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).