Covering Up

Niqab-less Norah al-Faiz

Norah al-Faiz is supposed to be a symbol of progress in Saudi Arabia. She was appointed deputy minister of education by King Abdullah in February 2009, making her the kingdom’s highest-ranking female official. At the time, many observers hailed the move as a sign of reform.

But controversy has dogged Faiz since the beginning of her tenure. Continue reading at Foreign Policy

Update 6/27/2012: Saudi state press agency published this new photo of al-Faiz, reportedly taken in Riyadh last night during her visit to an Aramco cultural event. She is the first from the left in the black abaya.

Norah al-Faiz in Aramco cultural event in Riyadh

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On Saudi Students and Hijab in France

When the French government decided to ban all religious symbols in schools few years ago the decision hardly went unnoticed, especially by Muslims as many of them found the rule directly targeting the hijab. While I find this French rule idiotic, I find it equally if not more idiotic what some Saudi female students who got scholarships to France have to say about the implications of this rule on their education.

“There should be a clear agreement between our two governments by which Muslims going there for education could keep their hijabs on,” one of them told Arab News. After spending SR 7,000 to study French, she is now asking the officials to sort it out.

The only way I see for our “officials” to “sort it out” is this: one of them gets the French citizenship, he wins the presidential elections there, and then he makes the parliament change the law. Pretty straight forward, huh? No offense to Ms. Abdulhadi, but don’t you think you could have spent a few hours learning some general information about France and its laws before you apply for a scholarship there?

Another student went as far as asking the government to stop scholarships to France altogether. Sorry Missy, just because you think French laws contradict what you believe in doesn’t give you the right to deny others the chance to go and pursue a better education in that place as long as it suits their beliefs.

I think this story says a lot about the political awareness of our youth and how they view the world. They somehow seem to believe that it can be modified to become more in line with their liking, and that a simple call to the so-called officials disguised in the name of religion is enough to change everything as we often see around here. This should be a rude awakening to Ms. Abdulhadi and her friends, as well as for the rest of us who are still delusional about where we stand in this world today.

UPDATE: According to John Burgess, there is some confusion around this issue. Apparently wearing hijab in French universities is not forbidden, but medical schools have rules which ban head coverings as unhygienic. However, this doesn’t change much of what I said here.