Thursday, April 22, 2010

Unstoppable Transformation

Saudi society is going through an unstoppable transformative process despite severe official censorship, a rash of fatawi (religious edicts) against gender mixing, lack of women’s rights to work and drive, heightened disagreements within the ruling family over political, social, religious, educational and economic reforms, and Saudi high officials’ re-emphasis on the “supremacy of Islam and its redeeming values.” Many signs of change can be discerned in the various strata of Saudi society; however, there is one segment of Saudi society in particular where change is more noticeable and undeterred by the State’s institutionalized chauvinistic male opposition: Saudi women are increasingly rejecting their marginalization by the state, by male relatives, and by the government’s use of religion to justify discrimination and oppression of women.

Contrary to the Saudi government controlled media’s reports and the government’s highly compensated apologists and beneficiaries’ distortion of facts, the changes that are taking place in Saudi Arabia, especially among women and the youth, are not the results of King Abdullah and the rest of the ruling autocracies desires to alter the stagnant status quo in the Saudi kingdom. Instead they are due to the Saudi people’s demands for better governance and to direct global pressure via modern technologies, especially diverse satellite channels and Internet services.

Tremendous mistrust of their government controlled media and total absence of transparency and accountability under the current political structure has led the majority of Saudis to search for more reliable sources of information and means to communicate with each other and learn about the world, its peoples, cultures, and politics. Given these realities, it’s reported that Saudis are among the most frequent and largest users and watchers of foreign media, especially videos and internet services such as Facebook, blogs, Myspace, websites, listservs, group forums, and Twitter, among other technologies, in the Arab World.

As pointed out in the attached article, Saudi women compare themselves with their counterparts around the world. The results are staggeringly in favor of their independence, self-respect, and freedom from the existing stifling male-dominated religious, social, economic, and educational culture that reduces women to second-class citizens. As always, instead of taking a critical look at their multitude of social, political, educational and cultural ills, Saudi officials and those who support the status quo are quick to blame women’s revolts against their oppression on Western interference in their affairs. This time, they blame the uncontrollable flow of information accessed through modern technology.

The Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia, CDHR, urges the Saudi people and the international community, especially democratic societies, to support Saudi women in their struggle to undo centuries of injustice committed against them because of their gender. Empowering Saudi women is not only morally right and in accordance with internationally agreed tenets of human rights, but is in the best interest of the international community. Not only will empowered Saudi women prevent members of their families from falling prey to religious extremists, but due to Saudi Arabia’s centrality to Islam, they will also become role models for other Muslim women. In addition, this will loosen the grip of the deadly Saudi-Wahhabi ideology around the world.

The US government and institutions should take the lead in supporting Saudi women if we hope to undermine those who intend to destroy individual liberty and freedom of choice.

Read article (Arabnews, English)

Friday, April 9, 2010

CDHR Holds a Successful Conference on March 25th

Global economic instability and the threat of terrorism are two topics one can read and hear about in the media, briefings, speeches, and lecture halls. Not unexpectedly, Saudi Arabia is identified with both. This is due to Saudi Arabia’s centrality to Islam, its austere Wahhabi ideology, Al-Qaeda, Bin Laden, and its possession of huge oil reserves. In light of Saudi Arabia’s religious and economic influence on the lives of Muslims and non-Muslims, the Center for Democracy & Human Rights in Saudi Arabia (CDHR) and The Heritage Foundation held an educational public debate on March 25th, 2010 in Washington, D.C. Five speakers were invited to address different aspects of religious extremism and propose policy recommendations for decision makers and others to confront Muslim extremists’ looming threats to Muslims and non-Muslims. As has been documented since 9/11, Saudi Arabia is a breeding ground for religious extremism, suicide bombers, and financing of outside groups and institutions that breed deadly ideologies.

Among the speakers was Mr. James Phillips, Middle Eastern Affairs expert at The Heritage Foundation, who set the tone for the conference and concluded his remarks by saying that Al-Qaeda is totalitarian and the Saudi ruling family is authoritarian, therefore the latter can be reformed. He was followed by Dr. Ahmed Subhy Mansour, a former professor at Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt, his native country. Dr. Mansour, author of twenty-four books on Islam, refuted the Saudi implementation and exportation of their austere interpretation of Islam, known as Wahhabism. He argued that the most effective way to undermine Muslim extremism is to show the contradictions between the Islam he knows and understands and the twisted form of Islam practiced in Saudi Arabia and exported to the rest of the world. He concluded by saying that there is no ideological difference between the Saudi royals and Bin Laden.

