Letter to Amna

TO: Amna Fatani
CC: Saudi Arabia

Although I have said that censorship does not work anymore, censorship is still a reality of our lives in this part of the world. Unfortunately, censorship by the government is not the only kind of censorship we have to endure and resist here. There is another, more difficult kind to deal with: social censorship.

In our deeply conservative and conformist society, any attempt to differentiate oneself is frowned upon if not outright rejected. You are expected required to think, talk and even look like everyone else. If you dare to to say or do anything that does not conform with the conventional wisdom, then you are simply asking for trouble. Not only your ideas will be ridiculed but you will also be personally attacked, and your parents will be blamed for not raising you well.

Now you think that’s bad? It gets ten times worse if you are a woman. Actually, you don’t even need to express a deviant opinion. Being a woman in itself can be enough for some people to denounce you, because to them women are secondary beings that should be kept in dark closets, away from the light of public life. I’m sure you’ve heard all that ‘jewel’ crap many times before.

amna_fatanyThat’s why when Amna Fatani started a campaign to preserve heritage sites earlier this year, her father received hateful text messages telling him that he has no shame. Fatani appeared again in a local newspaper last week wearing a Palestinian keffiyeh during her participation at the Saudi-British Youth Forum in Jeddah. Again, she was faced with similar reactions. The first comment by a reader was: “let her cover herself up, and worry about her religion first.”

I’m sorry you had to go through this Amna, but if it’s any consolation, know that you are not alone. When AlArabiya.net published my interview with Reuters two years ago, people left many unpleasant comments, calling me a “Westernized spoiled brat” and “retard” among other things. Sure, it didn’t feel good but I have grown a thicker skin. Sometimes it is not just total strangers who try to put you down. More than one of my relatives have told me to “quit this nonsense” I’m doing. You, however, are lucky to have a supportive family who are very proud of you.

So dear Amna, whenever something like that happens to you, remember you are not alone and that we are all in this together. We are young and we are not amused. We are eager and determined. We will not be silenced and we will not be intimidated. We shall speak up and we shall overcome. Open your minds and hearts. Listen to our fresh voices.

Sincerely,
Ahmed

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87 thoughts on “Letter to Amna

  1. I’m a swedish reader who found your blog while working in Beirut a couple of months ago. I’m studying political sciences, arabic and human rights, and try to promote the latter. I’m very impressed with both you and Ms. Amna Fatani. Good work!

  2. cover herself? isnt she wearing hijab and abayah? unless they mean the niqab..maybe they should study religion themselves and study the opinions of the scholars on this issue. people like that never cease to amaze me.

    GO AMNA!!!

  3. Ahmed, she was amazing, she spoke up for all of us, she did a great job, and represented amazing Saudi women that the British didn’t know they exist! We all thank Amna for the great effort she did during the forum, and for being herself.. For being Real…

  4. Re the jewel thing, i dont think it’s crap. pls. it’s how you use it. i do believe a woman in Islam is like a jewel, she needs to be covered and protected. but what i dont agree w/ is hiding women from the public life. that’s cultural, has got nothing to do with Islam.

  5. I agree with you on some points and disagree on others Ahmed.

    I think my main point of contention is that sometimes you fall into the trap of the “Us or Them” mentality or “Communist Guerrilla fighter”.

    I;M NOT SAYING YOUR COMMUNIST! Don’t take that the wrong way but what I mean is that you portray Saudi Arabia as something like Taliban-era Afghanistan.

    Are there lot’s of problems in Saudi Arabia? Yes, and they need to be addressed.

    Do we need to be so confrontational? No.

    Also, I still don’t get the “We are not amused” comment. :(

  6. Keep on – and don’t forget a couple of the 68′ slogans
    – never trust anyone over thirty
    – Beneath the paving stones – the beach!

  7. Thank you Ahmed for the post… these little things are what makes and breaks our society sometimes…

    Every generation had its struggle, this is ours!

    As with regards to the “Jewel”, then I am with Ahmed on this one.. It’s been over used and over subscribed too. God created us equal, and if wanted the male race to be over-protectionist of females, then I am sure he would of mentioned it… but guess what? He didn’t!! He gave them rights, empowered them and made them our mothers and sisters… Jewels only need protection when there are thieves about, and in my eyes they (over-protectionists) are the thieves… anyway, I don’t want to get started!

