What women (in Egypt) want

I have a piece in The Review about the best-selling (and soon to be translated, and soon to be a soap opera), blog-based book عايزة اتجوز (I Want to Get Married). I also discuss some recent, related instances of young Egyptian women airing their problems with marriage, and divorce, online. And you can check out the blog that started it all here.
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Links for 10.24.09 to 10.25.09

Power play - The National Newspaper | M. Bazzi on Saudi-Syrian relations. Weirdly makes no mention of Lebanon. ✪ Bikya Masr (BikyaMasr) on Twitter | Report: Ayman Nour attacked by security and NDP thugs in Hurghada. ✪ Algérie-Maroc | Blog on Algerian-Moroccan relations. ✪ Un propagandiste intéressé du régime tunisien - Les blogs du Diplo | Alain Gresh takes down Antoine Sfeir over his apologia for the Ben Ali regime in Tunisia. ✪ “The State is an ostrich”: Algerian riots in the shadow of Power « The Moor Next Door | On the recent turmoil, and more generally the absence of a well-managed state in Algeria. ✪ Arms Smugglers Into Gaza Face a New Foe: Egypt – Forward.com | To Egypt's eternal shame! ✪ «الإخوان المسلمون» ينتصبون ضدّ بيونسي | جريدة الأخبار | The Muslim Brothers take on Beyoncé. ✪ Daily News Egypt -No Egyptian Films At The Cairo International Film Festival, Says Ciff President | er.... what? ✪ Reporters Sans Frontières | Tunisia: Election campaign impossible for opposition media ✪ Daily News Egypt - ‘Spinsters’ By Choice: Egypt’s Single Ladies Speak Out | About the Facebook group "Spinsters for Change". ✪ Michael Gerson - Michael Gerson on Egypt's Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa - washingtonpost.com | Rather lame column about the Mufti of Egypt makes no mention of his civil servant status. ✪ The Empire Lovers Strike Back « P U L S E | Fantastic text by Gore Vidal from the 1980s, about the Podhoretzes and the Israel lobby in the US. ✪ Israeli Exceptionalism: The Destabilizing Logic of Zionism « P U L S E | Excerpt from new book by M. Shahuid Alam.
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Links for 09.17.09 to 09.19.09

A few day's worth...

Orientalism’s Wake: The Ongoing Politics of a Polemic | Very nice collection of essays on Edward Said's "Orientalism" from a variety of supporters, critics, academics including Daniel Varisco, Robert Irwin, Roger Owen, etc.
The Sources of Islamic Revolutionary Conduct | I have not read in detail this small book by a US Air Force analyst, but scanning through it I see rather odd choices. For instance there are long chapters comparing Christianity and modern secularism to the Islamist outlook, except that it's never quite clear whether the latter means the outlook of engaged Islamist activists or ordinary Muslims. There is also copious quoting from Sayyid Qutb's "Milestones" as if it was representative of all Islamic thinking. Someone should give this a detailed look (and I'd be happy to post the result.) [PDF]
Al-Ahram Weekly | Egypt | A clean break | On Cairo's garbage collection crisis.
Irving Kristol, Godfather of Conservatism, Dies - Obituary (Obit) - NYTimes.com | Leaving behind a disastrous intellectual, social, economic and political legacy: alleged liberalism on social issues that shirks from real change, supply-side economics, and of course an imperial war doctrine.
Are Morocco And Algeria Gearing Up For Arms Race? « A Moroccan About the world around him
Big mouth - The National Newspaper | Bernard Heykal on how the strength of al-Qaeda is impossible. Which makes sense, at least if you try to do it from the Bin Laden tapes as all the silly pseudo-analysis of last week showed.
Ikhwanweb :: The Muslim Brotherhood Official English Website | Very much like the new look of the Muslim Brothers' English website, which I hadn't checked in a while. They have a very useful "today's news" feature that can also be used for archives by date.
Al-Ahram Weekly | Economy | Depleting Egypt's reserves | A good article with details on the Egypt-Israel gas deal and why it may be a bad idea in terms of resource management, never mind political and financial sense.
Al-Qaradawi's Fatwa Asharq Alawsat Newspaper (English) | The alleged liberal paid by intolerant Islamists in Riyadh attacks the alleged moderate Islamist paid by Doha:

