries, it first starts with the female politicians and bureaucrats who take up responsibility for that. Apart from a few mentions of princesses here and there, you generally don’t see the female members of the Saudi Royal family out there in the same way in erstwhile monarchies.
There is no uniform family law; the judiciary is too flexible and subjective; the religious authorities don’t represent the religious diversity of the nation; the men are pumped with bonuses every time the people need to be shut up; the nepotism is shameful; the education system is obsolete and useless; there is no scientific temper; and just to remain an authority, the Royal family lets the Wahabbi nutheads dictate laws; and Saudi Arabia adds its own “within limits of religion” (more like “within limits of the ancient tribal restrictions we want to preserve to indirectly preserve our throne) clause to every international convention it signs.
The men are racist and don’t prefer working under Bangladeshi’s, Indian’s, Sri Lankan’s and Pakistani’s (which is why they’re hired as maids and drivers instead). The college graduates want high-paying jobs immediately and think it below their nobility to start small. This mixture of arrogance, ego, tribalism, racism and superiority complex is hard to crush. They harp on about ‘expelling expatriates’. What are they going to fill those jobs with? Women? Good Lord, no!
The absurdness starts right from schooling. I remember reading an article in arabnews about teachers cutting grades of young children for not adhering to strict dress codes, which including buttoning up the shirt all the way up to the neck.
And what’s the worst part of it all? With nepotism, extremism, corruption, fanaticism, gross tribalism and the power these factions hold in the system, democracy would probably be the worst option for Saudi Arabia. Enough with the ‘it can’t be too fast’ excuse. Things need to change before there is a complete system breakdown.
Bingo. Truth sucks and bitter pill to swallow, especially if the tellers is a native.
The ruling class has only one item on its short agenda: Remain in power at all cost. The autocratic and theocratic ruling men spend their time trying to figure out how to reduce their subjects to helpless, hopeless, fearful, humiliated, unproductive and resentful of each other and everyone else, especially non-Muslims and Muslim minorities.
The ruling families live in a world of their own. They never mingle with the people they control. They never abide by the harsh rules and court system they create for the subdued population. They never eat with them, live in the same neighborhoods, go to the same hospitals, study in the same schools, pray in the same mosque and if one of their women fill in love with a commoner they get sent to the chop chop squares- read Death of a Princess.
Like all peoples, the people of the motherland are adaptable, trainable and can appreciate and enjoy being free form the yoke of theocratic and autocratic totalitarianism that is designed to crush their aspiration and dampen their spirits.
The worst part is, scholars outside of Saudi Arabia harp on about how Islam is compatible with democracy by giving us historical and canonical proof. Then they rant on about ‘there is no compulsion in religion’ verses from the Qur’an. After that, they talk about the umpteen verses that relate to how Muhammad (saw) alleviated the status of Arab women when he came. Then they go on about the complex Islamic financial system and pro-Scientific Discovery stance of the Qur’an that produced the Islamic Golden Age. Then they go on about how Sharia is the same for all, and even non-Muslims or Muslim minorities can except fair and equal treatment if the laws are properly followed. And also that lecture about how Islam encourages consultation and consensus which is an integral part of democracy, and each Islamic country is free to choose it’s form of democracy as Islam even gives flexibility in that, and how most secular elements are viable in Islamic democracies. Then there’s that ‘Women in Islam’ topic where they go on and on about ancient female scholars in Islam, and how some brave women fought alongside great men in wars to defend themselves. NONE of them will face up to the Royal Family and the religious authorities that they have no right to go mumbling non-sense in the name of religion. But NONE of these ‘prominent’ and ’eminent’ scholars have the balls to tell Saudi Arabia that it is a far shot from even CONSIDERING to represent Islam, or anything remotely representative of Islam. In fact, it is a far shot from representing the people of the Arabian peninsular, seeing that everyone is just affiliated to the Royal name.
Welcome to “Saud’s Arabia”. And we’re all officially known by every world organisation as ‘The subjects of the Saud’s”.
What is the rationalization for leaving women out of the process this time, Eman? It’s such a shame and a massive disappointment, I really believed they were going to change things as we go forward!