    Well done Amena, you’ve done a job well done! These bigots that comment and harass, are no more than dirt on ‘our’ shoulders.. We will progress, and we will move forward, with or without them…

    Mohamed S, in life the only way to solve a problem, is by being able to recognize it, identify it, and then define it! Only in that way can any problem really be solved…

    and sometimes ‘unfortunately’ it is Us and them…

    I am proud of being you’re little brother Amena!

    PS. and YES we are not amused!

    Raf

  8. @Raf Fatani:

    I didn’t say don’t note problems that need to be addressed in our society and fixed but don’t rub the people you’re trying to help the wrong way.

    Also you forgot the final part of solving a problem….

    Actually solving it.

    Calling out flaws in society is all well and good. But solutions to those problems…….Let’s say the old saying “The first step is the hardest” is not true in this situation. :(

  9. having lived in saudi all my life, i’ll tell you whats the problem here. too strict an interpretation of Islam and failure to propogate islam to the youth. that’s the root cause of all problems. i want saudi to change- to be ruled under shariah and not under culture and tribal Islam.

  10. Solomon2, I believe its regional. But from the people I’ve met around me, I’d like to say a fair percentage of families are supportive of their members, whether they be males or females. This is not a message girls can send alone, we have to all join in this motion and work together.
    As for speaking out not being part of the solution, I would say that it is a BIG part as speaking out has been a taboo in Saudi Arabia for so long, so just that change in attitude in itself is an accomplishment. Also, with regards to speaking the truth, isn’t that how the message of Islam spread throughout the world?
    It is time to come together and work hand in hand to make our good society a better one.
    Thank you

  11. Amna,
    Sane people will swim with the current. Only those who are crazy swim against it.
    However, any change in life depends on those crazy people.
    Thank you for being crazy, and very, very brave.

  12. AF: Regional, as in spreading from families to their immediate neighbors?

    “with regards to speaking the truth, isn’t that how the message of Islam spread throughout the world?”

    Don’t you think the compulsion of the sword has had a much greater influence?

    “having lived in saudi all my life, i’ll tell you whats the problem here…want saudi to change- to be ruled under shariah and not under culture and tribal Islam.”

    muslimah, I confess I don’t know if you mean this seriously, or if this is supposed to be funny. Look not just at Saudi Arabia but examine carefully at each country that has attempted to enact sharia. Is it not true that in every case sharia has proved inadequate to deal with the problems of society? In that case, what choice do people have other than to fall back on the support of their families and extended families – tribal law, as you put it? And allow me to demonstrate my ignorance further: if the problem is “too strict an interpretation of Islam”, does that not imply you desire a modification or loosening of sharia?

  13. @Solomon2:

    Actually if you look at examples of the application of Sharia in places like the Taliban and Somalia you’ll see crime dropped like a rock and law and order was established over these very difficult areas.

    However, in the case of the Taleban they went too far.

    In the case of the Islamic courts in Somalia, they were overthrown by a foreign power.

    Also, to the compulsion of the sword thing is silly. By the time of the crusades centuries after the prophet Jerusalem wasn’t a Muslim majority (it was split around Christians,Jews and Muslims) also the large Muslim populations in South East Asia where Muslim armies never reached supports this fact.

  14. Non sequitur, your response does not negate mine; just because you are right doesn’t mean that I’m wrong. Sharia is not “law” in the sense of human legislation, but divine decree. Therefore, the definition of what is criminal is different, as is the reporting of such. For example, as I understand it, under sharia when a man demands intercourse with a woman, threatening to accuse her of adultery otherwise, there is no law against it, and certainly the woman has no means of appeal, save through the tribal system. Regardless of the outcome, the behavior of the Talib is not considered criminal, why would it show up on the statistics? (Reference)

    Furthermore, a community needs are not only for law and order, but for physical and spiritual needs. Neither the Taliban nor the Islamic courts provided for the former (tribal support and international aid did that) and it is unclear to me whether forcing specific Islamic practice upon people at gunpoint could elevate them more than it demeans the human spirit by depriving people of choice.

    BTW, Muslims often cite the spread of Islam in S.E. Asia to “prove” the “peaceful” spread of Islam. But it didn’t really work that way. Muslim traders and sailors converted a few of the natives and brought them superior weapons, allowing them to dominate others. The militancy of certain Muslim groups in S.E. Asia is a proud tradition and continues today in areas like Aceh and Mindanao.

