Saudi reaction to Manal Al Sharif’s Oslo Speech

Last week Manal Al Sharif won the Vaclav Havel prize for Creative Dissent and gave a 17 minute speech at the Oslo Freedom Forum. She talked about her personal struggle and transition from extremism to becoming her own woman. She related this personal story to the historical and factual events going on around her in Saudi and abroad.

The speech was not received well in Saudi. Although no one actually denies the truth of what Manal had to say, they still opposed it. The opposition bubbles down to three main points:

1- Shhhh! Don’t let the infidels know how bad it is for women in Saudi since it represents Islam. One example of this is Hana Al Hakeem’s long rant on the Oslo speech where she concludes with

I wish that Sharif had not published our dirty laundry on the roofs of our neighbors (and I mean the status of women and not extremism), or had chosen to be more courageous, fair and objective by relating it to the rampant corruption in the country or cultural traditions or to the meekness of women in calling for their rights, or to appease the male population of the country.

2- Why didn’t Manal mention this or that. And most of these condemnations are about Bashar’s massacres in Syria and Israel’s genocide of Arabs. One such example is Manal Al Qusaibi’s piece published on Twitter where she addresses Manal Al Sharif with:

You were shaken by seeing a man throw himself from the World Trade Center but you weren’t shaken by seeing old women having their houses demolished in Palestine and seeing little child corpses ridden with bullet holes?!

3- Maybe your family oppressed you but I’m a Saudi woman and my family didn’t oppress me. And the immaturity of this contention grates on my nerves. If Manal had had an abusive family would she be where she is today? Would she have a postgraduate degree and been allowed to work and live as an independent woman?

The thing that really stands out is that most have difficulty in accepting that it’s Manal’s personal story and narrative. We’re a nation, a political entity, not clones or a family. There is no way that you can get 20 million people to think the same way nor should you want them to. And you definitely should not be raging against and calling for the imprisonment of anyone just for simply having a different experience or interpretation. Her story deserves to be told considering how much she had to sacrifice to speak up for what’s right on behalf of women who are too comfortable or too afraid to.

Then there’s the Muslim world/The West divide that many Saudis keep harping on and calling her a traitor for presenting her story to the West. There are over 7 million Muslims in the USA and in Europe there are over 53 million Muslims. Religion aside, cultural and political differences are more and more becoming vertical instead of geographical. That’s what the Arab Spring, the We are the 99, and movements like One Voice in Israel are all about. No longer is it us against them but its more and more becoming a humane intellectual just/unjust divide. So if only those spending so much time and energy opposing Manal would get with the program and instead call for transparency, law codification and the treatment of Saudi women as full citizens, there would be no more Manals to complain about.

Instead of addressing the issues she put forward, they are arguing against her very right to speak. Instead of making Saudi Arabia a better place, they waste energy on criticizing and condemning anyone who dares to tell it like it is.

“Yes, yes it’s true that women should be allowed to drive, yes it’s true that the judicial family law system works against women, yes it’s true that you need your guardian’s permission to study or work…etc,” they say. “But we shouldn’t change that lest the outside world know that we were wrong in the first place.”


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131 responses to “Saudi reaction to Manal Al Sharif’s Oslo Speech

  1. frothquaffer

    Indeed if more “got with the program” things would be much better much sooner.

      As you read on in the comments section it is important to know that the following 7 names all come from one IP address, i.e. different names and same person: Rabab, Christina, Rawan S., Mr. Riazi, Ruby, Sawsan, and Laila. Apparently this person wants through deception to make it appear as if several people support Miriam’s position. Tsk tsk, a very unreligious thing to do. I say practice Islam before you preach it.

      P.S. sorry frothquaffer I had to post this as a reply to you so that it would be at the top.

      • Az

        i see no reason for you to mention meriam in this post, unless if you simply disagree with her and wish to use this to counter her solid arguments!! U can change users but u sure cant fake those 38 thumbs up (ip regulated), and u cant seem to beat em either, even after reposting on foreign blogs!

  2. Miriam

    Like anywhere in the world, there is opposition, and different opinions. What I cannot understand is how you condemn people who oppose her while at the same time want to right to speak? Shouldn’t the opposers also have a voice to make their criticism heard? Her objective of her speech was unclear. Her academic skills in presenting a topic that lacked depth and objectivity and this is the main source of the problem with her speech. The segments are unrelated and therefore, people can easily take out her uncontextualized comments about Saudi Arabia. I for one, had great respect for Manal, but once heard her speech, I can not help but feel her message is murky. She touched upon history, Saudi men, tradition, culture, religion, and of course politics in the space of 19 minutes with reference to her own opinions,yet claiming to represent the voice of all Saudi women. How can anybody give fairness to their presentation when referring to so many topics?!
    She mixed religion with tradition and she was addressing a foreign audience who do not know any different, so why did she not do Islam justice? She presented a horrible picture of a woman covered from top to bottom. The fact is some want to wear their hijab that way, but she ridiculed every single woman who covers that way, is that Islamic? Is it moral to do that? Of course she will be backed-up by westerns who believe that women are trapped in their hijabs, and she holds responsible for the impression she has given. She said she never listened to music. This is was her choice given the fact her brother listened to music. She opposed what Islam said about music! If this is her opinion, then she should have stated that! She just brushed off the Prophet’s saying about music. How dare she? How do you expect Muslims do be ok with it, including you?!!!

    You mentioned in your article it was Manal’s personal narrative, yet she seemed to talk in ‘we’ voice, and ‘they’. Let us not kid ourselves she was talking on behalf of all Saudies. There is no wonder there is up roar on her comments on how she was in the box not because of her choice but because of the influences. She was easily influenced then, and she lacked her own individuality to differentiate between right from wrong, why did she not state that? Why is her lack of responsibility and maturity not mentioned?

    One last note, we are not like westerners wherein they are not held responsible for what we say. We as Muslims are. Allah will judge us on what we say, and what we do and how we represent ourselves. She did not represent herself as a good Muslim. She never mentioned how Islam has made her a better person. She recently tweeted that someone who did a study on Hijab who stated that Hijab is not in Islam!!! No body can deny that people have to right to oppose her, especially those who are passionate about their religion. I think the fact that even her supporters are not pointing out her faults, is a mistake. We are humans and we should learn from our mistakes, and the fact remains that she made plenty of huge mistakes that lost her the trust of many supporters including female ones, and I am one of them,

    • Shaikha

      You sad it all Miriam, that is exactly how I feel

    • Waleed

      Thank you Miriam for your analysis and well organized presntation of your thoughts. You helped me organize mine.

    • Sabah

      Thank you so much!!!

    • Sawsan

      So true. How did she get to the states to start with!! She should exile if she really thinks that! Silly girl!

    • Skrona

      I watch the vid and actually she is supposed to talk about herself. You need to understand, she’s an activist and she want a change in Saudi Arabia. She’s telling about her chapter of life within that 17 minutes because she need to make people understand why she did what she did. She’s not trying to educate people academically, she’s not trying to let people be knowledgeable about Islam or Saudi Arabia. She’s creating awareness regarding the right of women no matter whether those women in Saudi Arabia wanted to drive automobile or not. It’s just the matter of you shouldn’t be BANNED from having the right to drive. Don’t worry about being represented, I’m sure the audiences are smart enough to Google about it later on. No man or women could ever represent the whole nation or religion. I believe Muhammad S.A.W doesn’t represent all the today-muslim-man as he only represent himself, one of the prophet. That is what make Islam differ from the ideology of Buddhism which believe in Reincarnation.

      We are Muslim and we should be humble about it, because in a way we are grateful that God has make it easier for us to be in this path of Truth. That doesn’t mean we need to be defensive about physical matters. Yes, there is no actual HIJAB in Quran but it was that ‘it is better for women to be covered with cloth, their head, their chest, their body except for their face and hand (palm)…so it could be a women wearing a turban, turtle neck short-sleeve shirt inside a long sleeve jacket, plus baggy harem pants and a pair of ankle boot. And being Islamic is more than just covering your body part, being married and listening to whatever is told by man (husband, father, brothers). You need to understand, this concern regarding physical and cultural tradition is actually what makes Islam grow weaker by days.

      Someone who practice the religion of Islam can be a muslim or a mukmin or both altogether. And it is better for people to do some critical thinking about religion and why we in it. Islam philosophy is about the truth and doing right, so don’t be afraid to relearn about Islam. Even a muslim need to understand and know why he/she should do the things told in our religion not only because we were taught and ought to do so, but because our clean heart and clear mind allow us to do so. This is where we need to regularly ask for Allah’s guidance and hidayah. I hope muslim one day will understand why focusing on having a good Heart play the most important roles in our teaching.

  3. Mohammed AlQatari

    There may well be some envy as well; men who are not men enough to go the extra mile for what they believe and women who just don’t like other women to be better, for lack of a better reason.

    I found it very disturbing that very few realize that it’s her story, events and life that they care about and it’s her individualisim that we need to nurture. The collective ‘us’ is suffocating the life out of who we really are and turning gradually as we age to the hypocrats that we once hated.

    A great article. How can I follow you on twitter?


  4. Peaceful

    Well .. this girl talks quietly like singing a sad song.. or acting a tragic movie.. her feelings are mixed: fear and courage.. hope and despair.. self agony and public concern.. so controversy over her is justifiable wherever direction it goes..

    • Miriam

      I agree.. Unfortunately, she could have been something, but her mixed messages and condescending comments about religion has lead people to alienate her from society and this is truly unfortunate.. In some ways, I feel she didn’t get over what she went through, and is in some way venting out on account of the Saudi society. There is a lot to be improved on in the Saudi society, but mocking and playing a backstreet boys song will solve this. By the way the objectives behind the forum are:
      Bring humanitarian issues to the top of the global agenda
      Provide a setting for eye-opening presentations
      Highlight the stories of human rights advocates
      Encourage the inspiration and exchange of ideas
      Focus on closed societies that need exposure
      Grow and empower an international community
      So it wasn’t just to narrate a personal story as she and her supporters claim, and this is why so many are so angry of her representation of society, which the majority of it was either untrue, based on personal events and are resulted into confused thoughts.