YOU- are the most wonderful woman!! I am so impressed with your spirit and joy for life. I can’t wait until the new women’s parallel cities spring up- I would buy a condo there! Imagine: women coming and going as they want, working where and when they want, dressing as they please, and voting for their representatives. To hope-perchance to dream.
I love your writing, your work. I admire your spirit very much. Unfortunately, I have nothing profound to add at this moment.
I just wanted to make a suggestion for your blog, I notice you use WordPress… there is a way of changing the settings on your links so that they will open in a new tab or window, rather than in the same one taking people away from your page. They are far more like to read more if they haven’t been taken elsewhere (we all have very short attention spans.)
While writing, if you highlight the link after typing and click on the ‘edit link’ icon, you can change the setting there.
Unless of course, you choose it this way for a reason, in which case, sorry for intruding.
Love, and a great deal of respect,
Thanks for posting about the decrees, and for such an amazing blog in general 🙂
I just wanted to say that I found the BBC video pretty offensive, especially in its neo-colonial language :S Using words such as “black shadows” to describe women is not very respectful. Then again, I don’t know what I expected from the BBC.
Again, amazing blog!
And why did the Saudi Woman refuse to be shown in the documentary?
Good work Eman. Even if it’s for 0.01% of women, they are human and should be allowed some sort of freedom. This has nothing to do with Islam. Saudi IS NOT THE ONLY ISLAMIC country in this world, so stop using Islam as an excuse! Are they saying they are better Muslims than Kuwait? Bahrain? Or UAE???? Where in the Koran does it say women can’t
Keep going Eman, let us know what we can do to help!
PS. when will u get an iPhone app for yr blog????
Sorry…. Where does it say women can’t drive?
I do not usually read blogs but seeing Saudiwoman rated so well by CNN, and having alot of curiousity about the region, thought I would check it out. Glad I did! I am an older woman (67 yrs. old) from the USA and embarrassed to say when I read of the subjugation of Saudi women in novels I am inclined to believe the author is “making it all up” for the story. This blog has given me an inkling as to how unfairly women are treated. In spite of mistakes my country has made at times, I have always been grateful to live here–now having read this blog, I feel more strongly than ever! Keep up the good work with this blog telling your story…and keep the faith. Changes are sweeping your region. People are no longer willing to live in a repressed society. Pls keep writting so the rest of the world can hear you.
I only wonder If what Progressive Arab Women Desire, Is in Fact, a Progressive Arab Society; Or Simply a Selfish Capitalist Convenience
Is ‘Progressive Arab Society’ the more socially-acceptable way of saying ‘Arab Communism’?
“…Simply a Selfish Capitalist Convenience?”
Profoundly inappropriate comparison unless the commentator is a die-hard old fashioned Marxist who, like the Saud ruling men, consider women unworthy of anything other than subhuman status.
I really don’t understand ! so what exactly saudi women want’s ? equality ?
but islam doesn’t give women equality ?
freedom in dressing ? islam doesn’t give women dress freedom
islam doesn’t allow a women to rule a state
so its not the problem of KSA its the problem is ISLAM
In saudi WOMEN != MEN
Actually, people with good knowledge of Islam know that Islam does allow more equality of men and women than what people are made to believe. They’re allowed to be educated, work, perform religious duties, interpret religious texts, join the military, hold government and judicial positions in a country, and so on and so forth provided there is a responsible government that acts as a safeguard for all these rights, rather than placing full authority in parents or creating a subjective judiciary. All of these are historically-backed. For instance, Muhammad is said to have allowed women to join the military, and his wife Aisha, after Muhammad’s death, commanded a military expedition- Battle of Bassorah. There have been numerous female Islamic scholars who were considered the best teachers of Islam- they taught both men and women. Women were allowed to debate in mosques, and put their questions directly to the religious clergy right from the beginning of the caliphate too. You can get numerous books on all these topics, or just Google the darn thing. And the laws pertaining to dressing are interpreted differently by different scholars, and all scholars agree that there is no indication in the Qur’an that women should be forced to wear ‘burqas’ or ‘abayyas’- there is no mention of these two types of dresses as this would mean enforcing a foreign culture over the entire world as though it was superior to others- something Islam condemns (An Arab is not better than a non-Arab and a non-Arab is not better than an Arab, and a red (i.e. white tinged with red) person is not better than a black person and a black person is not better than a red person,3 except in piety. Musnad).