  15. To each his own Solomon, to each his own. I for one am an absolute supporter of the motion of peace. Its works better with me. It suits my nature, ie, a female. I will not sit however and say there is nothing in my hands to do because Jihad has not been announced by our rulers.
    And yes, Islam is derived from Salam which means peace. And yes, we do promote peace and we do perform da’waa in peaceful methodology. I speak for myself.
    Thank you for enriching our background knowledge on other methodologies by which Islam was spread.

  16. @Mohamed S.

    Crime rates are not low in the Taliban or Solamian controlled areas (where on earth did you find crime figures???), just people living in fear! And their style of rule have only provoked major humanitarian disasters in areas where they control.

    And to be honest, I wouldn’t say we are too far off from the Taliban or Somalian style of Islam in Saudi either… A few differences:

    o Women in Saudi can get an education. Although other than teachers and doctors, most do not contribute to society (out of no fault of their own)

    o We (Saudi’s), due to our oil revenues, demand respect, dress a little smarter and blame everything on “culture” when we don’t like the motion! (Remember that the world, the media and everyone else, cares about the fact we are developing nuclear facilities. If this was across the border in Africa for example, I assure you they would have been bombed by now—lets not beat around the bushes, most ideological fundamentalism comes from Saudi origins)

    o Due to the social class divide we have here, a good proportion (large) can travel abroad when they please—obtain a higher level of education—and when in Saudi, do what the hell they want! You can disagree as much as they want on this one, but I have seen it first hand! This gives the elusion of a new social era, a drift from the west. Yet in reality, if a person (from a lower social bracket) attempts to get away with the same thing—hell breaks loose!

  17. Just to clarify, when I wrote “Women do not contribute to our society”– I meant in terms of employment figures with relation to the number of female graduates we have in Saudi..

  18. another errror! sorry :P

    Remember that the world, the media and everyone else, cares**less** about the fact we are developing nuclear facilities. If this was across the border in Africa for example, I assure you they would have been bombed by now—lets not beat around the bushes, most ideological fundamentalism comes from Saudi origins)

  19. @Solomon2:

    Ummm…that’s called Rape and the penalty is death.

    Neither does the current government of Afghanistan provide the physical support the people need. Afghanistan is way too poor a country.

    And as for the Islamic courts, they were in power like what? 3 or 4 months? Not enough time to do support anything really. And the ICU was well supported because they got rid of the warlords that were terrorizing the people.

    And that little theory of yours of forcing people to convert in Southeast asia is untrue. Considering at the time what were “superior” weapons? Everyone had swords and shields and the like. It’s not like they gave them advanced anti-tank weapons or anything.

    @Raf Fatani:

    During the Taliban, Opium production was 0%.

    Now Afghanistan is the world’s top producer of Opium.

    Before the Islamic Courts Union, Somalia had been ruled by cruel clan warlords fighting against each other.

    When the ICU took over this all stopped, when Ethiopia invaded, the ICU was weakened and now the Al-Shabab crazies have taken over.

    Also, it’s true most don’t contribute to society through no fault of their own but that rather applies to men as well, employment opportunities are far and few between in Saudi.

    Also, I don’t understand your last point, could you clarify it?

  20. @mohamed I canit understand why someone sane would like to be ruled by sharia…I’m a western woman and I’m thankfull to be born in a western country. Afghanistan and Somalia as someone told before me where ruled by fear, there was no freedom at all, there where no crimes because the sword spoke. I saw on you tube some terrible video where women where killed. Under the Sharia terror in Afghanistan women couldn’t go to school. are you hoping for something like that?

    I like this blog because it gives me an insight of Saudi life….I have a question for you all I’ve recently read an article that a top cleric in Saudi is for a marriage for girls around 10/12..what do you think about? I’m asking to all of you in particular to Mohamed.

    In my humble opinion a country won’t develop unless women and men will have the same rights.

  21. Sharia law is constant and no-one has anything against it (or shouldn’t).
    For one, not everything on youtube is to be believed as is. For another, even if it were true, this most probably isn’t justified by Sharia.
    Another very important thing to keep in mind is Ejtehad; free interpretation of Islamic Law. Not everyone applies the Law using the same approach, and this difference is mostly a blessing. Of course, even different approaches are to be justified in Islam. When they aren’t, the application shouldn’t be under the name of Islamic Law.
    Islam promotes unity, its allows diversity and it reject separation. How some Islamic sects are promoting the separation of other sects and calling for that is, in my humble opinion, wrong.
    And I only speak for myself.