  5. I am a girl from Saudi Arabia
    Unfortunately, Sharif had been living with the same problem they speak for themselves
    Provinces of Saudi girls themselves to religion is a force or interference of each one of our scientists and we all love and respect
    When wearing the veil is the desire and conviction, and not like self-Sharif
    We are very proud and that we preserve ourselves Ntlzz of the hands of men, Aémna women driving a car for our times that we live and the Kmlkat

  6. Az

    the piece above is biased, at best. You decided, in your very limited review of saudi women views, that you will judge all on the basis of manal al-sharif’s seminar being true, while in most of it, it was hearsay and distorted facts combined with a great deal of guesswork and speculation, not to mention all the contradictions… the main issue with her presentation is the very nauseating Ayan Hirsi Ali scent that comes with it, she managed to fulfill the requirement for passing as a self-loather who would (intentionally or unintentionally) even resort to lying in order to qualify for the next human rights conference…
    If you want to do things right, do a study, but to rely on the words of one person who was completely unheard of before a certain incident that didnt display any special merit to be honest, that is inaccurate and unfair. im saudi and im a brother to four sisters, a surgery professor, a journalist, an architect and a housewife, my sisters werent oppressed and they sure as hell were not voiceless… Manal Al-Sharif, assuming the story she told was true, made the choice of being voiceless (she burned her own paintings, her family was ok with music since her bro listened to it and she was the one burning his cassettes), this shifts the whole narrative from a story on how women should be more empowered in saudi into a different story on “how islam is bad for you”. now, you might say that she was only talking about fundimentalist islam, the question in that case would be; why didnt she make that clear by highlighting the moderate islam she presumably practices now (assuming she is still a muslim)?? but no, the turning point in that story, and the only pure and angelic thing she spoke of was a backstreet boys song, which kinda raises doubts regarding the sanity and IQ range of anyone sitting in a hall for even 20 minutes of someone like that talking…

  7. sindymilan

    ياجماعة بالعربي بالعرربي نبغى نفهم ايش الهرجة ايش قالت منال

  8. Uthman

    jazakAllah khair sister Miriam for the great reply. Manal’s speech was a complete waste of time.

    • MW

      I would like to know in what context you mean “a waste of time”. I don’t live in a country where women are supressed. The women who live in countries like Arabia don’t have basic human rights. I am glad that some manage to get out to tell their story. I am now more aware of what has happened there and can help to give them a voice. I am also glad she won the Vaclav Havel prize.

      • Rawan.S

        It was narrative of her own experience and not Saudi society, so I’m afraid you don’t know what is like there! You judge a whole country from one speech? Her speech has many lies. there is room for a lot of improvement but not what she said.

      • Uthman

        @MW, her speech was against many basic Islamic rulings. So obviously you wont understand why it was a complete waste of time. For example, music. Music is forbidden in Islam. She called the scholars of Islam extremists who do not permit music. This is just ridiculous to say the least. And the entire speech is riddled with stuff like this.

        The lens I am viewing it from is from the Islamic perspective and not any other perspective. So thats why we can never agree.

  9. Thanks for this. I watched the video and love the ending where Manal said, “For me, the struggle isn’t about driving a car. It’s about being in the driver’s seat of our destiny, it’s to be free not only to dream but also to live.”

    Here’s hoping to some change, like you said, “No longer is it us against them but its more and more becoming a humane intellectual just/unjust divide.” This is a change we all need in this part of the world and everywhere else where injustice and inequality prevails.

  10. Saudi girl just a reply for the cocktail speech.

  11. Rajaa

    The anti-Muslim extremist parties have resumed and uses about Manal in Oslo against Islam and Muslims Europeans, thank you Manal have humiliated your country and Muslim culture, the same rest your speech to that of the Somali Islamophobe Hirsi Ali’s friend extremist Geert Wilders … It amazes me that people are not happy in Saudi Arabia after you said about the country, Islam, the tradition that you decry negative. You messed your country before people who have a negative view of Islam and you have strengthened their anti-Muslim ideas.

  12. bigstick1

    Reblogged this on Critical Thinking – A World View and commented:
    Here is an article regarding the reaction to Manal Al Sharif’s speech. Remember Manal is an individual with the right to speak to her individual perceptions. She is a woman who cannot drive, nor vote, nor leave the country, nor work, nor get educated unless her “guardian or owner” allows. She is dependent for her very movement upon her guardian no matter how old she becomes. She is a woman who has been harassed, jailed and so much more. In her effort to free herself and bring her own perception forth she will be ridiculed and often times the worst offenders will be other women. It is often times women who are the custodians and keepers of their female gender’s imprisonment.
    Remember who is it that often times forces their daughters down to undergo a Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) or to strangle their daughter as they need to have sons. It is most generally women. Women are the first to uphold imprisonment, torture, hatred, against their own and demand that they be silenced. They demand the status quo to their own detriment of human rights; all the while men are happy to let them do the dirty work of keeping women right where they want them, quite, obedient, and caged.
    This is an excellent article that provides some insight on the reaction within Saudi Arabia.

  13. Noor Almarzouq

    I’m a saudi girl,
    a student living alone in a different city from my hometown.
    maybe Manal wasn’t able to give a full satisfactory to all saudi women out there by mentioning a personal religious views.
    or maybe she said the word ( freedom ) that a lot of women who never got out of there boxes don’t actually understand.
    but for me,, I DO
    do you know why?
    because most of you didn’t try my current situation
    where you are a powerless girl, sitting in that flat and the water bottles are just finished
    you only have cash for buying that water and no cap fair
    there is no other way to get out in that street but in a car, which you obviously can not afford.

    some times you want just to walk in the street because you feel sad,, chocked between these 4 walls,,
    you go to starbucks and drink your coffee ,, suddenly your father calls,,
    and begins this investigation, so you have to lie just to give them a reason why are you out? who gave you a ride?
    and when you tell them you got in a cap they begin a lecture about how caps are dangerous when you ride them alone.

    I’m sorry saudi women
    you are sitting in your houses and every thing you need, you take,
    when you want to go some where,, even if its delayed but you go without the need of you carrying a weapon in your bags.

    when we drive this car,, or we are able to represent our selves in every thing that is related to us in our country, we will just be promoted from a second to a first degree citizens, not too much to ask i guess.

    I’m sorry again saudi women,, because us women who live alone and partially responsible for our selves are a minority. and when we spoke we faced your rage attacks, in addition to our daily personal struggles .

    if you don’t agree with our demands ( RIGHTS ) or find them not appropriate for your personal interests , simply,, don’t take them.

    thank you,,
    this is Noor Almarzouq

    • Az

      Noor, i know what youmean, having studied away from my family too.. But:
      A: cant help noticing that you didnt comment at all at the quality of life when youwere with your family, was it better or do u think ur parents are talibans as well?
      B: you mentioned water, whicj is actually delivered through a service, to your door step, noone in my entire neighborhood in jeddah needs to drive for that..
      C: is your family’s concern the reason behind your frustration? If it is, then rest assured that its not limited to girls, we also get a great share of it, its how our social structure is, has its ups and downs, im vert sure that by comparing our family structures and bonds with those of societies like the one al-shareef was speaking to, youll see these ups..

      • Noor Almarzouq

        Hello again dear readers and writers,

        I came back to clearefie certain things to you all
        and especially to you Mr.Az

        A. Before I go out from my parents house back home I wasn’t aware of how much life is hard for women in saudi arabia,
        and I can explain it by mentioning the fact that the quality of life we lived is simply we are not responsible for our selves,
        for example: when you want to make a salad and you are out of lettuce, Immediately you call your father or brother or husband and he gets it for you,
        when you need any thing,, you are not responsible for getting it,, the male figure is

        and I’m not saying its bad, its good in a lot of ways but that made our awareness deficient about ( How life is difficult for women who has no male figures ).

        in fact there is a lot of difference between how my life was, and how it is now.
        and I can say both situations are good and bad in there specific ways

        B. for your information Mr.Az,, the water that is delivered to our DOOR STEPS is not good for drinking
        its good for washing and cleaning and other things but not for ( Oral Administration )
        that is because it contains an inappropriate substances for human consumption, actually I’m not sure what are they but I just took a sample and my dear father analyzed it in his lap and warned me from consuming it
        P.S: my father is an agriculture engineer.

        C. I meant by mentioning my frustrated feelings Mr.Az that it could be worse if you are locked, or even if you go out you face a questioner about the details of your ride, which in your current status is the most hateful thing to face.

        thank you Mr.Az
        your questions made a lot of things more clear to people.

        this is again Noor Almarzouq

      • MW

        I read your comment about how the males do the shopping for the women (the lettuce you mentioned), so who buys your feminine products if you run out? How do they feel about that? And if the water is undrinkable, shouldn’t everyone know that the water is not safe to drink? You must have lots of sick people in Saudi, or is it boiled first to drink. What water do you drink, then? Water is a basic human need for our bodies, regardless of where it comes from

      • Az

        So, basically what you are saying is that the life of the average saudi woman is not the hell that manal al-sharif and many people on this page are trying to make it seem like? Unless if you consider being served a “hell”, bear in mind that im not discussing whether or not you consider this form of familial relationahip “guardianship” or not, as a male i dont, and its me thats often being ordered (how tough a guardian does ur bro pass as on the night before eid or a wedding ?).
        As for the water, its sold as drinking water, so ur dad should report (a much more important issueto campaign for than women driving, dont u thinnk?)
        Your comment on the “being questioned” thing still doesnt show how it is any different for girls than boys? We are all subjected to strict family attention in our society, and in exchange we enjoy family bonds that are very rare to come across in other parts of the world (including those that many commentors on this page hail from, im sure some of them might have a parent or both in a nursing home, might’venot heard from any family members in years), be happy that you have a family that loves you ad would literally die for u, and accept that good part with the annoying bits that come with it, and try to take solace in some of the other stuff.. Like being in a country that actually pays girls to go to college and not one where ul go bankrupt for that, not to mention zero income tax…
        Im a doctor in a govt hospital in jeddah, and in the line of my work i meet many of the women who manal al-shareef andthe author of this blog abuse by referecing as the group most harmed by the ban on driving, the reality is; driving is the last thing on these women’s minds, they wouldnt drive even if it was allowed, right or wrong, that is their belief and they are entitled to it (they believe its 3aib zai ma enti akeed 3arfa), so who would benefit from lifting the ban? Well two groups, A- women from upper middle cllass families with an open mind-set and strong funancial ability (the same group that affords drivers easily) and B- car dealers, imagine the effect of increased demand on the already ridiculously overpriced car prices in the country?! And this will affect poorer sectors of society more, so instead of a country where half cant drive because of gender, youll end up with a country where half cant drive because they cant afford it, and the half driving will be the half that can afford drivers while the poor will suffer more, i.e. The women al-shareef refers to the most are the ones that will suffer whenvtheir husbands and sons cant work or have to pay more for cars and maintainance.. No in his rifht mind can claim that driving is 7aram, but decades ago we made a mistake and its effect has grown so large that we shouldnt rush and complicate it by doing something (even if right) just because of a bunch of internet activists and westerners with an agenda, when u succumb to the pressure and do the right thing for the wrong reasons and with bad consequences, it is no longer the right thing…
        P.S. I took the time to write this reply because you are my countrywoman and i believe that dialouge is key in resolving our internal problems and i really care as a saudi man who objects to lifting the ban now, that saudi women would understand and know our motivations, however i believe its not anyone’s business how we saudis resolve our differences, and no one should come between us, im sure you agree with that, if you do.. Then you know why manal al-shareef’s actions are worthy of contempt…

    • Therese Rickman-Bull

      Remarkable reply Noor Almarzouq. From yout heart and from your life as you live it every day. Well done, you did a beautiful job!

      • Noor Almarzouq

        Thank you very much Mr. Therese Rickman-Bull
        gald you liked it

      • Therese Rickman-Bull.

        Dear Noor Almarjouq, you are continuing to do a very good job. What are you studying? I hope and pray that you can follow your dreams. Good luck in all your future endeavours.
        I am a woman like you.

