December 28, 2005

A French Revolution in Saudi Arabia

After ranting on about my brief discussion with "Average Moe" at the restaurant the other day, it seems word got around to the king. Oh well, let me believe that what I feel or think could have some impact even on the likes of royalty.

Now then, to the news. According to Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet , crown prince Sultan of Saudi Arabia told Swedish television that women in Saudi could be allowed to get drivers licenses, if the men in their lives agree to it.

-When fathers, husbands and brothers ask us to let women drive, then we shall consider the issue. But, if they ask us to prevent it, then we cannot force them to accept it, Sultan says.

Apparently recently inaugurated king Abdullah has said that he wishes to increase women's ability to move around in order to stimulate economic growth. Right, so now that things are going down the drain economically for Saudi (black gold running out), it's time to let out the cattle from the farms, and milk them for what it's worth. Naturally under the supervision of the "farmers" (i.e. men).

For you see, the leaders and learned of Saudi Arabia have expressed a concern that letting women drive might lead them to trying to access men outside of their homes and (as they often assure us), it has nothing to do with the emancipation of women that being able to drive and have a license would lead to in such a country. (Right...)

No, indeed, the learned of Saudi are wise, they have tapped into our heads, and figured out what Mel Gibson couldn't; what women want! For those of you who didn’t know, our secret wish is to at any given chance, take out our car and drive to the first man we can think of, any Tom Dick or Harry will do. No no, I mean Taha, Dawoud or Haroon (anything else would be unthinkable). Preferably someone we have made some sort of acquaintance with, like the guy who sold us the onions? No wait, we only looked at him, our husband did the buying, hmm...then whom? How about our driver? Yes we could drive to see him? No wait, he has the car plus he lives in the servant’s quarters. Ah well, I guess we will just have to sit that one out, mission accomplished Saudi legislators! Masha'Allah! (what God willed)

I have a suggestion for all Saudi women; it's time for a revolution! Yes you heard me. Bring out the guillotine (in the form of kitchen knives that do an excellent job on tomatoes), guns (in the form of the latest version of blow-dryers) and don't forget to claim the code; Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité! You are to tell the men in your lives (and the king), that you are not able to work outside your home and contribute to the economic growth of society because it is against your fitra (human predisposition). Don't forget to quote some of the leading wahabi scholars; I'm sure you will find heaps of material for your defence.

-Fraternize with your kitchen utensils and chop your husband up a lovely salad, Tabbouleh perhaps? That knife of yours will chop up those tomatoes in small squares before you can say "Help". (Oh and if you don't have a husband, a brother or father will do just fine.)

-Equalize yourself to that of a servant (for what could possibly be better than to serve your husband?) And last but not least:

-Liberalize yourself just enough to pull out the blow-dryer and fix your hair in the latest western hairdo (for even the learned wahabis don't mind you getting all dolled up á la Hollywood, as long as it's for your husband).

Vive le reverse psychology!

December 27, 2005

Average Moe on "Why women don't drive in Saudi"

Had a nice meal the other day at a local restuarant with my sister. One of the waiters there is the husband of a friend of mine, apparently he had lived in many parts of the world and I listened in on his adventures and experiences in Russia, Sweden and ultimately Saudi Arabia where he was born. The latter part I must confess sparked my curiosity.

We've all heard it haven't we? Women can't drive in Saudi, can't do much it seems. I had previously watched a program on BBC where a group of youth from all over the middle-east were intervjued about daily life where they live. One young man from Saudi explained that he couldn't go to certain shopping malls unless he brought his sister and vice versa. This was in order to maintain a strict "no free mixing zone" outside of the sanctity of the oh so religious homes.

Naturally as always when it comes to the human mind, where there's a will there's a way. And word has it, their will is strong. Girls and boys go to the malls with their respective siblings, meet up with the object of their affection perhaps at the bowling alley and probably at some point or another in life alot of them would engage in premarital sex and so on so forth.

Back to my lovely meal at the resto. I found it an opportune time to ask him some questions about the whole "women not driving" issue. I mean the guy was a muslim, had no beard, his wife (my friend) didn't observe the headscarf, she worked etc. He looked like ur average muslim Joe or perhaps Moe, living in the west, and not having a problem with maintaing his religion and being just like a normal person from planet Earth.

Me: You were born in Saudi right? I mean, how was it living there what with all those restrictions, and the whole "women shouldn't drive" atmosphere?