  22. @amna thanks for the clarification. What it’s difficult for me to understand is how is possible in a modern world a woman like you does something important for your own country (as to protect historic places) is scorned by others…I see all of this with the eyes of a western woman and it’s pretty difficult to understand that by culture/religion a part of population (eg woman) can’t partecipate fully in daily life.

  23. @countrygirl:

    In Somalia, the ICU did pretty well considering that they saved people from the khat chewing murders known as the tribal warlords who killed people for kicks and stole international aid.

    As for Afganistan you’ll recall what I said in my post is:

    “However, in the case of the Taleban they went too far.”

    The Taliban were too extreme.

    And I don’t understand your final question. Please improve your grammar.

  24. @Mohamed my question was:

    In Saudi Arabia a top cleric said that it’s ok for a 10/12 girls to be married what do you think?

  25. @Amna

    “How some Islamic sects are promoting the separation of other sects and calling for that is, in my humble opinion, wrong.”

    So Islam as it has been taught to us, is a religion that accepts more than one interpertation?

    But other than that kudos on what you’re doing. I’ve always said if this country ever changes, it’ll be due to the female effort; not that men arn’t doing enough, women just do it better.

  26. @country girl

    Haha “top cleric”, picked right out of the fucking headline. Religious scholars say some pretty ridiculous things, which isn’t all that surprising since the subject of their “wisdom” isn’t the most absolute thing in the world. But yeah, do you honestly think people are going to running around marrying 10 y/o girls because some dolt said so? It’s sick and disgusting to even think of robbing any girl that young of her innocence. We’re not a nation of pedophiles…atleast I hope not.

  27. @Broke Saudi I don’t think that someone will marry 10y/o because the dolt said so but after hearing from the news that a court negate a divorce to a 8y/o (the divorce was asked by her mother), a similar case in yemen where an 8 y/o was granted a divorce or the case a rape victim was condemmed (then I think the king of Saudi Arabia pardoned her) I’m wondering sharia (as its followers) is really defending and helping kids and women?

  28. @countrygirl

    Ill add insight to you’re query… Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Sheikh, the kingdom’s grand mufti, said in Al-Hayat newspaper. “A girl aged 10 or 12 can be married. Those who think she’s too young are wrong and they are being unfair to her.” << this guy is the TOP cleric in the country!

    Its also not unheard of in rural Saudi to marry as young as 10!! I know its shameful and disgusting, but it happens… you might not hear of it as often, but in rural Saudi, it happens—and more than you think!

    The argument as it stands is: Islam regulates the law of marriage, one of its rules is, the right of marriage when the child hits puberty.. So if that means 10 or even 8, then by the current interpretation of Saudi Islam, it is legal!

  29. Broke Saudi,
    Of course it does! Have you not heard of the four mathaheb. Ejtehad is free interpretation of Islamic Law. Or better, free interpretation of methodologies in applying the constant Islamic Law. Most scholars do not disagree on the basic fundamentals of these Laws, they just differ on the approach to applying them. I am not going to promote one against another. I follow that which my heart and mind chooses, and I alone will be responsible of my choice. Other than that, I can accept that every unique individual has his/her own unique approach. Of course, this is all fine when justified using Islamic Law.
    Thats my two cents in this.

  30. @Amna

    I’m aware of the different schools within Islam, but those differ in petty issues, or am I wrong? I was referring to sects (Sunni, Shiite, Sufi, etc), they differ in their core beliefs. I know I’ve been taught in school to know that we’re right (Sunnis), and the rest are wrong. People say that Islam has been twisted over the years to satisfy people’s archaic whims, but is that really the case? Maybe people haven’t twisted Islam enough, in order to adapt it to our times.