Lee Smith, a former reporter for different American newspapers in the Middle East, attributed violence not to Islam, but to Arab culture. He pointed out that Muslim extremism is only the most recent manifestation of the Arabs’ use of power to spread ideology. He was followed by Dr. Farzana Hassan, an author and advocate of Muslim women’s rights, who spoke about the need for empowering Muslim women, specifically Saudi women. She argued that women can provide a stabilizing and modernizing influence on Saudi society which will lead to a gradual decrease in religious extremism and its by-product, terrorism, in Saudi Arabia and beyond.

Finally, Jack Pearce, a CDHR board member, former government anti-trust lawyer, and businessman, addressed structural problems in the Saudi state, as demonstrated by its modern infrastructure and by the total absence of public participation in any decision-making process. He argued that modernity, industrialization, and globalization need modern institutions that can absorb transparent changes including public participation in decision-making processes. He suggested that the US and other oil consumers have to be prepared to ensure the flow of oil in case the Saudi state collapses under the weight of inability to change its pre-modern ruling methods.

Dr. Ali Alyami, Executive Director of CDHR, closed the session by reiterating that religious extremism is real and must be confronted and undermined at its source, Saudi Arabia. He suggested that one of the best ways to undermine the spread and threats of Saudi austere religious ideology is by empowering Saudi women who are in the forefront in the fight against religious oppression in their homeland.

Video and Audio of the conference can be found at:

Blog Archive


United States (14) Saudi women (13) Human Rights (12) women's rights (9) Wahhabism (8) Human Rights Watch (5) Saudi Arabia (5) extremism (5) male guardianship (5) religious freedom (5) women drivers (5) Amnesty International (4) Prince Naif (4) Saudi blogger (4) Twitter (4) censorship (4) conference (4) freedom of media (4) judicial system (4) political reform (4) Facebook (3) Fouad Alfarhan (3) Iran (3) King Abdullah (3) President Obama (3) Saudi royal family (3) Sharia law (3) democracy (3) demonstration (3) employment (3) royal family (3) Blogs (2) CDHR (2) Crown Prince Sultan (2) France (2) Freedom House (2) Hezbollah (2) Israel (2) Jeddah (2) Lebanon (2) Minority Rights (2) Syria (2) Terrorism (2) The Washington Post (2) U.S. Congress (2) Wajeha al-Huwaider (2) arrest (2) child brides (2) education (2) freedom of internet (2) freedom of speech (2) headscarf (2) religious police (2) torture (2) Abaya (1) About CDHR (1) Afghanistan (1) Ahmed Subhy Mansour (1) Al-Doumaini (1) Al-Faleh (1) Al-Hamid (1) BBC News (1) Boston Globe (1) Clare Lopez (1) Contact (1) Dan Burton (1) Economic Reform (1) Farzana Hassan (1) Hamas (1) Hariri Family (1) Iraq (1) Islamic Society of Boston (1) Jihadist (1) King Fahd (1) Mansour al-Nogaidan (1) Middle East (1) Ministry of Interior (1) Muqtada Al-Sadr (1) Muslim Brotherhood (1) Olympics (1) Pakistan (1) President Bush (1) Prime Minister Fouad Siniora (1) Prince Abdul Rahman (1) Prince Al-Waleed (1) Prince Talal (1) Riyadh (1) Sarah Leah Whitson (1) Sarkozy (1) Saudi Embassy (1) Shia (1) Sudairi Seven (1) Sue Myrick (1) Sunni (1) Taliban (1) The Stoning of Soraya M. (1) Thomas Farr (1) adultery (1) burka (1) child abuse (1) female comic (1) film (1) foreign workers (1) hijab (1) honor killings (1) khalwa (1) niqab (1) non-Saudis (1) oil (1) political culture (1) sex segregation (1) stoning (1) succession (1) voting (1) youtube (1)