A news item reported in the Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper revealed that Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi had issued a fatwa prohibiting Iraqis from acquiring US citizenship on the grounds that this is the nationality of an occupier nation. However this fatwa has nothing to do with the reality on the ground, and contains more political absurdity then it does religious guidance. Sheikh al-Qaradawi himself is an Egyptian who possesses Qatari nationality, which was given to him after he opposed the peace agreement between Egypt and Israel. However when an Israeli office was opened in Doha, al-Qaradawi did not renounce his Qatari nationality.

Freed Iraqi shoe thrower tells of torture in jail | World news | guardian.co.uk

| "His brother Uday told Reuters: "Thanks be to God that Muntazer has seen the light of day. I wish Bush could see our happiness. When President Bush looks back and turns the pages of his life, he will see the shoes of Muntazer al-Zaidi on every page.""
BAE to axe 1,100 jobs and close site | Business | guardian.co.uk | So Tony Blair quashed the Yamama inquiry to save jobs (or so he says) but BAe still carries out layoffs?
Seinfeld, Sacha Baron Cohen and Natalie Portman slam Toronto Film Festival protest - Haaretz - Israel News| Some stars come to Israel's side in the tiff over TIFF.
GDC | Economist Conferences| Economist infographic shows public debt around the world.
FT.com / Middle East / Politics & Society - Investors seek to revive faded glory of Cairo | On investment in Downtown Cairo properties and plans for gentrification. Look out for another article on this soon.
No concrete proof that Iran has or has had nuclear programme – UN atomic watchdog | Just a reminder that the press reports have spinned things wrongly - this comes straight from the UN: "17 September 2009 – Refuting a recent media report, the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) today reiterated that the body has no concrete proof that Iran has or has ever had a nuclear weapons programme."
Egypt Islamic Authority Says Women Can Wear Trousers - International News | News of the World | Middle East News | Europe News - FOXNews.com | The world is going to hell -- what next, capris?
BBC NEWS | Middle East | 'Many killed' in Yemen air raid | Serious turn in Yemen's trouble -- bombing a refugee camp!?


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Links for 08.22.09 to 08.30.09

Eric Hobsbawm's On Empire: when Hobsbawm writes, Angry Arab reads carefully | I just read this book and completely agree with Angry Arab's praise. ✪ Global BDS Movement | Website of the Boycott - Divestment - Sanctions movement. ✪ How settlements in the West Bank are creating a new reality, brick by brick | World news | The Guardian | Good story on the settlements by Rory McCarthy. ✪ Boycott Israel -- latimes.com | An Israeli's call. ✪ Privatization by other means: How the Public Transport sector was “murdered” at 3arabawy | How five years ago, eager to justify the privatization of public sector transport, the government stopped making spare parts available for Cairo's buses. Outrageous and worthy of more digging. ✪ Important Film | A cartoon for children against sexual harassment. ✪ Israeli watchdog sees no settlement freeze | "The construction of settlements in the occupied West Bank is continuing 'as usual', a group reported, despite the Israeli government's announcement that it has stopped initiating new housing projects." ✪ Ramadan under siege « In Gaza | On the pauperization of Gaza: there is food, because of the tunnels, but only for the few who can afford it. ✪ Mehdi Karoubi, un mollah atypique et réformateur, devenu le porte-parole de la contestation en Iran - Asie-Pacifique - Le Monde.fr | On the other reformist candidate in Iran. ✪ مدونة محمد بن عبد الكريم الخطابي | A new blog dedicated to the Moroccan anti-colonial hero Abdel Krim.
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Links for 08.09.09 to 08.13.09