      • Noor Almarzouq

        Hello again
        or may I say Assalamu Alaikom
        to Mr.Az
        I can say when I started reading your reply I got a crossed eyes 😀
        I meant you made it so complicated my dear
        its as simple as that,,
        we need to drive Because
        1- its more safe
        2- its less expensive if you compare it with how much we pay for caps every single day
        3- it makes our lives easier (BELIEVE ME) and to understand that I’ll tell you an old ideal ( the one who’s hand in the water is not like the one who’s hand in the fire ). you are a saudi male doctor and i’m a saudi MBBS student, and believe me,, your life is so much easier with your car keys.

        P.S: I’ve never criticized the quality of my life in the time that I was still with my parents.
        its good,, I can say its great,,
        I was like a queen you can say,, and before I complete the sentence ( I want.. ) I get it easily.
        but do you know what is the effect of this quality on me when I first lived alone in here?
        I was like a baby who did never grew up, a child who never went to street and saw whats going on out there.
        I’ve been into situations I didn’t know what to do in it,, and when I remember it now I laugh hilariously, typical , since I wasn’t mature enough to face the world that isn’t about my family. and I can assure you,, alot of saudi women out there aren’t mature yet.

        for your record:
        I got a 96% high school grades,, and Non of the governmental universities accepted me , now I’m studying on my personal expense.
        the time that they teach you a good specialty for free is gone,, unless if you have connections.

        and let me tell you some thing, I’m proud to be in this bounded society.
        but my personal view is that driving a car or representing self will never effect that bound negatively.

        Mrs.Therese Rickman-Bull
        hello and thank you again very much
        I study medicen , 4rth year now, wish me luck in my exams 😉
        nice to see your replies 😉

      • Therese Rickman-Bull.

        Dear Noor Almarzouq,
        I do indeed wish you every success in your exams, but for someone who scored 96% in high school grades, there should be no problems. Impressive that your are studying medicine too. For the record, I believe that it should be the woman’s choice whether to drive or not, just as it should be her right to what you call “represent” herself.
        Therese ❤

      • Noor Almarzouq

        Hello Mrs. Therese Rickman-Bull

        yes exactly that’s what I was trying to say from the begging
        our choice to drive or not,, and our right to represent our selves.
        thank you very much again 😉



      • Noor Almarzouq

        Hello Mr.MW
        O’fcours we are not forbidded from going to malls or super markets and we get our stuff from there but it should be approved by our male guardians.
        and about the water,,
        Non of the people I know drink it from the tap, they buy it either in bottles or big jars.
        but in our house back home we have a water clearing system ( I think that’s its name ) that my father connected it, so our tap water is safe to drink.
        no worries,, no one is sick because of that coz no one drinks it 😀
        just for washing and cleaning.
        thank you for your comment

    • God Bless You and your strength for living alone, facing rage attacks in addition to you daily personal struggle! What you said, consicely and perfectly ( “If you don’t agree with out (RIGHTS)……..simply don’t take them.”), I clumsily tried to say. May God be with you always.

      • Noor Almarzouq

        Mrs. Elissa
        it’s always nice to see such replies
        I thank you from the bottom of my heart

  14. alex

    A question – when you say “Allah will judge us on what we say, and what we do and how we represent ourselves” – then why not let Allah make the judgement and leave yourselves out of it?

    This is a perplexing scenario. On the one hand you want to judge Manal by expressing outrage that she said something which doesn’t apply to 20 million people, and yet, you cannot pass judgement because this is reserved for Allah alone.

    What to do?

    • Az

      You obviously dont know much about islam, and you’ve never even heard of the hadeeth saying “… You are allah’s wittnesses on his land..”… Kindly,when replying to a muslim on such matters, lose the church-based ideas, it is those that create “your” confusion…

      • bigstick1

        I suppose that means there is compulsion in your religion? Abrogated verse so go to 9.5 (sword verse). Is this where you are going?


        You have to remember that they are initiating group think and if you go outside the parameters you will be tortured, imprisoned, harassed, shunned, etc. Islam is not the religion of peace until you submit and become a slave based upon the interpretation of the group.

        So I hope this explanation helps.

      • Az

        no, it doesnt mean there is compulsion in my religion, it only means that you lack the intellect to make the distinction between forming an opinion and compulsion, that is why you took that cheap shotw with the group thinking line.
        Islam, being a realistic religion allows us to form opinions in others and what they do, naturally since that isbthe casebit encourages us to act in a manner that would improve how our bretheren think of us, and not act in a manner that harms others and thus result in others considering us bad people. Thats why when the man in the hadeeth above passed by the prophet peace be upon him and the companions, and they voiced their complaints about him being an evil man who harms his neighbours, the.prophet said the quote above, he did not order them to force the man to be good nor did he act unrealisticly and order them not to form an opinion, instead he pointed out the simple logical fact that if your people think ur bad, chances are you are bad. However , the prophet peace be upon him also emphasized that Allah judges us by what is in our hearts… So in short, yes we form opinions, no those opinions dont entitle us to force others.
        And its ironic that you would suggest that, on a blog post about a saudi woman who enraged an entire society with lies, yet she is back in saudi safe and sound, she didnt even lose her job. You know who lost their jobs? Rick Sanchez and Helen Thomas .. Have a nice day 🙂

    • Miriam

      I can see that you left every single point made and was confused by this single comment which the word ‘Allah’ is mentioned in! It causes me to wonder why are you so angry. This is what I call outrage at the mention of Allah.

      However, I simply wanted to reply to a speech that has been generalized to a whole country. The last piece which you are referring to only an educated Muslim would know what I mean. I cannot pass judgement on you, but if you are a Muslim, you should learn some more, and if you aren’t, then your opinion ,in my eyes, does not mean much here.

      I have to say this really emphasises who Manal Al-Sharif’s supporters are, and what they stand for.

      • Miriam

        If you are going to quote from our holy book, then quote many verses, and not the one that you choose to interpret the way you see fit. I am afraid you are not in any position to quote or be taking seriously as you are not educated in Islam nor the Quran to quote and cite. Nevertheless, it is good to have you write so much, because it shows how fair western societies are and how you deal with someone who is different from you. Democracy you people call it, right?

        You explanation is from an atheist point of view. You don’t believe in any religion and so therefore, Islam can be an easy target since we are portrayed badly, putting the country we come from aside. Did you hear of Manal being tortured? She may be opposed, but isn’t it a basic human right to voice our opinions, or is it just views that suit your agenda?

      • alex

        @miriam – on May 18, 2012 at 6:47 pm on your first comment you actually wrote “Allah will judge us on what we say, and what we do and how we represent ourselves” its in the 3rd paragraph. I’m quoting you not parts of a book, or having selective recall.

        @az of course i don’t know anything about islam, which is why i’m here asking a question based on a previous commentor. So far based on just my one question both yourself and Miriam have concluded the following about me:

        I don’t believe in any religion
        I use church based arguments (clearly a contradiction of point 1 no?!)
        I must not be taken seriously
        “You can’t pass judgement” yet my opinion “does not mean much here”
        Apparently i’m angry
        Apparently i’m also outraged at the mention of Allah
        Ive never heard of a hadeeth.


        Its going to be really difficult to consult the entire Qur’an everytime i want to ask a question in a forum or a blog. Given that the top commentors on here have much more knowledge than i do, its surely easier for me to just address them directly?

        Im not angry i’m not outraged i’m not anything, i just think its an interesting dilemma; nothing more nothing less. but i do have a more serious question. Only the last commentor – Javeriya Sayeed Siddique talked about the legality of music. He said: “Islam did give women their freedom but it also prevents us from evil and music is declared haraam according to Islam”

        No one else seemed to mention this, and i just wanted to know is music or is it not haram? I keep seeing brands like pepsi using “saudi rappers” or other saudi music on youtube and there seems to be a vibrant music scene so what is the actual law?

        thank you

    • Miriam

      To alex: I think we all know that you quoted me on one specific point which the word ‘Allah’ was mentioned, and wondered why this part was so amusing to you? And why the central topic about Manal’s speech was not addressed? I found it irrelevant to the bigger picture which was discussed. And yes, it is something that only a Muslim would understand, and therefore, I mentioned that if you were a Muslim to read more, if not then this comment would not be relevant to you as you do not fully comprehend what I mean. It would take far too long in this little space to convey the teachings.

      Maybe I should have been more specific. The comment made on the 21St May was addressed to ‘bigstick1’ not to ‘alex’.

      If you see commercial adds, TV programs, etc with a Muslim, this does not always mean that they practising. The same goes with Christians who take drugs or prostitute themselves, or Jewish people who kill and rape women and children. It does not mean that they represent their pro-claimed religion. The same goes with governments who claim to either follow the Islamic law or democracy. It is not always the case that they literally follow it. It would be naive to think that. The world would be a better place if they did. Therefore, if you see a Pepsi add, or music on youtube, etc. it should not cause any confusion. The music industry is big in the Arab and Muslim world. This is why I was perplexed why Manal claimed she never heard music in her life till the age of 21! It certainly isn’t banned in Saudi Arabia. People who do not listen to music is a personal choice and not enforced by law, and neither is wearing a head scarf enforced by law even though it is Islamic.

      If you would like to know more about if music is haram or not here are some website. I am not an Islamic scholar unfortunately who can go into the ins and outs, but I copied some references so that you can have a read for yourself:

      I would like to add that Islam is far more bigger than minor issues such as music. Islam believes in the oneness of God, and that the prophet is His messenger. This is the first and foremost important aspect of being a Muslim. Then the practices come along after that. I hope that more people can differentiate between what Islam represents and what a country represents. They are two completely different pillars, and again Manal gave an erroneous presentation by mixing both. It would be acceptable if she is a non-Muslim who knows no better, but the fact that she is, is what angers people.

      Thank you for your genuine interest. Hope the links are a good read.

      • Alex

        I Don’t know why you are being so paranoid in all your comments with “I think we all know…” and all this stuff. This is getting out of hand. Many people will interact in forums and blogs in different ways each seeking answers to slightly different questions. With the collective group of knowledge it should be more efficient to get answers.

        In answer to your question “why was the central topic of manals speech not addressed” it’s because i don’t have any issue with it, I’m here to understand why everyone else does. Rather than making assumptions and accusations about other commenters I am trying to learn other peoples mentality and ask questions I don’t have answers to or am unclear on.

        You are essentially telling me that I shouldn’t ask these questions and that I am not entitled to know more AND because you think I’m not a Muslim that my brain is so tiny that I couldn’t possibly understand. Thanks a lot Miriam. Is this really the way to treat people who are here to learn and to interact and to bridge cultures?

        I have no issue with manals speech because Im not Saudi. I cannot live in Saudi. But I do have other questions about the culture and lifestyle that I thought others here could answer. My mistake obviously

    • bigstick1

      The question of permissibility of music in Islamic jurisprudence is historically disputed.