Average Moe, putting on a serious and authorative face: Well you see, it's like this: you know how it is "sis" (no Moe, I don't), guys and girls meet up and things like that, like they do over here (the "dirty" west), and it is bad for society, so you see if women don't drive, the chances that guys and girls will meet up is minimized and so the family is protected.

Me, biting my tongue: Yeah but surely if guys and girls wanna meet and "do bad things" they will find a way regardless?

Average Moe, talking like it's the bleedin' obvious truth: *Smiling* well yes that is true okhti (arabic for "my sis") but this way it is better for everyone, and you know women have drivers and their husband or brother or father can take them where they have to go.

Me, keeping my cool: Check please!

Look people, I am not here to revolutionize the world or Saudi Arabia (Ok I wish I could). What made me flabbergasted was the fact that he was your average Moe, truly, not a wahabi in any way or shape or form, yet, there it was, that thorn on the rose, stain on the silk, the splinter up ones ---, well you know what I mean.

When I think of it now, I recall so many of the young muslims I meet every now and then with similar approaches to their identity. Opinions that don't match the life they themselves are living. And all I can deem from that is that they don't believe in their hearts in what they preach, like a tape recorder on pause ready to play the chant. Their actions contradict it, their human self denounces it while their tongue embraces it. Brainwashed? Systematic propaganda? Who knows?

I stumbled upon this link by chance after the brief talk with "Moe". Battered tv-host Ranya al-Baz and Abusive Husband.

Naturally, she hasn't divorced him (probably couldn't even if she wanted to), nor did any charges against him result in anything it seems. He is a free man...and plans on marrying a fourth wife... something for Dr. Phil? Ladies, next time you wish to go upstairs without asking your husband's permission, think twice (that is, if you live in Saudi).

December 26, 2005

Michael Jackson joins the ummah

Yup you heard me, Michael Jackson King of Pop has apparently embraced Islam after a visit to Bahrain according to Expressen, a swedish newspaper. He is chummy with the old King of Bahrain and has now confessed to his past sins and read the shahada or testimony every muslim should have read; "There is no god but Allah , Mohammad is His messenger". His new career move? singing anasheed, religious songs in arabic. I wonder what his next song will be? "It don't matter if you're sunni or shi'a" perhaps? (in swedish)

When Cat Stevens became muslim, the muslim ummah rejoiced. When Mohammad Ali became muslim, the muslim ummah rejoiced. Back in the late 80's a rumour flew through the muslim world; "Michael Jackson has embraced Islam!!!"

I remember being so happy about it, a muslim kid in the west I was, where the mention of Michael Jackson would bring some sort of positive feeling inside people. The rumour was quickly denounced and life moved on, and we all remembered the day when Michael Jackson almost became muslim.

Today, nearly two decades later, I am finally conforonted with the news again. Although it seems more complicated than that since some claim the Islam he has converted to is that of the african/american Nation of Islam. Generally they are not accepted as part of the mainstream Islam (due to among other things, only accepting black people as true muslims) and are said to have supported MJ during his recent trial.

Perhaps MJ figured, "I am already taking so much crap from the world so I might as well join another group that is heavily bombarded both left, right and centre; "MUSLIMS!!!!
Yeah Michael, thanks alot. As if life as a muslim wasn't hard enough already.

What's next? Pinochet joining in?

December 25, 2005

Welcome to Al-Baal

Café Al-Baal is a young philosophers nest in the older part of Damascus where a new generation of thinkers and youth get together and discuss the why's and how's of life over a cup of "ahwe" and "sammoun". This would be next to a world wide web version of that only in this case I dine alone with me, myself and I to the background music of the world as I see it however, you're welcome to join in...

Watch out for my web polls, every now and then questions like "how to achieve world peace" might pop up...nah, joke aside, haven't you ever wondered why people take the stairs when they see an escalator that isnt running? this resulting in a whole herd of people cramped up on the stairs when the escalator would work perfectly as a set of stairs as well?

Is our world that squared and boxed up that an escalator must only be walked on if it moves, otherwise it would be useless because we fail to recongnize its value as a set of non moving stairs as well...

Perhaps it's symbolic for the human beings compulsiveness in branding and placing people and things in predefined boxes... and God forbid we shoud step out of that box and do something contrary to the norm, we should be so lucky if we were to be concidered capable of anything other than what everyone else already decided we can do...