Moises Naim -- A New Recipe for Autocrats Around The World - washingtonpost.com | Some good stuff there, but he goes to easy on Mossad and the CIA - they would not be scapegoats if it wasn't sometimes true! The Groping Elephant in the Room: Sexual Harassment in the Arab World « the long slumber | More from The Long Slumber on sexual harassment in the Arab word - recommended, thought-provoking reading. شارك - حوار مفتوح لشباب مصر مع جمال مبارك | Tell me this man is not running for president... Fiji Water: Spin the Bottle | Mother Jones | Nothing to do with the Middle East, but outrageous. BBC NEWS | Middle East | Frustrated dreams of young Egyptians | Living in the City of the Dead: "I dream of leaving this place. One day we will buy a new home and pretend we have lived there all our lives." Get Good at Arabic « MediaShack | Good tips on picking up the lingo - this method really works although it means you must be disciplined and dedicated (and have no other job, ideally). Even if it might seem a tiny bit exploitative. 'Just World News' with Helena Cobban: Agha, Malley, and some other ideas | Helena Cobban's critique of the Malley/Agha op-ed, saying it's quite banal. Well yes and no: it's banal because experts and many Israelis and Palestinians have known it for a long time (that it's about 1948), but it's still important to reiterate the point because politicians (in Israel/Palestine, among the two diasporas and among foreigners) still pretend otherwise. Op-Ed Contributors - The Two-State Solution Doesn’t Solve Anything - NYTimes.com | Malley and Agha say it's all about 1948: "For years, virtually all attention has been focused on the question of a future Palestinian state, its borders and powers. As Israelis make plain by talking about the imperative of a Jewish state, and as Palestinians highlight when they evoke the refugees’ rights, the heart of the matter is not necessarily how to define a state of Palestine. It is, as in a sense it always has been, how to define the state of Israel." Les ministres israéliens divisés sur la libération de Marwan Barghouti - Proche-Orient - Le Monde.fr | Israelis pols split about whether or not to free Marwan Barghouti. Dar Al Hayat - Ayoon Wa Azan (Why Are Men Allowed to Wear Dresses?) | Jihad al-Khazen suggests (jokingly?) that Gulf Arabs buy up the Observer, which is shutting down (alas, although perhaps they shouldn't have spent so much money on stupid lifestyle supplements and Nigella Lawson pageantry.) Will the leader of Lebanon's Druze really form an alliance with Hezbollah? - By Lee Smith - Slate Magazine | Weird Slate story in whcih Walid Jumblatt is celebrated as hero, disowns his old friends, and they react: "His former American friends are not amused. "I don't believe for a minute that he's sorry he met with the dreaded neocons, and I'm sorry he feels somehow compelled to say that," said Elliott Abrams, the Bush administration's deputy national security adviser for global democracy strategy. "I just hope he keeps sending all of us that nice wine from the Bekaa."" Three soldiers, Al-Qaeda leader killed in Yemeni clashes - AL SHORFA | Note that this site is funded by US Central Command. I don't know much about Yemen, but isn't it rather odd to refer to the insurgents in Yemen to al-Qaeda (as opposed to people motivated by local grievances, as a recent International Crisis Group report argued)? Le Figaro - International : Mauritanie : attentat suicidedevant l'ambassade de France | Suicide bombing outside French embassy in Mauritania.
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Links for 07.23.09 to 07.24.09

Ethar El-Katatney's Published Stories: Online Archive | This writer recently was awarded a prize for Middle Eastern journalism, check out the interesting story about Egyptians doing business on Facebook. Hymen: The Arabs’ Finest Fetish « the long slumber | Continuing on a quite original series about sexuality in the Arab world. Organ Trafficking the Only Solution for Egypt's Poor | AHN | "The World Health Organization considers Egypt to be the Middle Eastern epicenter of organ trafficking, one of the top five 'hot-spots' after China, the Philippines, and India." Activists say Israel gave key site to settlers (AFP) | It continues... "AFP - Israel has handed control over much of a key Palestinian area in annexed east Jerusalem to hardline settler groups in a creeping takeover kept away from public scrutiny, a report by an activist group said on Thursday." Israel cuts 1948 'catastrophe' from Arabic texts - Yahoo! News | Classy. Blast injures 50 at wedding for nephew of Fatah leader - CNN.com | Assassination attempt against Muhammad Dahlan?
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Links for 07.20.09 to 07.21.09