Almost ALL of the issues that women are fighting against in Saudi Arabia are elements of a patriarchal/tribal Saudi culture. Saudi Arabia follows an extremely conservative school of thought that is interpreted within the scope of their tribal culture, which is why most of the absurd laws don’t have sound historical/religious backing that a Muslim would expect. People like Eman and Hatoon Al-Fassi know their faith well, and trust it, and understand it, which is why they are vehemently fighting against Saudi customs. Saudi Arabia can hardly be qualified as an Islamic country if know Islam and you’ve lived in Saudi Arabia for a long time.
There were people during Muhammad’s time that objected to his preachings or questioned it on his face, but he didn’t go hunting them down like the Saudi’s. Many Saudi men have a superiority complex because they come from the same land that the Islamic prophet did, so they believe they have the divine authority to interpret religious texts in any way they like, and that their interpretations holds true over all others. A simple example of this would be legalisation of misyar marriages, which, if you know anything about the Qur’an, is completely against the entire concept of an Islamic marriage.
The fact is that Saudi politics and social affairs, religion and history is a very complex issue that needs better understanding and knowledge that you don’t seem to have. It is idiots like you who are ignorant of so much pertaining to history, culture and religion that make it difficult for knowledgeable and well-learned women to fight for a cause that is not only universal, but can easily be backed by religion. If you don’t know anything about history, religion and the socio-political dimensions of Saudi Arabia, don’t go rampantly hating on people and ideologies and come off as an neurotic inbred. The fact is you are exactly the same as the people you criticise: no logic, no reasoning, just random insignificant meaningless babbling that does not contribute to any society in any part of the world- only creates more hate and misunderstanding, and retards the process of religious, social, political, educational and personal development.
A lot of the people who are fighting for their rights are Islamic feminists just as there are Jewish feminists and Christian feminists. What they’re asking for is an objective interpretation that is backed by historical evidences and the exclusion of cultural, tribal and racial perspectives.
tx for the mockery !
but what do you mean by
//people with good knowledge of Islam //
I’ve read about scholars who contributed to islam but it seems people differ alot when it comes to knowledge about islam
Since you are telling that I am an idiot therefore I should ask you when it comes to islam how to determine or identify who is the correct scholar ? or who is the person has more knowledge about islam ? huh ?
Albani ? al munajid ? ibn baz ? or udaymeen ?
It seems as an outsider now I need to research on which scholar is correct ? its not about does islam says this its about who interprets the islamic stuff the way you want ?
I see it as a problem for the acceptance of Islam and Muslims in the west that Saudi Arabia’s school is so dominant. The money is behind the school whose values are the most hostile to western humanist values. Dominance in religion flows to he who has the most money.
AQSA. No one called you an idiot! Yr so closed minded that you won’t even read what was said! It is a FACT that the quaran preaches respect for women and if you can show me where it says women can’t drive, then we have nothing more to say. None of these women have asked to change their clothes or rule! They want basic needs met!
AQSA, people don’t randomly come about and interpret things. There are various scholars- any Muslim who walked into a library or bookstore would know that. But many don’t. They, instead, rely on local clerics and blindly believe anything that is said to them or written in random pamphlets. The Qur’an also teaches that it is an individual Muslim’s duty to seek the truth for himself. What this means is that you don’t get blinded by what some extremist pothead says. The end-of-it is that ‘religion is a responsibility’. There are various popular scholars, especially those that work for IRF, that harp on and on about women’s rights in Islam. The problem here is about people preferring to seek interpretations from the most tribal and backward people, and believing that the strictest and most degrading interpretations are the best one’s.
And there were various female scholars like Umm Al-Darda, Zaynab Bint-Sulayman, and Zaynab Bint-Ahmed (Ibn Battuta studied in her tutelage).
If you’re an outsider, then you should do the more rational thing: Stay an outsider and avoid commenting on things you have no knowledge of- which is why I asked you to go read a book; you seemed rather passionate about coming to baseless conclusions. There are differing interpretations from different schools of thought, and many of these schools of thought are ‘officially recognised’. Muslims are not under any obligation to strictly adhere to one, but choose to follow a combination of all. They also have a brain to try and rationalise and question and doubt. And the rights they are seeking is to be answered truthfully and objectively.