      Some jurists of the classical era of Muslim scholarship opined that music is forbidden both by the Qur’an and by the Hadith. The chapters of Luqman and Al-Isra in the Quran in particular are used to support this view. Those who do not allow music also believe that Muhammad censured the use of musical instruments when he said: “There will be among my Ummah people who will regard as permissible adultery, silk, alcohol and musical instruments”.Islamic scholars of the past who agreed upon this include Abu Hanifa, Al-Shafi’i, Malik, Ahmad bin Hanbal, Al-Tabari, Al-Hasan Al-Basri, Al-Bukhari, Al-Tirmidhi, Al-Nawawi Al-Bayhaqi, Al-Tahawi, and Al-Qurtubi.

      Others, however, permit music stating that the prohibition of music and instruments at the time of the Prophet related to usage—at the time the polytheists used music and musical instruments as part of their worships. Those who saw the permissibility of music include Abu Bakr ibn al-Arabi, Ibn Sina, Abu Hamid al-Ghazali, Rumi, Ibn Rushd, and Ibn Hazm. Al-Ghazali also reports a narration from al-Khidr, where he expressed a favorable opinion of music, provided it be within the usage limitation of virtuous areas.

      Many modern Muslim interpretations allow music and singing under certain conditions, mainly if they do not encourage committing sinful acts.

      Like a great deal of the quran it is all upon the interpreter or how one wants to standardize the text. So much of the koran is not discernable as it has words that are borrowed from other languages and the words can have up to 30 different meanings leaving room for thousands of variant readings. In additon, most of the information wasn’t even written until 100 years or later after the alleged death of muhammad.

      Hope this helps.

      Hope that helps.

      • Mr.Riazi

        @bigstick1 —- The fact that you obviously are not a Muslim, nor educated enough to give your fatwa on music, you like to believe that you know it ALL. I have to say for someone who obviously likes to argue, you have a lot to learn. Hate to burst your bubble, but not many think the way you do. Sad sod!

      • bigstick1

        How would you know what I am educated in? There are a great deal do think the way I do. Far more than you realize and growing.

        Next your claim can be stated to anyone it has no points to counter my statement; can you provide something substantial or not?

        As far as fatwas are concern let us discuss the ones on women breastfeeding men in order to work with them or destruction of churches or immodest women create earthquakes.

        All this comes from well-known respected Muslim cleric/imams. There are numerous more equally ridiculous rulings.

      • Az

        Talk about having to much time on ur hands! Islamophobia and internet activism seem to be directly proportional to not having anything better to do, i guess.
        P.s. Refer to for a detailed reply to all the points im guessing u mentioned (as i, sure as hell, wont waste time on reading ur posts) .. And no, its not a joke (u are, though) 🙂

      • Christina

        I agree with you AZ, but sometimes as Muslims feel obliged to make sure the true picture is portrayed, and believe this is what Miriam was trying to accomplish, but seen as there are people who are indeed Islamaphobic as you mentioned, then there is no point in stringing along in hope that you might get through to them as Miriam finally realized.

        You gave it your best shot Miriam, but when people merely want to be heard but not exchange information, you know that they are ignorant to say the least!

      • Az

        Ibn sina, Rumi and Ibn Rushd were religion scholars? LOL now i regret ignoring your posts, they are worth readinh for the sheer entertainment value, im still right about them being absolute rubbish though lol
        whats next, nancy ajram starting het own mazhab? ( u still havent googled mazhab, mr. Internet scholar?)

    • bigstick1

      The hadith are sources pertaining to Muhammad’s life. The hadiths are six canonical collections which date from the late ninth century and were heavily scrutinized as some 600,000 hadith supposedly existed and it was later reduced down to over 2,000 or so. These are suppose to be authentic. Most of the hadith were thrown out as fabrications. Also you should know that Muhammad allegedly died in 632 CE. The hadith were compiled almost 200 years later or more.

      Here is how they break down:

      1) al-Bukhari (noted to be the most reliable) collection and whose author died in 870 CE.

      2) Muslim (also noted to be very reliable) collection and whose author died in 875 CE.

      3) Abu Dawud collection whose author died in 888 CE

      4) al-Tirmidhi collection whose author died in 892 CE

      5) al-Nasa’i collection whose author died in 915 CE, and

      6) Ibn Maja collection whose author died in 886 CE.

      Let me know if you need further assistance.

      Just so you know depending on the sect of Muslims you have the Quran, the Hadith, the Sira, and the Fiqh. There are additional sources however this is the largest focus.

      Then it depends on your focus whether you take a look at the historical aspect leaving the religious aspect out, the religious aspect leaving the historical aspect out or the combination of both.

      There are numerous manuscripts as well that are currently being reassessed by scholars. Sanaa manuscript found in Yemen is the most recent addition. It was found in 1972. If you want to look into the more historical aspects there are some interesting perspectives here are some scholars Authur Jeffery, Gerd Puin, Patricia Crone, Keith Small, Karl Heinz Ohlig, Volker Popp, Alba Fedeli, Pierre Larcher, John Wansbrough these are just a few.

      The fiqh is also known by many as shariah law. A good source is the Reliance of the Traveller: A classic manual of Islamic Sacred Law

      Again, Hope this helps.

    • bigstick1


      You are such a limited individual who is exceptionally judgmental and hateful as can be seen by your post. I can also tell you are the type that uses this tactic to try to bully or intimidate people to shut down opinions and keep people in conformity. I believe you are adept at group think and use it to your benefit.

      Next I am not Miriam as I think you implied as can be attested to by the post that Saudi woman supplied. However should you have doubt ask her to check to IP address.

      I can tell you limit yourself to the knowledge of one sect in much of what you do. Thus your scope is extremely narrow. If you have noticed the information I provide gives a range from one extreme to another. It is not limited to one sect or one belief on Islam or its text but a range.

      However why don’t you open your own school of thought and debate the nuances. Let me put it in a way you might understand on your other question. The make is a Ford but was is the model. The foundation is there but there are differences.

      • Az

        Odd.. Dont recall suggesting you are meriam at all, matter of fact, a nail clipping of her’s would probably pass as smart in comparison with you. I recommend you invest in reading classes before you go crusading on mudlim blogs, if you cant even decipher a simple post. And its funny that a person citing Arthur jeffery would even mention group thinking, ur like the poster boy for prejudice and lack of objectivity, with your blatant islampophobia.. Interestingly, everytime i reply to you i feel like needing to shower..

      • bigstick1


        Have you ever heard of sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me. Islamophobia is a term which has been thrown around in hopes to silence people from critical and rational thought. In addition closed societies often use this term as they have insecurity about discussing the fallacy of dogma or societal norms. You are exposing your fear of mental expansion and understanding. There are far more ideas and understanding out there than the limited narrow thoughts of a religiously closed person and societal construct; to which fears losing ground over dominating and controlling the masses with a dogma deliberately interpreted to ensure both fear and control.

        Now, let see if I can get you screaming in to the night with a hoping of finding a vat of Lye soap.

        Christoperh Luxenberg
        Volker Popp
        Karl-Heinz Ohlig
        Alfred – Louis De Premare
        Sergio Noja Neseda
        Gerd R. Puin
        Claude Gilliot
        Ibn Warraq

        Richard Dawkins
        Christopher Hitchens
        Sam Harris
        Betrand Russell

        Just a start, I have more. Are you having fun yet. 🙂

  15. Capturing the hearts of those abroad speaking so confidently about every women there is in saudi arabia, and generating her own suffocation to the rest of us “WOMEN” .
    Manal al Sharif is a disgrace to a country that welcomed her with open hands when needed, sent her to study abroad in order to benefit her own country, but my oh my did she not. Why all the lies that were claimed!!!! her!! out of all people should be smart enough, her own country let her go and speak, now isn’t it that freedom?! we had music way before she was even born !!
    people all over the world should understand that, just like in every country, saudi arabia has it’s own differences when it comes to families. Some are strict which “OBVIOUSLY” poor little manal was raised in, some are open minded and some balance between religion and life. so many from her generation and the generations before didn’t experience that horror she went through which OBVIOUSLY IS A LIE !! this country loves its people more than anything, yes we face problems, we are not perfect !!
    ONE last thing, whatever she spoke about is her own little bubble of misconceptions and complications, she may have faced abuse as a kid which resulted in the damage her brain is finally revealing !
    i know i may be disrespectful but come on, we are free to some extent, especially in jeddah “my hometown” people are free to do whatever! JUST BECAUSE SHE wanted women to drive which btw is not ok in this country for many non religious reasons if you think about it logically we have enough car accidents we don’t need more ! and due to that she is now encouraged to speak so openly about things that she faced which gives the west so many misconceptions ! i am so furious !

    • bigstick1

      Believe me when I tell you that her speech has done nothing to taint people of the West’s opinion on Islam or Saudi. The country does it to itself as well as the representatives of Islam everytime it calls for death of a 23 year old tweeter, the destruction of churches, the rape of children called marriages, the death of 15 girls in 2002 for not wearing the abaya forced back into a burning school, putting 35 year old women in jail for not wanting to live with their father as he is abusive, not agreeing to a daughter to be allowed to marriage at the age of 43 as she is a perpetual child but he keeps her earnings (slavery anyone), not being able to leave the country, get educated, go to the hospital, etc without their (male owner’s permission). The list continues. Then there is your wonderful spin offs Al – Qaeda, Taliban, Al-Shabob, etc and the well known funding of such organizations by Saudi Nationals. How about your school books and what it teaches. Interesting subject matter on infidels and jews wilth death and dismemberment.

  16. Musa Al Qatari

    I think there are many good thinks can Manal talk about it. Does She have to mix between Islam and tradition? there are huge different between the both. To me Saudi women don’t allow to drive it is not the end of the world and if she use her energy to help Syrian citizens or Palastine it will be useful for her. However, Women sitting in the back seat and playing in her Mobile or reading a book Realy it a very romantic image and even just VIP people who have this oppurtintiey such as Ambassdos or presedent anyone sitting in the back seat that means he or she a very important man And do you ever seeing a presedent who driving his car by himself and that even against the Protocol

    • bigstick1


      That is great if you have the money and power to determine your driver and the course of your own life. However the practical reality for most women is they do not. This makes it a hardship on their freedom, mobility, and even their basic needs as they are now dependent upon someone other than themselves to get them to doctors, dentist, hospitals, or even obtaining food. Next you will be amazed at how many people in these high ranking position can drive and they have far more mobility and freedom than Saudi women particular those who do not have a good guardian. In fact a grown capable woman needing a guardian should be an insult to all adults of any intelligence.

      • Miriam

        If a woman doesn’t have money for a cab, then how does she have money for a car! A cab is a lot cheaper than buying a car, and having a driver for that matter. Women including myself who at this stage does not have a driver, and sometimes do not get a left from family, but I am able to do grocery shopping, go to hospitals and meet my everyday needs. A guardian is not needed for everything, so again get your facts right first.

      • bigstick1


        It can become quite an expense if you have to take the cab for numerous things unless you ban yourself to your home. People don’t always have to have expensive cars to get the to and from places.

        So what is your problem with allowing her to have her story on her life and how Saudi society affected her as a women as well as how the religion she felt was implied to her affect her as well?

        Next if you haven’t gotten yet religion is very subjective and so is prespective. In other words were a man might see religion as freeing based upon the text, a woman might see it as a prison and subjugation.