Iran's Mir Hosein Mousavi: Out of his shell | The Economist | What Moussavi's been up to. The Arabs' view of Iran: Mixed feelings | The Economist | On Arabs' view of the recent political turmoil in Iran. Honour killings in Syria: The law changes. Will attitudes? | The Economist | Bashar al-Assad timidly moves against honor crimes. The "Swiftboating" of Human Rights Watch (Prospects for Peace) | A good piece on the lobby's attack on HRW. Wait, Bibi-- Palestinians can't go buy property in West Jerusalem | Bibi claims that Palestinians are free to buy property in West Jerusalem, so why not let Jews buy in East Jerusalem... except of course it's a lie, you can't buy in WJ if you're not Jewish. Not too mention, of course, under international law any Israeli-owned property in East Jerusalem is an illegal settlement. Daily News Egypt - Full Article | The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Index of Democracy 2008 | Egypt, Jordan Morocco start at 118. [PDF] Islamists Today: Mubarak Regime and Brotherhood: Zero-Sum Game | Khalil al-Anani has a very strong column on the ongoing MB-regime war - but perhaps he goes too far by comparing the arrest of Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh to the execution of Sayyid Qutb! Not do I really believe the regime wants to eradicate the MB, but Khalil's expression "to turn it into an antique suitable for the Egyptian Museum" may have some truth to it. The regime's dilemma is, how do you make the MB irrelevant?
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New April 09 Arab Reform Bulletin

Khaled Hroub on Pressures on Hamas in Reconciliation Talks
The 2007 Hamas takeover of Gaza affected Egypt more than any other country. While there is a possibility that Americans or Europeans would tolerate a Palestinian consensus including loosely-worded formulas that allow Hamas to participate, it is the Egyptians who are taking a hard-line approach and pressing Hamas into an unequivocal stance. Egypt wants to minimize the chances of Hamas winning future Palestinian elections. Egypt’s delicate domestic situation cannot withstand the emergence of a successful or partly successful Muslim Brotherhood-inspired experiment anywhere in the Arab world, and certainly not on its very doorstep. The situation is all the more sensitive because Hamas is confronting the Israeli occupation, deeply unpopular with most Egyptians, which provides a tool for Egyptian Islamists to use in mobilizing the street against the government. But Cairo is aware that Hamas’ position is awkward and its choices are limited, especially with escalating resentment against some of Hamas’ policies within Gaza before, during, and after the recent war, which is pushing Hamas to adopt a more flexible attitude.
Iman Baibars on Ramifications of Women’s Rights Initiatives:
While the NDP appears serious about increasing the number of women in parliament, it is not clear yet exactly which seats will be designated for women or how they will be selected. Will it be, for example, by means of an individual candidacy system, in which two women from each governorate are nominated (one a professional and another a laborer), a party list system, or some combination of the two? The quota is thus part of a larger discussion of overall reform of the oft-revised Egyptian electoral system. But in any case, it seems likely that a quota for women will be in place in time for the 2010 parliamentary elections. The question is no longer whether more women will enter parliament, but rather how this will be accomplished.
Also: Intissar Fakir Western Sahara and Regional Security (IMHO overstates the security issues in the Sahel region from a US perspective, ignores political expediency of creating a "jihadist situation" in that sub-region for both local and external powers.) Josh Landis on The Nexus of Economy, Diplomacy, and Reform (I like Landis but fear he's rather too sanguine about this: "President Assad has also promised to put political liberalization back on his agenda because he no longer believes Western powers seek to destabilize Syria." Forget liberalization, Assad will never do it!)
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Nearly 300 teens arrested on Cairo's streets for harassment