The point here is that what Saudi Arabia promotes is a combination of the strictest school of thought and their isolationist male-chauvinistic tribal culture. THAT is where the trouble comes- culture being preached in the name of religion. So, as an outsider who seems to have the confidence of a scholar in Islam, yes, you do seem like an idiot when you sum up the whole argument like it was level 1 arithmatics, without the reasoning.
You can easily access a list of medieval and modern scholars of Islam on the internet. What identifies them is their education. A scholar of Islamic law needs to have studied (and practiced) Islamic law extensively in a recognised institution. The best thing is to buy books on Islamic Law and Philosophy authored by medieval scholars. There are hundreds of scholars, sure. But there are hundreds of libraries too. The reason why we know the trash Saudi Arabia preaches is not Islam is because it clearly contradicts the Qur’an. You don’t need to be a scholar to know that. The average non-Saudi living there is clearly aware of it, and so are most scholars across the world. They don’t raise a finger against Saudi Arabia because… well… it’s Saudi Arabia. A case in point is preachers like Dr Zakir Naik who harp on about women’s rights even if they are ultra-orthodox, but never raise their voice against what Saudi Arabia does.
You want to know the first sign a person shows that should tell you if he’s worth listening to? If he’s screaming, name-calling and spreading hateful stereotypes, then he’s not worth listening to. Technically speaking, Islamic scholars are supposed to maintain the highest level of decency and etiquette for obvious reasons- they’re teachers of religion.
wouldn’t it be easier to just get along? As humans? We all live here? It makes no sense that women are beaten, raped, murdered, slaves and everybody is shouting Allah!!!! It seems like brothers would take up for sister and fathers for daughters? Is love not held high?
The simple backwardness of the people and their isolationist culture doesn’t allow ‘getting along’ as ‘humans’. If you read interviews of therapists and counsellors, you’ll see that most of these men don’t give religion as an excuse. They are simply raised to believe that men are meant to control women because that’s what their desert culture demands. There’s a completely different tribal psychology to this.
Those who haven’t lived in Saudi Arabia think it’s all about getting beaten up and raped in the name of Allah because they’re too ignorant; besides nothing -whether good or bad- is publicised, anyhow.
Yes, there are human rights issues! But if you think these issues cannot be fought for through religion, it’s only because you call yourself an ‘American Woman’, and American’s generally don’t know anything about West Asian politics, history and religion, least of all Islam. And let’s be honest, you’re not the most open-minded and well-informed of people. You’re view of the world is very narrow-minded and borderline xenophobic where everything that does not resemble America is rejected. To you, liberalism is following what ‘you’ believe is right, not what a particular society believes is right for itself, which may be clearly different from your opinion.
Not every second woman in the country is raped, beaten and turned into a slave. Slavery, for that matter, is not even practiced legally in Saudi Arabia anymore. There are no religious excuses given for rape, murder and physical abuse as all of these are officially crimes under Islamic law. The only time murder is not murder is when it is done to defend a life under physical attack. You’d also be surprised to know the number of orthodox Muslims who are extremely critical of nearly half the laws in Saudi Arabia. But to understand that you need to have lived in Saudi Arabia and be amongst the people like some of us have. And do understand Islam, you need to observe how orthodox Muslims live outside of Saudi Arabia- very happily; enjoying all rights; being orthodox.
The problem is a subjective male-chauvinistic judiciary that allows men to give irrational excuses like ‘the woman seduced me’. The worse is where certain laws that were meant for particular situations are generalised completely. It’s corruption the women are fighting against. And it is important to fight on religious grounds than on humanitarian grounds because in this situation a woman’s Islamic and national identity is being held at stake by a bunch of tribal traditionalists.