        The same can be said for Saudi society were women are watched and kept from participating in many aspects of society that directly affect their lives.

        Do you even live in Saudi?

      • Ruby

        @bigstick1 your hatred is clouding ur thoughts. u haven’t made one sound argument. u get personal and more personal.. get some skills and come back and make us read worth reading..

      • bigstick1

        Were is the hatred? Pointing out issues or disagreeing is not hatred. Learn the difference.

  17. ok i get her demand for freedom but her point about music not being evil id completely wrong and contradicts Islam. Islam did give women their freedom but it also prevents us from evil and music is declared haraam according to Islam.

    • bigstick1


      Good thing you have men in your family. Lots of families in Saudi don’t. Of course one has to wonder about it being acceptable for a male kid to drive his adult mother, sister, aunt etc. since they are adult women but an adult woman driving a boy around. My what a sin.

      If you can’t not see the issue with this then all I can say is you like your cage but there are numerous women who don’t. In other words, get out of their way so they can have the freedom you have obviously chosen not to pursue or want.

  18. Miriam

    If you read back, you will see I said “at this stage does not have a driver, and sometimes do not get a left from family, but I am able to do grocery shopping, go to hospitals and meet my everyday needs. A guardian is not needed for everything, so again get your facts right first.”

    There is no mention here about what women or I think about driving a car. The point made you do not need a guardian to get from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’.

    I thank you for passing judgement on me as it highlights that not only do you disagree with me, but you have no respect to those who have a different opinion to yours. I do not need to stoop down to your level by stating what I think you are, but I will say this : Do not tell me what to do when you say “get out of their way so they can have the freedom you have obviously chosen not to pursue or want”.. I will do and say as I please. It is so ironic that you tell me what to do when you just said previously that we are controlled by males!

    • bigstick1


      Thank you for showing those on this site exactly what my reblog statement meant about women not helping other women and often times uphold oppression and subjugation against thier own gender.

  19. Swain

    People judged Manal by what she said, from their own perspective only, are nonobjective. She narrated what she lived, suffered, felt and thought, That may not be applied to everybody, but it is hers and the ones’ sharing her such experience and thoughts. Everyone is looking from different window to a better life for Saudi women, and so is Manal..

  20. Laila

    Thank you Miriam for your comments. Some need to talk out as she did. She lost me as a supporter too

  21. Misti

    I have read through all of the responses here and find the arguing to be detrimental to the whole conversation. It doesn’t really matter what religion each person is, or what they think of Islam. We as Muslims do not appreciate when someone mixes tradition and custom with religion, and this happens a lot in Saudi, in all aspects of life. Yes, women need to have the rights that Islam has granted them, and yes someone needs to stand up for it. But if you are to stand then at least make sense when you do. Manal spoke of nonsense and mixed too many topics together. As a foreign woman living in Saudi Arabia for the past 31 years I have to say that she really doesn’t have her facts straight. I came here in 1981 and have lived in Jeddah ever since. I am sure there are differences in the regions of Saudi, but in Jeddah people do what they want within reason. Manal mentioned the fact there are separate entrances for men and women in homes… This was misleading, it made it sound as if it is not allowed for a man to enter through the woman’s entrance. The purpose for the 2 entrances is in the case of male guests (or female guests) coming to visit, since Islam has taught a woman to be modest and cover herself from non-related men it is just easier and more comfortable to be segregated at gatherings. This does not mean that people do not mix in their own homes, and the way it sounded was that the police come into people’s homes and check on this fact. Not true, and this could be easily misconstrued.
    Another misconception…. Several years ago I needed to have a surgery, so under the belief that my husband had to sign for me I asked my doctor what the proceedure was, he laughed and said “they don’t do that anymore, you can sign for yourself”. Also, in education…. I have always registered my daughters in school and never remember having to have my husbands consent for them to attend school. Now when it came to university, since he was the one paying for it he had to sign the papers.
    Travelling…. There is a ruling (which I can not quote) that has to do with the protection of a woman, so in order to travel (and there is a distance) she should have a male companion who is of non-marriageable relation with her. **Yes, the laws here state that it is her husband if she is married or father if unmarried or brother if the father is not alive, this is law not Islam.
    Music…. Whether you believe it is “haram” or not it would be considered a sin at most, and that is on the person listening, it is a choice. Since I have been in the country music has never been outlawed nor has tv or movies, movies maybe censored but that is a different story and now with the internet that is no longer a problem.

    I find it inappropriate to argue about someones religion here, because religion should not be the issue here. Our issue is rights, and if we look into history Islam came and gave women rights that they did not have. Really, we are talking about a time when women were given to brothers upon the death of the husband or burnt alive when the husband was cremated. Baby girls were killed for no better reason then it was better to have a boy, women were banned from the house during menstruation as they were considered dirty. Islam came and changed all of this for women.

    Now…. I do agree with Manal on one point… Women have the right to drive themselves. I, myself, don’t think I will ever drive in Saudi, but that is a personal (safety) decision (they drive crazy here). I think it is much safer than having all of these single men here in the country, and it would keep a lot of the money in the country which would improve the economices for all of us.

    I hope that this will help some of you to see why the women of Saudi Arabia are enraged by the comments that were made. They were made in general, as if all Saudi women lived that way. I remember when I first arrived I lived with my in-laws in Makkah, my mother in-law used to go down almost daily and take a taxi to do her shopping. My sister in-laws and I used to use the public buses to go shopping and to the Grand Masjid.

    It was different but I never felt that I couldn’t move….

  22. Miriam Let in the heart of the matter and the subject of more than excellent

  23. Rabab

    Do you all see the impact Manal has made on the Islamic religion! If it is not about Islam, then why is everyone talking about it? This stresses the fact that she mislead everyone. And you know what, she has lost so many followers for it. It seems like she is shia or a hypocrite who want to have this big negative impact.. as she states at the end of her speech that the bigger the impact she has she measures her success. Her motives are clear..

    • bigstick1

      Actually I don’t see the impact at all. Miriam is the one that set the stage of this blog and of course my reblog on my site as well since she want to ensure I understood fully as well. So what I see is people making a mountain out of a ant hill.

      What most of you fail to see is that Driving is an issue that has been held up in Saudi as a religious factor. Now that is an unbelievable stretch on Islam, but more indictative of Society Society. As I recall, there was a study also by the religious and government that stated driving would take women’s viriginity away.

      Next, to all words like Islamophobia will not work on many people as they see it for what it worth. That is to cow people out of taking about the evolution of religion as well as human rights violations.

      • MW

        “As I recall, there was a study also by the religious and government that stated driving would take women’s viriginity away”
        So after a woman has lost her viginity, what is the reason they can’t drive. You can only lose it once. I wonder how long the study was and who was involved in it. If no woman can do anything without a male’s consent, I wonder who was studied???

  24. Denying the undeniable is not only an insult to one’s credibility, objectivity and self-confidence, but an admission of one’s failure to rectify what he/she knows needs fixing.
    In the environment in which most Saudi natives (including this one at one point in his denigrating past) are born into, raised and educated in glorifies lies, deception and emphasize fear of divine’s wrath and ruler’s reprisal.

    It also blames religions and gods for man’s faults and short comings. Those who revoke religion to justify oppression, discrimination, corruption, segregation and women for their unwillingness to stand up for their human and natural rights are relegating themselves to the archives of backwardness, humiliation and self-worthlessness.

    Instead of supporting the courageous, educated, elegant, eloquent and magnanimous Manal Al-Sharifs of Arabia, her critics resort to the only thing they can be praised and rewarded for by their government and society: Deny the undeniable, gross violation of basic human rights in the motherland.

    Regardless of and despite what the merchants of darkness and backwardness say or do, change is unstoppable and Saudi women are leading the way. Why not joining the wining team?

    • Thank you Ali Alyami! You have restored my faith in the abilities of some Saudi Arabians on this blog to be honest and state the fact as they see them, namely that they live in a theocracy, with the Wahhabi Ayatallahs calling the shots and the Royal/political establishment believing they are in the driver’s seat, pun intended. The government side of the coin appears to be continually trimming its sails to fit the constricting parameters allowed by the religious side of the coin, for they are two halves of on inter-connected, inter-dependent system that has long dominated Saudi Arabia.
      Due to the bigotry and intolerance that hover in some of the foregoing comments I have refrained from adding my perspectives. Your interjection opens up a space for me to say you have written everything I have been thinking as I watch the posts following SaudiWoman’s excellent summary of general Saudi reaction to Manal Al Sharif’s historic speech in Oslo. How am I reacting to these posts? Let me count the ways. “Stone walls do not a prison make, nor iron bars a cage,” (Richard Lovelace) immediately springs to mind when I read of how some appear to embrace the very system that oppresses them to the extent that they are accorded second-class status in Saudi society, condemned by the infantilizing policies under which they exist. This is closely followed by “Pavlovian reaction”/”Stockholm Syndrome,” knee-jerk springing to the defense of, and love for the system that disrespects, segregates, subjugates, silences and secretes (hides)Saudi women.
      Quite a few posts demonstrate a willed ignorance as well as a stubborn refusal to face the facts of life as they exist in Saudi Arabia. Just two irrefutable facts explain how Manal AlSharif came to world attention. First: She drove a short distance in a car, was arrested and spent some days in jail because it is against the law for women to drive in the country. This ride received international acclaim. Second: The committee that awarded the Vaclav Havel prize to Ms. Al Sharif did so to recognize her revolutionary act, and to accord her a platform on which to speak, knowing that this was and is not available to her at home.
      These two facts alone, the ban on women driving, and the denial of the right to free speech point to serious deficiencies in overall human rights in Saudi Arabia. These are fundamental issues that affect the lives of every citizen, because, by denying women the right to drive, there has to be a system of importing foreign drivers where male family members are not available, or are unwilling to be chauffeurs, placing huge burdens on women who want to pursue careers and contribute to the advancement of their families and society as a whole. This presupposes that all women or their families are economically able to afford a car, let alone a driver. And, is it not the ultimate irony that in Saudi Arabia, one of the largest oil-producers in the world, half of its population is condemned to not being allowed to drive? The inability or unwillingness of Saudi society to call this what it is, a ridiculous, medieval way of thinking, perpetuates the oppression. Burying collective heads in the sands of Arabia will not make the problems go away.
      Here we have a blog that Saudiwoman provides so that the issues can be discussed that, like it or not, define Saudi Arabia before the world. Do not delude yourselves nay-sayers, the Kingdom’s appaling record on human rights has been known around the world and pre-dates by many decades Manal’s Oslo speech. Saudiwoman is a vauluable arena particularly when critical “Letters to the Editor” are probably not encouraged or allowed in Saudi newspapers. But is it being used as a forum to express ideas, find common ground and possible solutions for the dead-end situation in which Saudi Arabia finds itself? Judging from the ad hominem attacks, bigoted, dismissive, disrespectful, holier than thou, intolerant and judgemental comments that try to drown out the concerned, honest, sensible and thoughtful posters, I regretfully say no, there are too many with a “shoot the messenger” approach. They should not be allowed to have the last word. Thank you Ali Alyami for showing that there is at least one principled Saudi male who stands up for Manal Al Sharif. How regrettable that there are not more of her sisters to show similar solidarity and courage. The anger and outrage of nay-sayers is mis-directed. They are forming a circle and firing inwards, at themselves, instead of supporting Manal and other brave women who do want to begin the process that will lead to women taking their rightful place as full citizens of a beautiful country, albeit one blighted by reactionary and opressive leadership. Bravissima Manal, I am proud to stand with you. Never be discouraged, Rome was not built in a day. To paraphrase another momentous odyssey “one short drive for women, one giant drive towards human rights for all Saudi Arabians.”



