Category Archives: Regional and International

Prominent Saudis: Rania Al Baz

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Rania Al Baz might be a prominent Saudi but is far from liked by Saudis. She used to work as a presenter on the Saudi national channel. In April 2004 she was seriously beaten up by her husband. After a photo of the aftermath was published in local media, sympathy came pouring in. Her hospital bill was taken care of by a member of the royal family. Her husband was duly punished and she was granted custody of her two sons. She also has a daughter from a previous marriage. There were people who raised doubts about why her husband got that angry in the first place. There were even rumors that she was on the phone flirting with another man when her husband came in. Lucky for Rania, the husband lost a lot of his credibility when he shot at his sister in Egypt and then kidnapped her in Lebanon for singing. This is a video of an interview that the couple did on an MBC program soon after the beating.

 Rania made a full recovery. She then was given jobs on Al Arabiya and then on the Lebanese channel Future TV. She lost some of her Saudi backing and fans when she decided to appear publicly without a headscarf. But generally she was on the right track up until her Oprah interview.  On that show Oprah interviewed women from all over the world, all of them positive representatives of their countries except for Rania. Everyone back here was justifiably offended. Why couldn’t they have chosen someone else; Mona Abu Sulieman, Dr. Salwa Al Hazza, Lubna Olayan, Dr. Maha Al-Mounif, Rusha Al Hoshan…etc. It’s like bringing in Natascha Kampusch to represent all Austrian women. Anyway if you want a complete rant on the topic, read this post.

If Rania had condemned the Oprah episode, then she could have gained back a little of what was lost. Even the journalist who arranged the interview was unhappy about how it was edited. Rania on the other hand issued a statement to local press that she was satisfied with the show and that Saudis should not be so sensitive. That coupled with a memoir, originally published in French, which portrayed her whole life in Saudi Arabia as one great big tragedy really pushed Saudis away. It seems as if she used her calamity as a ticket to victim-hood fame. If she had truly cared about the plight of Saudi domestic violence victims, she would have written her memoirs in Arabic rather then French. She could have done more interviews locally rather than joining the rest of the world in their Saudi bashing. Ideally, she could have taken advantage of the initial surge of Saudi support to start a hotline, association, or/and a center. Instead she chose to publicly take off her hijab and to be interviewed reportedly drinking and smoking. Rather than help other Saudi women in her position by raising awareness within the country, Rania willingly and purposely became the global poster-child for anti- Saudi Arabia and anti- Islam.

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It’s Too Good To Be True

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Barack Obama will be the next president of the USA. I know most people around the world are tired of the American elections and there is a sense of weariness because we all thought that it would be like four years ago when the world set their hopes on John Kerry (anyone but Bush thing) and Americans let them down. When I woke up this morning and turned the TV on just when they were announcing Obama coming out on the stage as president-elect, I was shocked and elated. This is definitely going to be a good day. Besides what it means politically both for Americans and the world, this has cultural and ideological meaning for everyone. In Saudi Arabia, people look to the USA as a center of education and progress so when President Clinton got caught with Lewinsky, it had a ripple effect here. People got the message that after all that education and power it all came down to sex. And there was a this wave of womanizing and I believe many upper-middle class men took on second wives because of that negative influence. Then when Bush got elected for a second term after his foreign policy failures, many here thought well the west is definitely just a bunch of racist colonialist crusaders at heart. By voting for Bush they sent the message that there was no remorse for all those tortured Iraqis at Abu Ghraib, for the unAmericanness of Guantanamo Bay and all those dead Iraqi women and children. Some put it down to that lives that are non-white and non Christian had little value to the US. And a sense of bitterness and disappointment in the so-called American values and principles unfurled and suffocated any popularity that the US had pre-Iraq.

Now with Obama elected, no matter what he does in the future I know that racial tensions everywhere have been subdued a little. His background; the time he spent in Muslim Indonesia as a child and his Islamic heritage on his father’s side coupled with his mixed race and his choice of an African American as a spouse is beautiful. Him winning tells humanity that dignity, self-respect, hard-work and qualifications still count and that even though the bumbling fool Bush dubiously won in the beginning, he definitely is not better off for it.

As for what it means for Saudis, it is a cultural shift in the right direction. Saudi did not really believe in the American version of democracy. How could they when all the presidents of the so-called” melting pot” were Anglo. Now they are rubbing their eyes in disbelief rethinking the concept in a way that hopefully will move them out of their passiveness and no point attitude. Tribal differences will matter a little less now. Yes that is how much weight American elections have around the world.      

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