Sunday, December 4, 2011

“What Do Saudi Women Want? “

CDHR’s Comment: Saudi women want the most basic rights: recognition as full human beings, full citizenship, financial independence and the right to move freely. With gargantuan respect and admiration for Ms. Eman Al Nafjan’s intelligence, courage and struggle, I beg to differ with some of her insinuations that the majority of Saudi women prefers to live under what amounts to a modern slavery system. I agree with Ms. Al Nafjan that many women (and men) in the motherland remain nostalgic for their past and fearful of what’s denied to them. I disagree that the majority of the severely disenfranchised population, especially women, would not appreciate something better than living under institutionalized discriminatory and intimidating policies, harshly enforced by a system whose hegemonic survival depends on dividing, conquering and ensuring the population's dependence on handouts and omnipresent fear of God, whipping sticks and the sword. Like any people, if Saudi women and men have free choices based on facts and knowledge of better alternatives, the overwhelming majority is more likely to denounce every aspect of their rasping culture, distorted religious teachings and suffocating social and political arrangements.

The Saudi people can learn, think for themselves and distinguish between the good, the bad and everything in between. They can change and in due time embrace values that are the antithesis of what they have been programmed into believing are supreme to all other values, especially those of the “infidels," which most educated Saudi men and women strive to attain. This is evidenced by traveling Saudis, most of whom cannot wait to board a plane and strip off their suffocating and unsightly attire and to slip into the outfits of people they have been told are dirty, unethical sinners and hell-bound, blasphemous unbelievers.

I agree with Ms. Al Nafjan and millions of Saudis and other Muslims that religion has been used as a tool of oppression, discrimination, segregation and intolerance against those who think out of the box, as well as non-Muslims and Muslim minorities. This is why many Muslims are not only questioning the authenticity of their faith, but severely criticizing it and many are leaving it altogether. The quandary is not that Saudi women and men cannot labor for, embrace and appreciate independence, self-reliance and liberation from the yoke of political, social, sexual and religious totalitarianism, it’s the system under which they are forced to live and coercively obey. All the people need is freedom of choices to venture into the unknown, explore their untapped potential and put them in good use for themselves and for their influential country.

What needs to be done to alter things positively for the people of the motherland, including those who rule, is a re-interpretation of Muslim textbooks, leaving religion to the individual, transforming all institutions to meet people’s needs now and installing an accountable and transparent mechanism whereby the people are in charge of their country’s safety, prosperity and destiny. This will take time to blossom, but the time to start is now before violence becomes the only hope for people to realize their dreams and become the authors of their fate.
Finally and based on first hand experiences, I found Saudi women to be the most resilient people I have ever met, worked with, befriended and watched since I was a child in the oppressed southern region of the vast land of Arabia. Sadly and inexplicably, the theocratic and autocratic iron-fisted ruling men are not taking notice of the people's aspirations and based on their history and state of mind they are not likely going to change until they have no choice. By then it will be too late for everyone. Read more:

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