Completely surreal:
Egyptian police announced Wedneday they had arrested more than 550 teenagers suspected of sexually harassing girls outside schools in several Cairo districts in a single day. The culprits were awaiting interrogation and trial Thursday. The police launched an extensive clampdown targeting stores and internet cafes near schools. Security forces raided six internet cafes that did not have permits, and another five that played pornographic videos for truants, according to a statement issued by the Cairo Security Department on the day of the crackdown. After many families complained about girls being targeted outside schools in several neighborhods the head of the Cairo Investigations Bureau, General Farouk Lashin, launched a campaign against sexual harassment, an interior Ministry source told AlArabiya.net. The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, added that most of the harassers were between 16 and 18 years old. According to the source police launched an earlier campaign that resulted in the arrest of almost 300 people for harassment in Cairo streets.
And I'm sure these arrests have nothing to do with the fact that Egypt has become so synonymous with sexual harassment that it's become a major topic of discussion in newspapers, the topic of travel warnings in foreign newspapers, and of course that it's reached the ears of a certain First Lady. The authorities are serious about making sure that boys behave themselves? Great. But this looks like the random arrest of the first youths that came across zealous officers, probably many of them the usual suspects who get arrested every time there's a crime in their neighborhood, and this will be a one-off action on the part of authorities that won't ever be followed through with awareness campaigns and a more consistent to preventing and punishing harassment. I hope to be proved wrong on this, but I won't be holding my breath.
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Let them grope cake

Mama Suzanne says this harassment stuff is all made up:
CAIRO (AFP) – Egyptian first lady Suzanne Mubarak has played down allegations of rampant sexual harassment in her country, accusing the media, and implicitly Islamist militants, of exaggerating the reports. "Egyptian men always respect Egyptian women," the pro-government Al-Ahram newspaper on Friday quoted the wife of President Hosni Mubarak as saying in remarks aired on Thursday by Al-Arabiya television. The Egyptian Centre for Women's Rights (ECWR) released a survey earlier this year showing that 83 percent of Egyptian women and 98 percent of foreign women in Egypt are sexually harassed. "This gives the impression that the streets in Egypt are not safe. That is not true... The media have exaggerated," Mubarak said. "Maybe one, two or even 10 incidents occurred. Egypt is home to 80 million people. We can't talk of a phenomenon. Maybe a few scatterbrained youths are behind this crime. "And maybe some people wanted to make it seem as though the streets of Egypt are not safe so girls and women stay at home. This could be their agenda," she said in a reference to Islamist militants.
Of course, in her own experience, when she goes out on the street in her motorcode surrounded by bodyguards and soldiers, no one EVER gropes her. So it must apply to all other women in Egypt.
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FGM Ban

Egypt recently passed a new Child's Law. One of the most controversial parts of the law was the criminalization of female circumcision, or FGM. I just did a story on this for yesterday's edition of The World. One things I discovered is that while the figure that's commonly mentioned is that 96% of women in Egypt are circumcised, the figure for teenage girls is about 80% and they project (from government health surveys in which they ask mothers whether they plan to circumcise their daughters) that the rate for young girls will be 60% by 2015. The Muslim Brotherhood made a big fuss over this law when it was discussed in parliament. One MP brought his circumcised daughters and wife to parliament as an argument for FGM. I had read about this and went to interview Saad Katatni, the head of the Brotherhood's parliamentary block. He was much more diplomatic with me than his MPs had been in parliament. He actually said he recognizes that FGM isn't required by Sharia. But he said it shouldn't be banned because in some "exceptional cases" it's needed. Pressed on what those exceptional cases might be, he said they were when the organ (he meant clitoris) "طويل طولا شاذا", meaning "is perversely/abnormally long." This harks back to the popular belief that female circumcision is necessary for some women whose clitorises otherwise would grow to a monstruous size. When I asked Katatni about the death of Budur (the schoolgirl who died last summer while undergoing FGM), he said isolated cases shouldn't lead us to condemn the practice completely. He said: "If I as a doctor makes a mistake during a given operation, and the patient dies, do I discard this branch of medicine, do I erase this branch of science?”
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War of the CRAPs: Hirsi Ali contra Manji

