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)

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