    • Normal? “Those who choose to look normal”? Explain please, what do you mean by that sentence? Thank you.

      • pamberi.

        Thank you for your kind word and for asking for clarification for the above huriedly written and posted blurb. It was in response to some of the comments that gave the impression that Saudi women chose to be buried under layers of suffocating black as depicted by the picture for which a link was attached.

        Said women are forced into camouflaging themselves in disfiguring black garment. That’s the only choice they have and those who don’t comply receive official, and public contempt.

        You are a gifted writer.

  26. KC

    The reason that we in the West do not understand Saudi women is that so few have the courage of Manal to tell her own, personal, story. Just as there is no ‘typical’ Saudi or Muslim woman, there is no typical person of any gender, religion, or culture, anywhere. Manal represents herself in her own truth. I believe that every person has an important story. Until we hear more personal stories, we will not understand each other and have peace.

    • I could not disagree more with the above comment. Manal’s story is emblematic of Saudi women’s maltreatment by a system that insists that human evolution is a western (and Zionist) conspiracy designed to destroy Islam and Muslims. Women’s total submission to men and by extension everyone’s submission strengthens the ruling men’s total control over society.

      • KC

        Ali, I actually agree with what you’ve just written here. I was attempting to say that Manal is being criticized by some here for actually telling her OWN story. I agree there is a systemic problem, boy do I agree. I was only trying to say that every time a Saudi woman speaks, why does she have to represent an entire civilisation? Can’t she just tell her own story. That very idea is revolutionary and quite incindiary, that women should actually speak up for themselves as individuals (and not perfect examples of ‘womanhood’) without causing a firestorm. Every person and that includes every woman, has the right to tell her story. We of the world need to listen or we will never find the truth.

      • Thank you again Mr. Ali Alyami. I think KC is missing the point. The very fact that the committee that awarded to Manal Al Sherif the Vaclav Havel prize for (I paraphrase) Imaginative Protest is an indictment of the Saudi system that made such a “protest” necessary in the first place. If Saudi women were allowed to drive, Manal would not have felt she had to take the action that instantly became known around the world. Given the conditions under which Saudi women are forced to live, Manal’s speech was remarkable for its restraint. She did not have to overtly proclaim that she was speaking for all Saudi women, her very presence in Oslo reminded everyone that here, before them, was one woman who had decided she was no longer prepared to accept and live under the status quo. Even if Manal had not opened her mouth, her very presence in Oslo and the reason that precipitated it, were a rebuke to the Saudi government. It is their problem, and the problem of all those who condemn Manal on this blog. If they were and are still embarrassed, they should be.

  27. Mr. Ali Alyami,
    Thank you for your reply. It is good to have a Saudi man agree with what I learned very recently, namely, a search of the data-base for the Holy Koran (by a Syrian Muslim friend) found nothing that mandates that women wear shrouds. Women are, to use your word, “forced” by tradition, culture, custom and practice to don pieces of cloth. Reading over the comments as you too have done, it is clear that considerable pressure to continue to do this comes from other women. It makes no economic sense for one half ot the population to be prevented by the other half from taking their rightful, productive places in society. What is particularly shocking is that Saudi women want to do something that in the rest of the world is considered not only normal, but necessary, drive a car.
    In advanced societies the majority of women work to support themselves and/or their families. This is not to say that “advanced” societies are perfect, look at the economic crises in Europe to see that they are not. This is not to say that women’s lives are without problems. With independence comes responsibility, that is, the responsibility to deal with issues that arise AFTER one has availed of one’s right to decide what course of studies to undertake, what career to embark on,where to live, when or who to marry,and, if a marriage is abusive or otherwise not conducive to mutually beneficial lives, to have the courage to institute divorce proceedings, True independence demands that one take full responsibility for the consequences of one’s actions.
    It would appear to me that Saudi girls are conditioned, if you will pardon the expression, “dumbed down” into accepting that they are not capable of thinking for themselves, that they must leave everything to Daddy. I am sure you have seen pictures of the bound feet that Chinese girls and women were once forced to bear in order to prevent them from moving about on their own. Substitute feet for minds, and voila, we have what is being done to Saudi girls. Their minds are being bound, formed – or should that be deformed – into accepting that what they think or want does not matter. They must cede to their fathers all contol over their lives, who cares what dreams and aspirations are shatteredd in the process. All that matters in conformity. The suffocating fear of what others might think appears to be a powerful brake on anyone stepping out of line in Saudi Arabia, and reminds me of fussy mothers in Ireland who hectored their children to behave, with comments such as “whatever will the neighbours say” if Mary or Aidan persisted in a particular behaviour pattern. Yes, it is all around us, the tyrannical obsession of those who slavishly conform, imposing their will, and sometimes might, over those who long for originality, daring, and yes, freedom.
    Again, I must applaud Manal Al Sharif for saying,in effect, “I’m mad as hell and I am not going to take it anymore,” and thank you again to Saudiwoman for keeping her daring dash for freedom alive in the public consciousness. You are a pretty gifted writer yourself Mr. Ali Alyami, keep your posts coming!

  28. Greetings to Miss Noor Almarzouq and Mr. Ali Alyami,
    Just to let you know that “Pamberi” is a word from the Shona tribe in Zimbabwe, were I worked. “Pamberi ne madzi mai” means – wait for it –

  29. Thank you for the info. I was in Zimbabwe many years ago and keep thinking of the people I met and places I visited.

    I was invited to an international forum human rights in Barcelona in June 2011.
    Mr. Morgan Tsvangirai was the keynote speaker. I had a chance to converse with him about Zimbabwe and thought that he was guardedly optimistic about his country’s future. Small world.

  30. therese rickman-bull

    Mr. Ali Alyami, What a delightful coincidence that you should know Zimbabwe. I am fascinated that you are involved in human rights, good for you. With all the bad guys around it looks as though you will be kept busy for years to come. We (my husband and I) are broken-hearted about what has happened in Zim. What else can MT say, he has to put the best face he can on a very unsettled situation. There could be major trouble re the succession to Robert Mugabe. Democracy only goes so far, where RM is concerned, it does not seem to enter his head that his party should freely elect the next leader. We watch and hope…….

  31. 10 Brave Saudi Women defy all odds

    On May 7, 2012 ten brave Saudi women embarked upon a journey to climb Mount Everest to draw attention to Saudi women’s number one killer, cancer. This noble event attests to what determined people can do regardless of gender. In other countries, this event would have been seen for what it is: a humane undertaking to mobilize people to fight a deadly disease that has no borders.

    However, the fact that this journey was planned and carried out by Saudi women says more than a magnanimous mission to do what’s right. The fact that this challenging undertaking was achieved by Saudi women speaks volumes. In their homeland, Saudi women face more institutionalized discrimination than women anywhere in the world. Prominent among the many restrictions and discriminatory polices is the male guardian system. Saudi women, regardless of status, cannot travel without being accompanied by a male relative or written permission from a male relative.

    Saudi women are the only people in the world who are prevented from driving, practicing sports in their schools, participating in international activities or marrying whom they want. These are only a few examples of the forbidding and denigrating male-made and -imposed policies on Saudi women.

    Despite the Saudi regime’s social, political, economic and religious policies directed against Saudi women, many women are slowly taking charge of their lives and livelihood. They are rebelling against the Saudi male-controlled institutions, demanding their full citizenship and all it entails.

    Before and during the establishment of Islam and in its early stages in the 6th and 7th centuries, women played major roles including leading tribesmen on battle fields. Even in the 1940s, 50s and 60s, women worked in fields, herded livestock and took on men’s roles if they became single parents.

    Most Saudi women have been living under debilitating cancer-like social conditions for many centuries; yet they are not only surviving, but determined to beat all odds, including physically lethal diseases like cancer. By actions such as climbing Mount Everest, Saudi women have demonstrated that they are capable, intelligent and resolute to break the chains of oppression, defy neglect and reject being relegated to non-citizens status.

    While these ten brave Saudi women are in a position to plan and carry out a noble mission, the overwhelming majority of Saudi women are underprivileged, oppressed and financially dependent. However, no one, especially the theocratic and autocratic sword brandishing men, should continue to assume that the Saudi women of today are going to accept anything less than their full rights.

    After these brave Saudi women return safely and triumphantly, they can organize a One Million Women’s March to draw attention to a deadlier man-made disease, the relegation of Saudi women to noncitizen (nonhuman) status. The march’s main banner should read something like this: MOVE OVER, WE ARE HERE.

    Some of the princesses like Adela Bint Abdullah, Ameerah Al-Taweel, Lolo Al-Faisal, Basma Bint Saud and others who travel the world seeking pleasures and appearing on Western platforms and media to depict their royal family as saviors can easily squeeze $ 50 million from their meager incomes to get the march started.

    • Therese Rickman-Bull

      Wow! Aly Alyami, a brilliant post. You are to be commended for equating cancer and its terrible repercussions on the body, with the oppressive Saudi system that sucks the life and vitality out of women by terrorizing them into accepting that to step out from the conforming mass of the majority of their sisters, is un-Islamic, unpatriotic and, what a horror, immoral and immodest. I will donate when that One Million Women’s March is organized, please keep me informed.

  32. That Dude

    Listen, Mana is stupid. Why is she not horrified by all the babies being killed by the NATO forces in Afganistan.

    • MW

      The only place I have heard of babies being killed is in Syria. Are you sure of your facts because I don’t think that NATO would go and kill babies. They are there to protect citizens, aren’t they?