  31. As Amna, I accept anyone who says : “la elaha illa Allah, Mohammed rasulu Allah” as a fellow Muslim.
    This is the First Pillar in Islam and the most important in my humble opinion. I have friends who come from different religious backgrounds and that doesn’t effect how I feel (or act) towards them.
    What others think maybe different to what I think, but this is my opinion.
    I also believe that no-one is perfect, thus we can learn so much from our differences.
    Always remember to : “Share our similarities, celebrate our differences.”
    ~ M. Scott Peck

  32. I see that people are discussing lots of issues in comments, and honestly, as much as I like to participate, I’ve promised myself not to speak on such matters again since I have a very bad temper :D
    one word to Amna though, you’re not the only one who suffered this mentality. Ralph Waldo Emerson said :” To be great is to be misunderstood.”
    “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”
    “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”
    It’s expected! conformity is a disease. Deviating from it caused one famous writer to end up in a mental institution because his family thought he was crazy for acting differently from the rest.
    I would go on forever if I listed all the negative experiences I went through for thinking differently.
    Don’t let them get to you! Rise above. they speak of religion, they attack you in the name of religion, but I can assure you they have very little or too much of it in their blood. Both cases are extremes, and both ends are wrong because we were told to be moderate.
    Take care ;)

  33. magicrealism

    moderate – it depends by what you mean by moderate. SA moderates may look like extremists in Russia or Canada.
    But I did not want to write about that.
    I wanted to cheer up for Amna.
    I heard that many heritage sites or ancient sites in SA are in awful state and there are no money for conservation. I think that what Amna is doing is very important and I wish more people (men and women) have a courage to try to do something about it.
    What I can’t understand why some people in SA are attacking her for what she is doing, it is soo stupid. She is trying to do something to preserve hers and theirs heritage!

    Mohamed S.
    “we are not amused”
    You still don’t understand? That’s probably because the knowledge of languages is just what it is – the knowledge of languages, nothing more nothing less.

  34. “muslimah, I confess I don’t know if you mean this seriously, or if this is supposed to be funny.”

    dude i’m very serious.

    ” Look not just at Saudi Arabia but examine carefully at each country that has attempted to enact sharia. Is it not true that in every case sharia has proved inadequate to deal with the problems of society? In that case, what choice do people have other than to fall back on the support of their families and extended families – tribal law, as you put it?”

    shari’a law when implemetd the right way can never be *inadequate*. for me, my utopia is madinah as it was in the Prophet Muhammad’s (SalAllahu’alaihee wasallam) time.

    ‘And allow me to demonstrate my ignorance further: if the problem is “too strict an interpretation of Islam”, does that not imply you desire a modification or loosening of sharia?’

    no, I think the *interpretation* of Islam should be based on Qur’an and the sunnah ALONE (what our Prophet did or said) and not on cultural whims and desires.

  35. “Jihad has not been announced by our rulers.”

    i doubt if that’s gonna happen anytime soon. we are too busy being the slaves of the western governments. that’s the sad reality.

    amna, do you have a blog?

  36. “shari’a law when implemetd the right way can never be *inadequate*. ”

    If you believe that, then you can see that attempts to do so haven’t worked. So is it really a good thing to keep trying, or should some workable alternative be implemented instead?

    “my utopia is madinah as it was in the Prophet Muhammad’s (SalAllahu’alaihee wasallam) time.”

    Could that be part of the problem? For Muhammed, as conqueror, rarely had to deal with the ordinary problems of government like construction and sanitation, let alone electricity, telephone service, and other modern amenities. Many a dispute, and accusation, I understand, had to be dealt with him personally, and occasionally through his direct line to Allah. A fundamental tenet of Islam is that Muhammed was the last prophet, yes? So how could this system be expected to work after he departed?

    “*interpretation* of Islam should be based on Qur’an and the sunnah ALONE (what our Prophet did or said) and not on cultural whims”

    Then do you approve employing artillery against buildings sheltering combatants, if women and children are also inside, as Muhammed did at the battle of Ta’if? And what is your opinion of the doctrine of abrogation – is it valid or not?

  37. Hi Ahmad – I am new to your blog but I read this letter with great interest. You mentioned that some of your relatives have told you to “quit this nonsense,” but does the criticism not come much stronger than that? To be honest I’m amazed that you are able to write the things you do without arousing much sterner actions.

    Also: society rebels against deviant behaviour no matter where you are. But the difference between Saudi & the UK is that here the worst you can expect is stares and verbal abuse. Not oppression.

  38. In UK this is true, apart for the Muslim girls killed or missing by their families because they are too westernized.
    This happen too often in Europe and USoA and I think it happen much more in Arab countries.
    For reference, Google for Hina Salem (and honor killings).