This NYT piece on the relationship between Courageous Reformist Arab Personalities (CRAP) Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Irshad Manji seizes the non-relevance of these people to the problems of the Islamic world yet, admitting that, continues to find them enthralling. First there is this paragraph:
Yet though they are allies on one level, their approaches to Islam are strikingly different, with one working outside the religion and one within. Neither one can be considered a spokeswoman for a significant Muslim constituency in the Middle East. (Indeed, their most sympathetic audiences are probably Western.) But their differences have implications for all the big issues the West grapples with in considering the Muslim world. How much popular support do terrorists have? Is a secular Middle East possible, and what’s the best way to promote it? Is Islam itself an enemy of the West?
But then this conclusion:

Clearly, this is a debate of importance not only to Muslims but to non-Muslims as well, and for a Westerner listening in, the best way to understand it may be to translate it into the language of European history. Irshad Manji sees herself as moving Islam into the 16th century; Ayaan Hirsi Ali wants to move it into the 18th. It’s as if Luther and Voltaire were living at the same time.

Is there anything more puerile, more annoying, more navel-gazing, more incredibly stupid than comparisons between modern Islam and European Christianity? This is the New York Times: the best way to understand its approach to the Muslim world may be to translate it into the language of American television: a combination of the faux-earnestness of 1950s family comedy and the fixation on the travails of minor celebrities seen in contemporary reality shows. It's as if "Leave it to Beaver" and "American Idol" were being watched at the same time. [From Muslim Rebel Sisters: At Odds With Islam and Each Other - New York Times]
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A Shiite Tikriti

Hannah has a great post about a very coquette (and courageous) Shia Tikriti woman:

How on earth, I asked her, does a Shiite Tikriti living under control of the Mahdi Army get away with dressing as she does when these days even Christian women have begun to cover their hair to deflect attention?

K replied that she is simply tired of the fundamentalists who now rule Iraq, both in the government and in the streets, both Shiite and Sunni. The Mahdi Army doesn't mind if she drives, K said, but she has been warned by "concerned friends" about her exposed hair. Before the sectarian cleansing of her neighborhood, it was actually Sunni militants who were worse in their targeting of women, K said.

The threats got so numerous that one day she stopped caring. She went on about her daily routine, driving and dressing and praying as she wished, crediting only God with allowing her to survive each day.

"Remember when Zarqawi wrote that if you see a woman driving, kill her? Well, they might kill two or three to teach a lesson, but they can't kill all the women," K said casually, popping a pistachio candy in her mouth. She began to laugh triumphantly.

"And now what?" she asked. "Zarqawi is dead and I'm alive. I'm still here."


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Links for January 14th

Automatically posted links for January 14th:

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Links December 19th and January 5th

Automatically posted links for December 19th through January 5th:

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Links for November 26th

Automatically posted links for November 26th:

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Tahawy on Saudi Arabia treatment of women