      • Mr. Ali Alyami, you have done it again, pointed out that Mrs. Manal Al Sherif was the victim of an almost systematic hatchet job necause she did two things. She drove a car a short distance, was arrested and spent some days in jail. The speed with which her “freedom ride” was disseminated around the world resulted in her being awarded the Vaclav Havel Prize as well as an invitation to speak at the presentation in Oslo. “How dare she,” runs the refrain in so many posts, no “modest” Saudi woman should appear in public without a male guardian in tow, is the under-lying theme in others. Over all is the belief that Mrs. Al Sherif incited Islamophobia, the sub-text being that unless a woman keeps her head down figuratively speaking, and garbs herself in black, she can be accused of giving comfort to those who want to believe badly of Islam in particular and Muslims in general, not to mention the mortal sin of immodesty.
        If we combine this blog about Manal al Sherif with another by Saudiwoman entitled “The immodesty of nail-polish” we will find the same paranoid reactions to a particularly spirited Saudi woman, bless her, who confronted the vice and virtue goon who harrassed her for sporting polish on her nails, courageously telling him she was filming the encounter on her cell-phone. What is in the water these two women are drinking to make them so “bold,” so immune to the idea that they are racking up more bad marks against Islam? This is not to be tolerated as far as all the reactionary, head-in-the-sand types go.
        Switch countries, travel with me to Ireland. Read my response to Mrs. Miriam Alkubaidi on the “nail-polish” blog. She tried to tell me that because her Irish grand-mother wore a head-scarf tied under her chin, and went to daily Mass that she was modesty personnified a la Saudi Arabia. I pointed out that such head-scarves were almost a uniform for elderly women in the decades after WW 11. While many elderly people did indeed go to daily Mass in addition to the one required on Sundays, such practices should not tbe taken at face value. Behind the veneer of religiosity horrific secrets were hidden. For decades, children in Ireland’s gulags, reformatories and industrial schools, were raped and sexually abused by some of the priests, nuns, brothers and non-religious staff of the institutions. When revelations finally started surfacing in the 1990s, the “whistle-blowers” were almost universally condemned for trying to incite anti-Catholic hysteria, laughable in a country that is predominantly Catholic. Parents who persisted with their accusations were intimidated and silenced by priests intent on protecting their brother priests and the “reputation” of the church. Parents could also be subjected to priest-generated ” shunning” by their communities. Ireland was a poor country until about 30 years ago, the majority of the population was marginally educated, and thus easy prey for the dictatorial influence of the priests in their lives. People were conditioned to be subservient and deferential, to bow the knee and obey their priests. Any stepping out of line was immeditately quashed on the grounds that to break solidarity with the whole was to to give comfort to those who were alway watching to find something disreputable to mar the image of the church. A priest-ridden society in Ireland and one in Saudi Arabia dominated by the Wahhabi religious establishment are not so different. In both countries (though to lesser degrees now in Ireland) people are intimidated into conformity by the priests/Mullahs/Imams and by peer pressure from their neighbours and friends.
        There are likely still some in Ireland who are embarrassed that the cascading revelations, Official Reports, denials and obfuscation by church authorities have received such wide publicity. They, and those in Saudi Arabia who condemn two marvellous young women for performing simple acts of bravery, are missing the point that they are giving comfort to the oppressors, the priests and church hierarchy in ireland, the Wahhabis in Saudi Arabia. As an outsider and non-Muslim, I trust I may please be allowed to say that the fundamental problem in the Kingdom, as I see it, is that the Royal/government establishment believe they receive their legitimacy only from the Wahhabi leaders rather than from the people of Saudi Arabia. Unwittingly or not, the Saudi people have allowed themselves to become so brain-washed that they will believe anything told to them by men who persistently and some would say, cynically distort and subvert the wisdom and mercy of the Prophet’s teachings. I have witnessed little or no mercy in the posts about MIss Al Sherif and the spirited “nail-polish girl.” This is not a negative reflection on these two women, but it says a great deal about their critics in Saudi society.

      • Dear Therese,
        I am unable to find your comment on the blog in reply to mine, but I can see here that you gave a summary to what you wish to say- many thanks.
        I did not ‘try to tell you’, I told you what ‘I know’, and experienced. Needless to say, I know my grandmother more than you. I spoke about my family, and did not put it into a historical context and generalized to all Irish people as you took the time to do so. It was fine and justified when Manal spoke from her experience- he supporters including yourself – may say that she spoke from the heart. Then, please explain to me why is it when someone else speaks about their experience it is criticized? Is it because you wish you disagree, and therefore you tell me I am wrong? It seems what works with us, is ok, and what works against us, is not. This is very biased and unfair when you encounter someone with a different opinion to your own. Be fair when it is due.
        My reply to you was an honest friendly encounter, but I guess my honesty was taken in another way, which is sad to be honest. Exchange of opinions and matters such as these is to understand one another rather than ridiculing. My Nana wore her headscarf as a sign of modesty even though it was a custom. By me pointing out the advantages of the church had on my grandmother, does not mean I praise whole-heartedly the Catholic Church. I am a Muslim first and foremost, but my belief in Islam is not one by which I ridicule all other religions just because it is different from my own. The Prophet (peace be upon him) told his people to go to the Ansarie (Christian Priest) as he was a fair and just man. Islam has taught me to tell the truth when as I see it, and not fabricate it to suits me.
        I don’t know how the horrific stories of the church has got to do with Manal or the silly incident of nail polish so-called scandal, but only to mock yet another religious institution. If that is the case, then all laws can be disdained. Leaving us with a question, who is to say what is humane or not? What human has the right to say what is and what is not wrong?
        It is very barbaric what the priests did to those poor children who were entrusted in their care. One the bright side as you mentioned, it is has been surfaced though not all have yet come forward, but at least it is brought to their attention and are dealing with it.
        I can say as a Muslim and Saudi that not all Saudies are brainwashed. Just because people disagree with a speech does not mean that they are brainwashed! That is an easy answer to fight the comments and outrage of some by simply stating that they are merely brainwashed. This is undermining Saudi people who have a different opinion to yours. Not everyone is black or white, with Manal or against her. It is not the case that Saudies are either liberal or so-called Wahhabi conservatives, or against or with the government. To be so, would make us very narrow minded. Life would be a lot easier if things were so clear-cut.
        Many religious sects in Saudi hate the government because their beliefs are different from their own. There are some who require freedoms of the west even though it contradicts with the teachings of Islam, while others want the freedoms and rights that Islam has granted them. Others do not care about Islam at all, and wish that Saudi Arabia was stripped from any religion all together. We cannot all be painted with the same stroke. The more angry each group gets, the more it pulls everyone apart and change for the better will be – as it is now- at a snail pace. There is so much prejudice and anger that we are unable to listen to one another. Every comment or observation is taken in an argumentative manner, even constructive ones. This blog is a perfect example of that.
        Manal’s supporters as well as Manal’s critics both have demonstrated how rude and biased each group is by using vulgar language through different medias to support their views. This is a reflection of how divided some Saudies are, and how unaccepting they are of each other’s views.
        The silly incident of ‘nail polish’, and a speech made by Saudi girl are excessive and wasteful attention to what really needs to be spoken and remedied in the Saudi society, such as under aged marriages, children and women’s abuse lack of laws, the rights of widowers, elderly, and divorcees. Where is the compassion for these cases? Why is this not the centre issues of the media? Where is the humanity in the Saudi people, and women in this particular case? Everyone has their priorities, but certainly, mine do not either rest on Manal’s speech, nor on a ‘nail polish’ incident.
        Many thanks to you Therese in taking the time to read my comment on the subject.
        All the best to you

    • Why is this question even ask? Don’t you know why she do the talk in the vid? Is it she’s trying to compare what scene is more traumatic? DOES SHE HAS TO LIST DOWN EVERYTHING THAT IS MORE HORRIFYING NEXT TIME??

  33. What does the above comment have to do with the topic Ms. Al Sharif was asked to address? Why are most Saudis and other Muslims and Arabs respondents to Ms. Al Sharif’s eloquent and factual presentation negative and defensive?

    I listened to her speech very attentively and did not hear her insulting Islam, Muslims or their stagnant cultures. She did not fabricate facts either. So what did she say or do that merits all the unkind, uncivilized and unjustified attacks?

    One may not like the message, but that does not make the messenger less credible, intelligent and caring person. The truth sucks and is a bitter pill to swallow for all of us.

    My question to the ones who are quick to attack and act defensively is: What did Ms. Al Sharif say that was not true or cannot be substantiated?

    Wouldn’t she be better off had she shut her mouth, marry a rich Saudi, make lots of money, buy expensive home and import poverty stricken Asian cheap laborer maids and drivers to serve her?

    Wouldn’t she be better off to have kept her lucrative employment with my former employer, Aramco, and forget about those whose basic rights are mostly denied and grossly violated?

    Fame seekers are not those who risk everything to promote equality and justice; it’s those who use public wealth to bribe and buy people to ensure their loyalties and total submission.

    It’s in the best interest if all Saudis, rulers and ruled (not governors and governed) to change the course and embrace tolerance and freedom of expression regardless of how uncomfortable or gore the ideas expressed are.

    Those who continue to oppose progress and individual liberty are on the wrong side of history and at the end, they will lose. History is repleted with vivid examples.

  34. The International Olympic Committee, IOC, Supports Apartheid

    CDHR’s Commentary: Despite a global outcry against the Saudi government’s persistent discriminatory policy which bars Saudi women from taking part in the Olympic Games, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) executive board failed to enforce its rule which unequivocally states that “any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, sex or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement.” In reality, the IOC’s failure to enforce its anti-discrimination mandate demonstrates its tacit approval of the Saudi government’s apartheid system.

    The Saudi government’s policy of denying Saudi women the right to participate in the Olympic Games is antithetical to the intent of this supposedly inclusive sports activity. Why is the IOC unwilling to bar the Saudi delegation from participating in the Games if women are not included?

    Saudi Arabia is becoming increasingly a global outcast because of its subjugation of women. In addition to being the only country in the world where women are banned from driving, it’s now the only country where women are forbidden from participating in Olympic sports. The Saudi government can be convinced to reconsider its pre-modern thinking, policies and condescending perception of women and their abilities to compete in any sport arena. The committee has the power to give the Saudi government an ultimatum: Either include women in your delegation or you are disqualified for violating Olympic rules.

  35. therese rickman-bull

    Miriam, thank you for you long and thoughtful reply. I am travelling at the moment and cannot concentrate enough to give it the attention it deserves. Will do so as soon as possible and get back to you,
    Until then,
    Cordially, t

  36. Miriam, I trust I may call you that, my very first comment on any Saudi blog was the one dealing with the “nail-polish” incident, and was a direct response to Nicole. I drew a comparison between an Irish nun’s placing the blame only on Monica Lewinsky for the sex scandal with President Bill Clinton. The statement of this nun, Sister Margaret, arose out of the long-standing Irish belief that girls and women were, are or could be “occasions of sin.” My initial comment made the point that the nun’s belief is an Irish version of an attitude that is prevalent in Saudi Arabia, where there is enormous pressure on Saudi girls and women to be “modest,” presumably because not to be “modest” is seen as being enticing or provocative to men. Irish females are described as “occasions of sin” while their Saudi sisters are ordered/persuaded to cover up lest they tempt, even unintentionally, weak males who cannot be depended on to control themselves. In both places, the onus is on women to protect men from their baser instincts. The sub-text here appears to be that if a man steps out of line, the woman in the case must be to blame. It seems as though men in Saudi Arabia need to be treated like perpetual children against whose depredations chocolates and other treats have to be kept out of sight. Moreover, the virtue and vice patrols roam through public spaces checking that women are properly covered and not wearing nail-polish. I did not have to make this up, it actually happened.
    This post is merely to go back to square one to trace the line of when I became involved, what I said, on what subject. Please note I made no disparaging or disrespectful comments then or now about Islam or Muslims. On the other hand, I have every right to speak up if I am less than pleased with Catholic priests or bishops, if their actions or lack thereof cause harm or bring disrepute on the religion itself, though I am more concerned with the former than the latter. I still need to study your long message received this morning. It is detailed and I want to be sure I do not miss any point you raised. Until the next time,

    • Hi Therese,
      Thank you for the compliments on my reply though it was a quick response as I am in the middle of research and have a family. I do wish it was better thought out, but thanks all the same.
      Just to note I did not imply you made anything up, or made any disrespectful comments about any religion. I just wanted to give my personal input on some of the points you brought up. Everyone has the right to say what they want, and in no way did I imply that you had no right to say what you wish to say. You have the right to disagree with me. I simply wanted to put my stamp on things. I do not intend to get into a debatable discussion of several replies back and forward. I think debates are more beneficial done orally than in writing as this process can be endless. However, I will enjoy reading your replies to my comment and thank you for taking it seriously. I do genuinely appreciate it.