In reality, Saudi women are simply fighting in the name of religion, not against it. Fact is that there is no religious edict, principle, law or rule that gives men so much leverage, liberty and superiority! It’s the culture. And in a theocratic kingdom, for the throne to be secure, the Royals allow for unrestrained autonomy in the judiciary. The whole thing is mostly political: the Royals and the higher religious authorities have a sort of allegiance. It’s come to a point where you can’t simply kick the people who help build the country in the first place out of the picture simply because their concept of religion is completely skewed. It’s the same kind of corruption and moral degradation the Holy See had once gone through as it gained more power and authority. Religion doesn’t have some sort of immunity from corruption and degradation at the hands of power-hungry men. You forget that we’re talking about one of the richest countries in the Middle East, and along with Israel, America’s most important ally whether you like it or not. Saudi Arabia is the political giant of the Middle East.
If you think anybody takes Saudi Arabia as an authority on religion nowadays, think again. Most of the devout Muslims are non-Arabs and largely condemn the sort of religious immunity Saudi’s have when they do absurd and downright horrible things and give religious excuses that don’t even have a solid basis. In fact, non-Saudi Arab Muslims are also rather sick of this whole mess made out of religion; especially, those that live in European/American countries.
For a religion that preaches racial equality so fervently, you should ask a middle-class South Asian how he is treated in the country. Everyone uses religion as an excuse because there’s no other ideology that can be so easily interpreted to suit your benefits. It also helps that people are brainwashed to believe interpreting religion is only the business of a few ‘select men’. Islam in its best days was completely different from what it has become today in Saudi Arabia. It’s a delusional country. It has to be cured accordingly.
I agree that there r a lot of narrow minded people but you know why they are like that Its really difficult for them to think out of the box when we hear an incident or a ruling about islam we judge that by our mindset which is bound to human rights or the culture we belong
Islam preaches a different set of human rights what we learned was different
For example the issue of equality when we say equality it means really equal but islams equality is totally different
okay I am not an ignorant but I am a bit emotional person sorry for the last comment I don’t have anything against muslims or islam
tx 4 the explanations
As an American woman and feminist, I wanted to applaud your writing and your work. If there is ever anything I can do from America to help you or your women’s organizations, please feel free to contact me. I believe strongly in the transformative power of women within a culture and a country–which is why it poses such a threat to established political and religious institutions around the world.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead.
Are you near Washington DC?
Saudi Woman, I repeat my question. Why did you refuse to be shown in the documentary? Why practice the double standards you are raising your voice against?
I just saw you mentioned on the BBC’s “This World” documentary about Saudi Arabia. Thought I’d pop over and say hello. Terrible shame about what you’ve mentioned in this post, but a good thing that you’re reporting on it and being critical. Saudi Arabia’s treatment of women is unethical, illogical, unIslamic and anachronistic. I can only hope that in time, the Arab spring will have sown the seeds of a future liberal democracy to flourish in every corner of the middle east, allowing you all the same opportunities for equality and justice we have in the western world. My fear is simply that the whole process will be too painfully and needlessly slow.
Saudi Women: Silent No More
CDHR Commentary: After decades (centuries) of forced silence, marginalization, pushover and relegation to third class status, Saudi women are slowly but unequivocally inching toward irreversible liberation from the yoke of state-institutionalized male subjugation. The ruling Saudi theocratic and autocratic men and their personalized institutions have treated women with utter disdain since the inception of the Saudi state in 1932. Forcing women into an invisible existence (clad in black from head to toe), the chauvinistic Saudi system attributes this detestable practice to its brand of austere Islam and Saudi traditions, both of which most Saudi subjects have been conditioned into believing are superior to the rest of the world’s traditions and faiths.
Things are changing though. As more Saudi women become educated and exposed to other peoples’ cultures, politics, and way of life (through the intense use of uncontrollable modern technologies), they begin to examine their intolerable state of affairs and compare themselves with women in their region and around the world. Many women have concluded that the state’s institutionalized, patriarchal control over every aspect of their lives, exemplified by the Apartheid-equivalent male guardian system, has to be challenged and/or removed altogether. Many occurrences of Saudi women challenging their marginalization in recent years can be cited, including the current unabashed women’s demand to participate in municipal elections scheduled to take place in September 2011.