  39. Very true Mirco. There have been numerous “honour killings” in London these past few years (many in my own borough). They don’t represent British society at all though – just some vestiges of the repressive upbringings that sadly some 1st-generation immigrants brought with them.

    Personally I despise the phrase “honour killing”. Who is the “honourable” party?!

  40. The victim is the only honorable party.
    The other is the party of the shame.
    The problem is too much 1st and 2nd generation people approve this behavior.
    The problem are not the few that kill, the problem is the large majority that approve or do nothing against this.
    If the people approving or supporting the criminal or the victim are ostracized and shunned by their neighbors these crimes would happen less than now.

  41. Having life in the West all of my life, I can no longer imagine my life and goals being controlled by men.

    As a young working woman, my husband left me and refused to support his children because I refused to quit college. Later as the sole support of my daughters, I had supervisors tell me that they refused to offer me equal opportunities or salary because I was a woman. “Men have families to support,” they said as a way to justify their prejudice. Did the care and housing and feeding of my children not count in their ideology? Apparently not.

    God (Allah) did not make women less than men. Just look at Mohammad’s wife or daughter. Just look at all of what Mohammad said regarding women. True Islam gave women more rights in the 7th C. than women had anywhere else in the world. Yet, Islam has taken a defiant step backwards.

    There is no scientific or psychological data to support the repression of women. On the contrary, women may have a superior chance to resolve the major crises that plague the world.

    As world history shows, it is only men’s fear that represses women.

  42. So, Valerie, do you think that all that people, for over 1.000 years were all wrong in what Allah say and Mohamed teach?

    Can you point where it is wroten that women have the same rights and dignity of men? That they inherit the same like males, that they didn’t need a guardian, that they can divorce with the ease of a man.

    True Islam gave women more rights in the 7th C. than women had anywhere else in the world.

    False. The status of the women in Europe, mainly in the northern Parts was and is always better.
    I bet that the status of Mongol women at the time of Genghis Kahn or Attila was better.

    So, please, don’t complain that Islam is misunderstood and it is all about man’s fear.
    Do you want be a Muslim, play by the Islamic rules that are immutable.
    If you don’t like, change book of rules.

    Crying is for weak.

  43. Mirco / Valerie: Can either of you produce excerpts from the Quran showing whether or not Islam does indeed afford equal rights to men and women? I’m not an Islamic scholar, so I’d be interested to hear them.

    I have heard many people say that indeed 7th century Islamic life for women was less harsh that it is under, for example, the Taliban

    And to anyone who thinks that women should not be given equal rights: I would ask them to explain what’s going on in the Philippines. That Muslim country has a female president (Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo). Why would all those Muslims vote in a female leader, if she were less capable than her male counterparts?

  44. And to anyone who thinks that women should not be given equal rights: I would ask them to explain what’s going on in the Philippines. That Muslim country has a female president (Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo). Why would all those Muslims vote in a female leader, if she were less capable than her male counterparts?

    Uhh…the Philippines is NOT an Islamic country!!! Its essentially a Catholic one (majority). Are there Muslims? Yup! Are there other faiths? Probably. You ARE right about some Muslim countries hainv female leaders. Pakistan is one of them. Turkey as well I believe.
    anthrogeek10

  45. Hello crew! Great blog Ahmed. And kudos to you Amna. Brave initiative of yours. Though I am not Saudi I also feel equally concerned about the welfare of the generations to come. I want to highlight one of the comments made way back that posturing a rather confrontational stance can sometimes be counterproductive. Instead a tempered and tactful method of challenging repressive customs would go along way.

    once again awesome work guys!!!

  46. I am a strong believer that the young generation has lots to offer, and that our youth are best suited to shape the future and wipe-out the widespread cultural misogyny.
    Great post Ahmed :)

  47. Riverscrap…

    Yes, I believe that the USA is more behind some Islamic countries in many ways and in particular a woman’s right to be involved in government.

  48. Martin / riverScrap // Friday, January 23, 2009 at 4:14

    [b]Mirco / Valerie: Can either of you produce excerpts from the Quran showing whether or not Islam does indeed afford equal rights to men and women? I’m not an Islamic scholar, so I’d be interested to hear them.[/b]

    Where I could start?

    For a Muslim male divorcing his wife is as fast and simple as telling her three times “divorce”.
    This is not so simple for the wife to rid herself from her husband.