      • Dear Miriam, I should have said some time ago that I love the fact that you called your grand-mother Nana. My mother wished to be called that when the first grand-child came along, unfortunately my daughter’s husband’s mother had already laid claim to it. Forgive any clumsy sentence construction that may have implied that I lumped your grand-mother in with those in Ireland who knew of the abuse of children but did nothing. The majority of Irish people did not know, my parents did not, and I am sure neither did your grand-mother.
        I trust, as you peruse my posts on these two blogs about Manal al-Sharif and “Nail-polish girl” that you will understand why I am passionate about drawing attention to the fact that just as Ireland was completely dominated by and subservient to Catholic priests, nuns bishops and arch-bishops, so too are Saudi Arabians intimidated into obeying every dictate of the Wahhabi clerics. Please note I am not disrespecting Catholicism or Islam as religions. Their founders, Jesus and Mohammed, were wise, merciful and just men. The problems arose and continue to arise when later interpreters of Their messages have superimposed their views onto the original teachings, not uncoincidentally, apportioning more and more power and influence to themselves as they have whittled away at the rights of the followers of two of the world’s great religions.
        In Ireland, the priest’s word was law, nuns worked to ensure that they moulded Ireland’s girls to be good little wives and mothers. In Saudi Arabia, the lives of girls and women are circumscribed, not by the Holy Prophet but by narrow-minded nit-pickers and their vice and virtue goons who purport to be acting in His name. In both countries a stultifying, stupifying fixation with, and bans agains sex define the narrative. In both countries, women are mandated to carry the burden for maintaining the national “purityl” Saudi Arabian women have imbibed with their mothers’ milk the terror of being perceived as “immodest.” and willingly straight-jacket their thinking and their apparel in order to conform. As the poet Richard Lovelace wrote “stone walls do not a prison make nor iron bars a cage.”
        I have dwelt at some detail on the awful things that happened to Irish children because of priestly power and the unwillingness of those who could call a halt, to do so. The outward strictures on girls and women in Ireland were not so severe, but the psychological damage caused by repression on generations of females are no less severe there than they are in Saudi Arabia, underlining of course that Ireland is a democracy and women do have civil rights. The terror of being thought immodest is a powerful disincentive for Saudi Arabian women who fear the Wahhabis, the virture and vice police, often their own families, and peer pressure.
        Just as I support Manal al-Sharif, and “Nail-polish Girl” to assert themselves as free, independent women, I pray that you will, in time come to realize that their fight is also yours. Right now, it is disconcerting to note that so many disagree with what you write. You are a powerful communicator Miriam, perhaps it is your Irish blood that makes you so passionate, and perhaps it is time now to put your superior writing skills at the disposal of your Saudi sisters. Millions of Saudi girls and women have no voices, no champions, no wise women who will defend their rights to self-determination, to be equal citizens under the law in the land of their birth, to be encouraged to take part im the process of building a more humane, more tolerant, more inclusive and more just society. I urge you to think about this Miriam, to be an advocate for girls and women against the suffocating influence of mis-guided, reactionary clerics, their patrons and enablers in the Royal/government establishment and by men who will find it difficult to give up the only power they have, their power over the women in their families. Now is your chance to write a brave chapter in your story into the larger story of Saudi Arabia. Go for it! It is far better to be part of a change movement than to be swept aside when it finally comes to Saudi Arabia.

      • Thank you for such a warm-hearted reply. I could not help but to write back to you. You are right in saying that there are so many Saudi girls and women who do not have a voice and indeed, it is disgraceful element of our society. Having said that, in comparison to the past many issues are brought forward in newspapers and so on, which is a positive move. Constructive actions are in waiting to be followed.

        I am not concerned with people disagreeing with me on the little pieces of writing I have written here in this blog. It is obvious that the readers are advocates for the two people you mentioned, and therefore any criticism will be taken against me. I do not stand for women who are sending out messages I disagree with. I am all for free independent women, but I disagree with the way by which these women are going about it. I do not agree with the majority of elements brought up in Manal’s speech, or what she stands for- not only in her speech but in the messages she spreads. Driving in Saudi, I am all for it. Equal rights, again I am all for it, but I want to gain the rights I am entitled to without losing sight of who I am and what I believe in. In my circle of friends, there are some who support Manal even though they disagree with what she puts out there, but is only granted support because she is talking about women in Saudi. I am not like that. That is my individuality. I do not believe that the ends justifies the means.

        The problem like I mentioned earlier, instead of opening the gates of discussion and actually listening why we disagree with one another, it is taken personal narrowing their minds to insist they are right when at the end of the day, we all want the same thing ‘our rights as women’! When someone disagrees, it is taken as either as women or men being jealously or is barked at questioning where have they been all this time, claiming that they do have right to criticize or speak. They claim that women who disagree love their golden jail, love their chains, etc.The same so-called liberals cannot listen. It is a real shame Therese, and I do not believe that change will be brought about from the outside pressures from western countries as they assume and thrive on. Change will come from the Saudi people themselves, and as long as the people are apart,change is a long time running.

        You reminded me of my mother who always encourages me to write. In fact, she recently said I should stand on a cardboard box with my microphone to let it all out! (I was carried away talking about one of the issues in Saudi at the time and was really emotional)
        I too pray for my Saudi sisters who I personally know who have been abused as adults, for those who are neither married or divorced and left ‘hanging’ at the mercy of their proclaimed husbands, and I pray for our Saudi children who are abused are suffocated by their abusers.

        Writing is a powerful tool and gains much publicity not only for what is written but the actual writers too. You can say I am working behind the scenes as people need me to be next to them rather than shouting into a large vast space.I do not need to be in the public eye to be part of change.

        Thank you for your kind words. I wish I could write like this in Arabic as I am not as fluent as I wish to be in Arabic writing to address Saudi women.

        For what it is worth, I will take your advice on board.

  37. The International Olympic Committee, IOC, Supports Apartheid

    CDHR’s Commentary: Despite a global outcry against the Saudi government’s persistent discriminatory policy which bars Saudi women from taking part in the Olympic Games, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) executive board failed to enforce its rule which unequivocally states that “any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, sex or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement.” In reality, the IOC’s failure to enforce its anti-discrimination mandate demonstrates its tacit approval of the Saudi government’s apartheid system.

    The Saudi government’s policy of denying Saudi women the right to participate in the Olympic Games is antithetical to the intent of this supposedly inclusive sports activity. Why is the IOC unwilling to bar the Saudi delegation from participating in the Games if women are not included?

    Saudi Arabia is becoming increasingly a global outcast because of its subjugation of women. In addition to being the only country in the world where women are banned from driving, it’s now the only country where women are forbidden from participating in Olympic sports. The Saudi government can be convinced to reconsider its pre-modern thinking, policies and condescending perception of women and their abilities to compete in any sport arena. The committee has the power to give the Saudi government an ultimatum: Either include women in your delegation or you are disqualified for violating Olympic rules.

  38. Ismael

    Salaam Aleikum.

    Manal clearly has nifaq. May Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) guide her.

  39. I was pretty pleased to discover this site. I need to to
    thank you for ones time due to this fantastic read!

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  40. Intolerance of free expression of one’s opinion is intrinsic in the socialization process in the motherland. Discussions and debates at home are always horizontal. Fathers cannot be told that they are wrong or have made a mistakes or accept their children’s choices if they don’t fit in the paradigm of the social and cultural preordained behavior (submission) of children, especially women. To hear someone like Ms. Manal Al-Sharif and other courageous Saudi women speak up and point out the multitude of social and political illnesses in Saudi society is considered threat to the state’s security and stability. If you want to learn more about this, please listen to the Saudi Mufti speech in Mecca last week. He considers freedom of expression un-Islamic and promoters of such “decadent and dangerous values” must be silenced by all means available. There you have it.

  41. I will never understand people who oppose the power of stories in fighting for rights, or in any other public speaking setting. Do you remember how our prophet (pbuh) preached? He told stories. For you extremist out there, how do you get affected by your beloved “Meshaikha”? When they tell stories, you all break into tears claiming to be touched and inspired by these stories. On the same note, Manal Al Sharif was courageous enough to stand up in front of a vast audience and speak about her own story. If you think that she did not mention anything of great importance by her story, you’re wrong. It is a fact that people, being mostly driven by emotions, are affected the most with personal stories as such. Thus, when Manal shared her story, she delivered a stronger argument than any other technical\statistical presentation.
    In response to Hana Al Hakeem’s rant, which I did not read but got the gest of it from the quote mentioned above, unless you reveal so called “Dirty Laundry” you are going nowhere. Think about it, without the media exposure, how would you get your message crossed? It doesn’t matter whether it’s local or international exposure, matter of a fact, Manal’s Oslo speech gathered more attention that her “local” interviews on TV. So here you have it, revealing our problems as a Saudi community does not put us in a place of less power, it actually strengthen our country because our voices as citizen got heard!
    There is a lot I want to add and discuss, but unfortunately, my time does not allow me to do so.
    Thank you, writer, for posting this and sorry if my comment did not make any sense, since I didn’t go through all the points I wanted to mention.

  42. KC

    Nora, you make perfect sense to me. Thank you for posting and expressing your views.

  43. M Wallace

    SBA 7a Term Loans – What does this have to do with Manal’s speech???

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  54. If This Is Not Ludicrous, What is?
    CDHR’s Commentary: “Saudi Arabia has failed {again} to include a single female athlete in its 199-strong team for the upcoming Asian Games in South Korea, saying its women are not sufficiently competitive.” How can Saudi women be competitive to do anything if they are denied everything that allows them to compete, especially in sports which they are not allowed to practice in their segregated and unequal schools, let alone in public? It’s reported that the head of the Saudi Olympic Committee, PRINCE Abdullah bin Musaed bin Abdulaziz “rejected sending women to only participate, he wanted them to compete.”
    We agree with the PRINCE that Saudi women must be competing not only in domestic, regional and global sports, but in social, political, economic and religious activities. The question is how can they as long the PRINCE, his ruling family and their zealous power-base, the religious establishment, deny them their basic human and natural rights even to drive a car which is one of modernity’s absolute necessities? The religious establishment and its royal handlers “warned that allowing women to drive would” ‘provoke a surge in prostitution, pornography, homosexuality and divorce.’ The PRINCE ought to know that, unless Saudi women are allowed to participate, they cannot compete. This is embryonic logic, but then, contradictory and unrealistic people don’t think logically.
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