Under global pressure, especially from the Bush Administration, the Saudi monarchy decided to permit cosmetic national municipal elections in 2005. Women, military personnel, and all people under the age of 21 were barred from running for office or voting. Only half of the 178 municipal seats could be elected, while the king selected the other half. Women were rightfully angry even though they were told that they would be allowed to participate in the next elections, originally scheduled for 2009 but postponed by the king for two years. Now women are told they will not be allowed to participate for the same reasons given in the last elections–the government did not have time to prepare segregated voting locations. Joined by many men, women find the government’s reasoning not only unfounded but contemptuous of the people’s ability to see the system’s intent to deny women their right to equal citizenship.
Despite the fact that women face formidable opposition from the government’s religious establishment and some traditionalists, the scale is slowly tilting in their favor. This is due to their determination to be counted and increasing support from Saudi men. In addition, a few members of the ruling family, both men and women, are vocalizing their concerns about continued policies of gender inequality.
Finally, one has to understand that empowering Saudi women will likely undermine religious extremism in the birth place of Islam and home to its holy shrine and setting a positive example for many of the oppressed Muslim women around the world. This is in the best interest of the international community, especially given Saudi Arabia’s centrality to Islam and possession of a large repository of petroleum. Western advocates of human rights, especially women’s organizations, can highlight the importance of supporting Saudi women to obtain their rights in Saudi society.
Sue LLoyd Roberts’ documentary was just on tv – which is why I am now looking at this blog. The attitudes of the men are appalling but that of Radwa Yousef is beyond belief.
I can only be thankful that I live in the UK but I wish Saudi women the best of luck in their battle, although if they do win it will take many many years.
Finally, our media actually makes a story on Saudi child brides. Amazing!
Read the story here (through google.translate – not perfect, but readable): http://translate.google.com/translate?js=n&prev=_t&hl=en&ie=UTF-8&layout=2&eotf=1&sl=auto&tl=en&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.aftenposten.no%2Fnyheter%2Furiks%2Farticle4115224.ece
Hope you are fine, and start blogging again soon!
i totally agree with u. ive lived in saudi for 2 years and it really bothers me that they claim to be the most practicing Islamic country in the world when in reality they have a monarchy which completely goes against Islam’s judicial system because the royal family can get away with anything whereas everyone else has to follow such a strict interpretation of the Quran. i mean the religious leaders are always saying”oh, our country is the best” and blah blah blah when ITS NOT! justice is a huge part of Islam, everyone is supposed to be equal before the law but its ok for the royal family to have parties, drink,and wear immodest clothing whereas if anyone else tries that, theyd be in big trouble. on top of that, its so frustrating and an embarrassment to islam that women cant drive, vote or go anywhere without permission over there. the saudis have taken culture, added islam and then packaged the whole thing as Islam and that is very wrong. ive heard that the saudis have started spreading their interpretation to other muslims throughout the world as well. is that true?
It is largely true. There are schools all across the Balkans, Pakistan, Bangladesh and India that preach the kind of Islam Saudi Arabia follows. They’re either funded directly by the Saudi religious establishments or they’re run by people who’ve been taught the ideology. It’s a very dangerous scenario since they’re taught to hate in the name of religion. It’s a politicisation of Islam where it is used as a tool to move public opinion in their direction.
Use of religion as a tool
For Arabic readers. Available on our twitter, blog and facebook.
2011/5/9 Ali Alyami
ما لا يقال عن استخدام الدين كأداة لخدمة السلطات السعودية
by The Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia on Sunday, May 8, 2011 at 10:12pm
دأبت الدولة السعودية الوهابية منذ نشأتها على استخدام الدين كأداة لتبرير سياساتها واتهام من يعارضون هذه السياسات بمخالفة التعاليم الإسلامية بحسب التفسير الوهابي للدين. وقد وفرت هيئة كبار العلماء على الدوام الغطاء الشرعي لكل سياسات السلطة وخاصة تلك المعادية للمرأة والأقليات وغير المسلمين. فعلى سبيل المثال أرسى رجال الدين نظام المحرم للتأكيد على دونية المرأة وتكريس سيطرة الرجل عليها ومنحه الحق الكامل في التحكم بشؤونها الخاصة منذ ولادتها حتى وفاتها واعتبارها قاصرا مهما امتلكت من قدرات وحققت من انجازات.