    For inheritance, if I remember correctly, the part of the daughters is half of the part of the sons. More here

    We could add that in a trial, in front of a Islamic judge, the testimony of a woman is valued half of the testimony of a man. So, it is impossible for a woman bring a rapist to the law unless there are other witnesses of the rape.

    A man can have as much as four wives in the same time (plus the right hand possession – female slaves captured in wars he can rape legally) where the woman can no have more than a husband at time (and no right hand possession).

    Islam allow the genital mutilation of women/female children. Mohammad only recommended to “Not cut too much”.

    I have heard many people say that indeed 7th century Islamic life for women was less harsh that it is under, for example, the Taliban

    Well women were respected well before Muhammad, in Arabia. Kadija (first wife of Muhammad), for example, was a very rich widow and had a big business in trading.
    She married Mohammad and he don’t married any other woman before she died and he inherited.

    What did Mohammad, in many cases, was to confirm the uses and costumes of the time, so they are crystallized in the religion now. They can not be deplored, because he sanctioned them and adopted them sometimes.

    Why would all those Muslims vote in a female leader, if she were less capable than her male counterparts?

    I would say that Muslim could support female leader, sometimes, because these female come from a leading family. In Pakistan Benazir Bhutto is the daughter of Zulfikar Bhutto. But, she needed to marry before trying to become President of Pakistan.

    They, so, didn’t vote Benazir because of Islam, but without considering Islam and giving more consideration to tribal/ethnic/political affiliation.

    Philippines is a catholic country, with a 10% minority of Muslims. Turkey have not and had not any female leader for what I know. They have a Islamic male leader trying to broke the separation of state and religion forced upon them by Ataturk a century ago.

    I remember a single queen in Egypt in the medieval times. Lasted a very shot time as she was not recognized by the Muslim powers to be of the time.

    Historically, Muslims visiting the Europe were appalled by the liberty of the European women of their time and the deference of the men to them.

  49. I think Saudi Jeans is really catching on!!! I see lots more great comments than when I was last here. Does anyone know if Saudi Eve is still blogging somewhere? And just to add my 2 riyals worth…you are all part of the changes happening in Saudi. It’s very exciting to watch! I’ve had the honour of working in your country these past 6 years. There has been lots of change in that time. No…we definitely don’t have anything close to Afghan or Somali style rule here. So much of the way people behave here is based on their assumptions about what others expect from us. Social expectations and pressures are a huge part of the order in place. As time goes by I think we will see more and more effort to replace those social pressures with the “rule of law”. In the meantime as people recognize that they are gaining more and more individual space and breathing room….I’d encourage everyone to try and be responsible with this “freedom”…unfortunately too many young Saudi guys seem unable to handle the simple privilege of driving on the roads here. Way too much fatalistic thinking on the roads here. Thrill seeking here is taken to extremes that I’ve never seen before.
    Our experience here depends to a large extent on where we are…Saudis always tell me how much they like Jeddah…..apparently for more open socializing that young people are generally able to do their. Meanwhile Expats prefer the Eastern Province as we have access to Bahrain. And then….there are the walls…so many faces to show….one face to family…another for friends….another for those secret encounters…maybe another for work or school. I hope as time goes by people will be able to pull these various faces and personalities together into one integrated whole. Best Wishes for all your combined blogging. Robyn Graves

  50. Young women like you Amna make me proud and hopeful of our situation here.

    Continue on down your path and don’t let anyone get in your way.

    Good luck and all the best.

  51. Ahmed,
    Hello—my name is Leah and I’m a 22 year-old college student at the University of Vermont in the USA. I am enrolled in a ‘Gender and the Middle East’ class, which caused me to stumble across your blog. I have a few questions for you. What aspects or views of Saudi Arabia do you wish to convey to the readers of your blog? Many people, especially those from the United States, have a very skewed image of your country based on what the media portrays. What message do you wish Americans will take away from your blog? Due to your public political ideas, have you been met with criticism or threats from those in your country or around the world? If so, has this affected what you are willing to write in your blog?
    I am looking forward to hearing from you and I hope your exams go well.
    Leah

  52. HI Leah,

    What is your major? I am an Anthropology major with a minor in Middle East studies. However, I was taking The Modern Middle East this semester and I dropped it. :P It was too much with my work schedule.
    anthrogeek10

  53. Hi Ahmed-

    I too am a student from the US (and also an anthropology major like you), studying gender in the Middle East. It amazes me to see how active you are and I must say, truly inspiring. Unfortunately, I must admit that I do not know much about Saudi Arabia, but it seems as though you are trying to change the way women are seen and understood in your country. It seems like you are really trying to give them a voice that they may not otherwise be allowed to publicly do themselves. (Correct me if I’m wrong!)