I can't find it online, so I am republishing below this fine op-ed by Mona al-Tahawy where she makes the obvious yet crucial point that Saudi Arabia's medieval practices (only one manifestation of its backwards ideology) have been tolerated far too long:
Gender Apartheid by Mona Eltahawy NEW YORK -- Once upon a time, in a country called South Africa the color of your skin determined where you lived, what jobs you were allowed, and whether you could vote or not. Decent countries around the world fought the evil of racial apartheid by turning South Africa into a pariah state. They barred it from global events such as the Olympics. Businesses and universities boycotted South Africa, decimating its economy and adding to the isolation of the white-minority government, which finally repealed apartheid laws in 1991. Today in a country called Saudi Arabia it is gender rather than racial apartheid that is the evil but the international community watches quietly and does nothing. Saudi women cannot vote, cannot drive, cannot be treated in a hospital or travel without the written permission of a male guardian, cannot study the same things men do, and are barred from certain professions. Saudi women are denied many of the same rights that “Blacks” and “Coloreds” were denied in apartheid South Africa and yet the kingdom still belongs to the very same international community that kicked Pretoria out of its club.
She rightly points out that, aside from the oil reason, Saudi Arabia has been enabled by the collapse of any alternative ideology in the Arab world, with the Saudis having bought the silence (or enthusiastic support) of most other Arab regimes. As they say, RTWT.
To understand the heinous double standards at play, look no further than the case of a 19-year-old Saudi woman who was gang-raped last year. Despite being abducted and raped by seven men, a court in Saudi Arabia sentenced her to 90 lashes because she was in a car with an unrelated man before she was abducted. Saudi Arabia’s ultra-orthodox interpretation of Islamic law preaches a strict segregation of the sexes. The young woman had the temerity to appeal -- and publicize her story in the media. And so, earlier this month, the court increased her punishment to <i>200 lashes and six months in jail</i>. Her lawyer, a prominent human rights defender, was suspended and faces a disciplinary hearing. And the actual abductors and rapists? They got between two and nine years in jail. A rape conviction in the kingdom usually carries the death penalty, but the court said it did not impose it due to the "lack of witnesses" and the "absence of confessions.” Farida Deif, a researcher at Human Rights Watch women’s rights division, who interviewed the young woman and her lawyer extensively, told me that one of the rapists had filmed the assault with his mobile phone but the judges refused to allow the clip as evidence. Compare that to the use of such mobile phone footage to convict two police officers in Egypt on November 5, on charges of torturing and sodomizing a bus driver. A few governments here and there have condemned the Saudi court’s behavior but you can be sure that Saudi Arabia will be there at the next Olympics -- even though it bars women from the national team -- and the world will continue to fete the kingdom’s representatives without a word of chastisement. Just by agreeing to attend next week’s Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in Annapolis Saudi Arabia merited headline news. The easy explanation of the world’s apathy to the plight of Saudi women is that the kingdom sits on the world’s largest oil reserves. True. The more difficult explanation -- and the one that too many avoid -- is that the Saudis have succeeded in pulling a fast one on the world by claiming their religion is the reason they treat women so badly. I am a Muslim who is constantly wondering how it is that I worship the same God as the Saudis. Islam may have been born in Mecca -- in what is today Saudi Arabia -- but the warped interpretation of my religion prevalent in that country is like a perverse attempt to undo any good that Muslims believe was revealed in Prophet Mohammed’s message in 7th century Arabia. What kind of God would punish a woman for rape? That is a question that Muslims must ask of Saudi Arabia because unless it is we who challenge the determinedly anti-women teachings of Islam in Saudi Arabia, that kingdom will always get a free pass. It is easy to dismantle the Saudi clerical claim that it is Islam that justifies their outrageous treatment of girls and women. Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country, a place where women enjoy rights a Saudi woman could only dream of, where they recite the verses of the Quran on television for all to see and hear. In Saudi Arabia, a woman’s voice is considered sinful. Saudi Arabia’s neighbors -- Egypt, Syria, and the United Arab Emirates -- are all Muslim-majority countries: Women drive, vote, are judges, and hold ministerial portfolios. The international community must not forget the many brave Saudis such as the gang-rape victim, her lawyer, and the activists who continue to question this oppression by their government and clerics. Their courage deserves the same kind of support the world offered anti-apartheid activists in South Africa. Nor should the victims of Saudi atrocities be forgotten: In 2002, 15 schoolgirls died when officers of the morality police would not let them out of their burning school building -- and barred firefighters from saving them -- because the girls weren’t wearing the headscarve and the black cloak that all women must wear in public. How many more girls must die and women suffer rape before the international community names this gender apartheid and condemns it appropriately? Mona Eltahawy is an award-winning New York-based journalist and commentator, and an international lecturer on Arab and Muslim issues. Copyright ©2007 Mona Eltahawy / Agence Global
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