وكما يتم استخدام الدين كأداة لخلق اضطرابات اجتماعية بين الرجل والمرأة، يتم استخدامه أيضا لتأجيج الصراعات الدينية بين السنة الشيعة. ولا يقتصر استخدام الدين كأداة للتفرقة بين أفراد المجتمع ومكوناته فحسب وإنما يٌستخدم أيضا لمنع أي إصلاحات من شأنها تأهيل الشعب لتقرير مصيره والعمل على تحسين أوضاعه ورسم مستقبل أفضل للأجيال القادمة، فقد أصدرت هيئة كبار العلماء مؤخرا فتوى بتحريم المظاهرات التي كان من المقرر خروجها للمطالبة باصلاحات سياسية ومحاربة الفساد والتعصب الديني وإطلاق سراح سجناء الرأي والضمير والسماح بانشاء منظمات مجتمع مدني.
ومن الواضح أن رجال الدين والسلطات الحاكمة يتفقون على رفض الإصلاح ويعملون على إبقاء الوضع كما هو عليه واستعمال الدين لتبرير ذلك لأن أي إصلاح حقيقي سيمثل تهديدا للصلاحيات المطلقة التي يحظون بها على حساب الشعب.
السؤال الذي يطرح نفسه هو: إذا كانت السعودية تستخدم الإسلام لاضطهاد المرأة وظلم الأقليات ومنع غير المسلمين من ممارسة شعائرهم الدينية في السعودية وقمع المطالبين بالإصلاح والحريات، فلماذا يغضب السعوديون والمسلمون بصفة عامة عند اتهام دينهم بأنه غير متسامح وغير عادل ولا يحترم الحريات الشخصية وحقوق الإنسان؟
Dear faceless and nameless,
I as a British national born and raised watched with absolute disgust the BEEb program ‘Our World.’ Can you imagine how anyone could believe that they would be taken as impartial when they begin their report with the sweeping generalisation…..
Saudi women are (some of )the most repressed women in the world.
So having swallowed that I set about watching the rest of this patch work of snap shots of the common misconceptions of Saudi lifestyle, Saudi law, Islamic rights of both genders and the definitive reasons Saudi remains Ruled by Islam.
I hope that in a future post or perhaps an email I may get round to picking apart these savage attacks to which you contributed. I wonder how it will be when you will be required to work a full 10 hour day and also juggle the demands of a growing family without the cheap labour from south east asia to rely on.
You see for all her posturing thats what Sue Llyod forgot to tell you … with so called democracy and the so called womans liberation also comes
the full working day
the demand to contribute to half of the households expenses
the dilemma of children or the salary you make and the never ending guilt, that should you have children and then resume work having to push them onto some stranger in the name of ‘child care’ brings.
Oh and btw before you start assuming I aint got the knowledge you have
I lived and experienced a very harsh reality myself as an expat in KSA however my wife ( also British) would have us return tomorrow, if for nothing else but for the respect that the family unit is shown by the whole of society in comparison to the bastion of the ‘free world’
“abu abdul aziz”–Nameless?
I know this kind of Western expats. For him, Saudi Arabia is a goldmine, not only financially, but racially. I would not be surprised if this writer were a decedent of salve owners.
I have to say I am shocked at this site. In middle school my teacher told us a story about her friend who fell in love with a saudi man and moved there with him only to by imprisoned for life never able to escape the country. I suppose the moral of the story was that american girls should never trust muslim men. What. A scare story that was. So I went through life knowing nothing about saudi women except for perceptions I absorbed from the tv. I saw women walking around in what looked to me like a black sheet with a hle cut for the eyes. I thought its hot in the desert, they must be dying under there why would they wear that? I just sort of assumed that these women were weak submissive and lacking in ambition. True ignorance, but easy to assume if you never look further into the issue. How wrong I was. I think this perception is widely held ad least among my fellow americans. It certainly doesn’t help anyone to assume that someone else is simply a lesser human based on the stark differences in culture they may practice. Anyway I’m not sure where I’m going with this lol I guess I just wanted to express my surprise in reading this and seeing that you are very well spoken and intelligent and do inddeed have ambition for the future. I realize how ignorant that sounsut I’m just being honest.