    I was wondering about organizations or groups that you take part in, or lead, and want to know if you have a lot of women speaking up and acting out for their rights. Is this generally publicly allowed, frowned upon, against the law, etc.? I just recently learned about women not being able to drive in Saudi Arabia and then read it here on your blog as well. Do you see women gaining rights like these (and others) in the near future? How and when do you see this happening?

    I think it’s interesting that some say you are “Western” because of your liberal beliefs. In class we’ve been learning a lot about colonialism and these ideas about Western feminism versus Islamic feminism, and wonder where you believe you fit into this framework, or not. Hope to hear back from you soon and good luck with all those exams-I know how you feel!

    -Ally

  54. Hi,
    Like a few others before me, I’m a US student attending the University of Vermont and taking a class on Gender in the Middle East, which is what lead me to your blog.
    It is highly reassuring to see a man in the middle east standing up for women’s rights as you are. It is (sadly) the stereotype in the US that men in places like Saudi Arabia are consistently degrading and belittling women, and as you point out this does happen, but it is good to know (although not really surprising) that this is not every male’s viewpoint.
    How would you describe the general climate of gender attitude in Saudi Arabia? Are you of a small minority of males with your attitude, or is there more men with your viewpoint than is generally seen through Western media?
    Thanks for your time, and have an excellent day!
    -Corey

  55. Hi Ahmed,
    For the third time you have read, I too am a US student studying gender in the Middle East and am very impressed by your blog!

    This post is amazing…I find it very refreshing to see a man, any man really, standing up for womens rights. There are far too few in this world doing this.

    Throughout the blog it seems that you have very strong opinions, which I find great. My question is, do you find this blog to be a save haven for you–or is it a place to get your word out globally? Maybe both ideas of mine are totally wrong but I’m curious to find out.

    I know a lot of people in the US have a certain stereotype of Middle Eastern people, due to the media. Do people in Saudi Arabia have a stereotype about Americans? This is an off topic question I know, but I would love to know and hear back from you.

    Hope your exams went well, and thanks!
    -Alexandra

  56. Looks like you have some homework, Ahmed.

    Anyone else get the feeling that all these students are from the same class? Methinks they were told to key a certain phrase in Google, and your post came first xD

  57. hi ahmed, riverscrap, etc.,
    yes, there are some members of a class reading your blog in the u.s., and no, they didnt all find it using google. im the prof and i provided a list of suggested blogs students could read, so I found it using google. the point is i wanted these american students to read what (some) people in the middle east are actually thinking and talking and writing instead of just reading all the boring academic books i assign. that’s the deal in case you’re wondering. i find your blog is a favorite with the students.
    thanks.
    elizabeth smith
    assistant professor of anthropology
    university of vermont

  58. Dear Liz,

    Just a note: the people writing here have good IT literacy (the use of the internet as a medium for knowledge based sites) and a good enough command of English, (so not to bother with Arabic sites)… something mainstream Saudi (middle easterners) lack. You will get a range of views here, but it does not represent mainstream by far… However, I do applaud your method.. This is a great way for your students to get stuck in!

  59. @prof smith

    Hope I didn’t come across as being rude – I actually admire your approach to teaching this subject. Like you, I’ve found that Ahmed’s blog gives a great insight into life in the Middle East (I’m from London).

  60. “We are young and we are not amused. We are eager and determined. We will not be silenced and we will not be intimidated. We shall speak up and we shall overcome. Open your minds and hearts. Listen to our fresh voices.”

    –very well said Ahmed. it made goosebumps all over my body. hehe

  61. My name is Laurin Gray, I am a student at the University of Vermont. I am studying anthropoly of the Middle East. I have been studying gender segregation and female roles. How common is it for a woman to step out of the traditional roles? Are all women still living in with gender segregation, out of jobs, public sight, etc. or is it not very common in Saudi Arabia anymore? It is inspiring to see such belief and determination from someone that was raised to do as told. Amna’s family supported her, how much harassment did they go through? Are people close to her family following their lead?

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