ما لا يقال عن إهانة السلطات في المملكة للمرأة السعودية
فيما تتشدق السلطات في المملكة دائما – وخاصة عبر مؤسساتها الدينية – بأنها تحترم المرأة وتكرمها وتضع لها مكانة خاصة نجدها هي التي تهين المرأة السعودية باعتبارها مجرد “فتنة” وبالنظر إليها من ناحية جنسية فقط فتحرمها – رغم حاجتها – من العمل في الكثير من المهن وتطاردها في الأسواق والمحلات التجارية وكأنها المسؤولة عن أخطاء الرجال وتجاوزاتهم، وتهين السلطات في السعودية المرأة عندما تعتبرها أقل من الرجل مهما تفوقت عليه في التحصيل العلمي والمرتبة الوظيفية، فشهادة امرأتين ولو كانتا رائدتا فضاء تعدل شهادة رجل وإن كان أميا لا يحمل أي مؤهل دراسي، وتهين السلطات المرأة السعودية حين تمنعها من تولي وظيفة كالقضاء مثلا بحجة أنها ضعيفة ولا يمكنها السيطرة على عواطفها في الوقت الذي تمارس فيه النساء حول العالم مهنة القضاء بكفاءة ومهنية عاليتين، كما تهينها حين تجبرها على الركوب مع سائق أجنبي غريب بدلا من السماح لها بأن تقود سيارتها بنفسها للذهاب إلى العمل وتوصيل أبنائها إلى المدارس وقضاء حوائجها كسائر نساء العالم، كما تهينها حين تطالبها باصطحاب محرم ولو كان طفلا عند السفر أو التنقل من مكان إلى آخر وكأنها موضع شك دائم ويجب أن تخضع للمراقبة في كل وقت.
ولا تقتصر اهانة السلطات السعودية للمرأة على ما سبق ذكره فحسب بل بلغت الإهانات إلى حد سجن مواطنات سعوديات ظلما بعد أن اعتصمن في شهر مارس الماضي أمام مقر وزارة الداخلية في مدينة الرياض وطالبن باطلاق سراح أزواجهن وأقربائهن المعتقلين لسنوات طويلة بدون محاكمة. ولا تختلف الاهانة التي تلقتها أسر المعتقلين عن ما تعرضت له السيدة منال الشريف التي لم تخالف أي قانون بقيادتها لسيارتها فقد تم اقتحام منزلها في ساعة متأخرة من الليل وأخذها إلى السجن.
السؤال الآن كيف تفسر السلطات التي تدعي دائما أنها تحترم وتقدر المرأة ما تعرض له أهالي المعتقلين اللواتي تم خداعهن واستدراجهن إلى سجن الحائر ومنهن كبار في السن ومرضى ومن أتين من مسافات طويلة، وكيف تفسر السلطات اعتقال السيدة منال الشريف في الثالثة فجرا على أيدي رجال؟
Alyami from the south no doubt and not one of the better places either. I am not white nor do i nor have i ever made a good living out of KSa. I stayed there to better myself my family and help in what the country wanted and needs………. teachers who can actually instil some autonomy in learning. In future therefore you night want to start a debate by asking questions or responding to my original points before assuming you know me.
Unlike you i have lived both sides of the fence and so has my wife. Maybe you just wish that your sect would get the upper hand in an oil rich state.
Answer me this, was or was not that BBc piece condescending?
If not why not /
why would women in KSA be better off following teh model of teh failed experiment of the western secular countries where in teh latest report in Britain its been shown once more that women who work spend on average 19 mins a day with their kids.
Finally, one has to understand that empowering Saudi women will likely undermine religious extremism in the birth place of Islam and home to its holy shrine and setting a positive example for many of the oppressed Muslim women around the world. This is in the best interest of the international community, especially given Saudi Arabia’s centrality to Islam and possession of a large repository of petroleum
this quote is from ali al yami and his post from those who wish to overthrow a loved government and replace it with a bunch of wannabe’s more corrupt than those they accuse.
it mentions the three things I knew already about al yami’s leanings
weakening of the proscribed way of life which people are happt to live under
the raising of his own sect
the pursuit of wordly gains through OIL
i rest my case based upon his own quotation.
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