Something is bothering me about Norah al-Faiz, the deputy minister of education. Sure, as the first Saudi woman to be appointed in such a senior position, she has come under a lot of attention, and maybe a lot of scrutiny. But I’m not talking about her performance as an official; I believe it is still early to evaluate her work, probably in the same way she thinks it is too early to talk about introducing sports to girls schools (it’s not, btw).

What is bothering me is this: Why does she keep referring to her Najdi roots every time someone asks about her allegedly “leaked” picture and the niqab? I believe she has every right to be proud of her roots, but I don’t think this is the right context to highlight them and associate the niqab with them. She serves in the ministry of education, she should be a role model. What kind of message does her statements send to teachers and students? Why can’t she just say that it’s a personal choice and that she expects others to respect it?

Now I could easily find her picture and put it in this post, but I’m respecting her wish in that she does not want her picture to be published. Is it too much to ask her to respect the rest of us who put their nation’s interests above their regional affiliation?

19 thoughts on “Roots

  1. While I respect religious feelings, that doesn’t mean I do not criticize them. It makes no sense for a woman in public life to keep her face hidden. While you cannot judge much from a still picture, you can judge a lot by listening and seeing a person’s expressions. If you don’t want others to see your expression while you talk, you must stay out of the public sphere.

  2. Since she is serving at a national level for all girls’ education rather than representing her region or being an advocate for Najdi girls only, I agree she shouldn’t be emphasizing her regional roots for whatever reason. Although talking to niqabi is initially a surprise for Westerners, one becomes used to it, and better able to appreciate the expression in the eyes, in the voice, and with gestures and body language.

  3. While I can see the connection between her “Najdi” roots and ultra conservatism, I don’t see why she has to mention it every time, as if to say that my roots are better than everyone else’s. Also if she wants to cover up completely then maybe she should cover up behind the curtains and stay out of the spotlight.

  4. Playing on one’s roots is a delicate balance. Politicians must please their constituents to secure re-election; and showing pride in local culture helps to do that. Yet, as senior public servants, they must be impartial and objective while governing, lest tribalism set in.

    I imagine she keeps mentioning her roots because she feels defensive. Isn’t she supposed to be proof of reform?

  5. I also share your concern. She contradicts herself a lot, a sign of an unstable and undeveloped personality.

    I’m glad to see a woman in such a position here, though I was hoping for a better equipped and more aware person.

    I’m gonna hope for the best.

  6. Lets put it this way, if we had a system that would elect on the basis of merit, then she wouldn’t stand a chance!
    But on a serious note, the reason she needs to mention her roots at every possible election is the fact that we still live in a racist nation! The roots of the conservatives in our country is Najd… and to be accepted as a ‘controversial’ (female) public figure she needs to maintain a conservative PR.. I don’t necessarily think this is the way forward, but there you go!

    Some described her post in the ministry as an epic milestone of positive change in Saudi politics.. I wish I could agree, but unfortunately I think she is a voiceless puppet.. dear O dear!

  7. With all due respect, she only made it there because of her najdi roots, U, I and everybody knows that.

    That is how things work in our world, and I am not belittling her because of that, as you know, this will make her more respectable to those in gov, the few of course ;) with no self respect, that belittle women because they are women, at least this gives her some backing… just in case.

    Just listen to women and girls complain about having to put the abayas on their head and cover their face at schools and universities around KSA, if Nora gets to uncover her face, that would cause some problems, with the kids and with others… and God forbid… show how in contradictions all our actions are.

  8. I totally agree with u that it is not appropriate for her as a member of the ministry of education to repeat the fact that she is Najdi. I think that she uses this as an excuse to justify her refusal to be publicaly seen uncovered. As a Najdi woman, she is required by her cultural background and society to be covered, something she doesn’t necessarily agree with. I wonder if she really believe in it or she only does it because it is a social abligation and to avoid being criticized..I also wonder if she still covers when she travels abroad..

  9. No she doesn’t cover abroad and she is not a typical conservative Najdi. She does and says those things to appease people who are looking for any excuse to bring her down.
    Qusay has it right about her sending very mixed messages if she were to be herself. She ran the administrative institute for several years here in Riyadh and anyone who knows it or its graduates knows what a fantastic job she did. Plus students there were not forced to cover their faces or wear any particular type of abaya. I know this as a fact because I visited there many times.

  10. @Qusay,
    Dude, in her defense, she was just making it short. She could’ve said
    محنا سعوديين و بس، لا، إحنا الأصل. مو زي هذولي لجاوه ….

    Coulda been worse.

    By the way, how hot is this woman? Anything worth looking at?

  11. I was really disappointed to read this morning that she thinks it is too early to introduce girls sports in public in school..I fail to see the harm of having a sprot program in girls school. Almost all of the private shcools have one at a different level.

    As for her repeating her Najdi background, I think most of us are tired of that line, I think she just trying to appease the religious establishment. And from what I understand she had no problem uncovering her Najdi face while studying in the US.


    I believe she is a grandmother, so you decide how hot she might be. :)

  12. Naughty naughty Makki. No MILF for you!

    I think the message she is trying to send (consciously or not) by mentioning her roots is that she is governed by the strict rules of a Najdi society. She may or may not feel comfortable uncovering her face during official business, but social etiquette demands that she does not do so publicly and definitely not in the media. Not a very comforting message I agree.

  13. Could you please comment on DAWIT ISAAC,
    the Eritrean journalist,
    who so unrighteously is imprisoned in his own country for years because of his opinions.

  14. Besides – how “hot” are you guys, when you´re over thirty?
    Or after being father / grandfather?
    Why don´t you cover yourselves too, in order not to offend any woman passing by?
    More hijabs for men! Equality!

  15. In light of the other comments it makes more sense that she would need to emphasize her bona fides as a conservative, whether by repeatedly reminding of her roots, or by wearing the niqab.

    Some grandmothers are “hot”, not that hotness is necessarily desirable in a minister. Our “hot” minister, Belinda Stronach, was unfortunately not very competent. However Rachida Dati is considered hot, and while a new mother (returned to work 5 days later), is old enough (43 in November) to be a youthful grandmother.

    Competence would be the key issue. Many politicians have appointed an incompetent woman ?deliberately? eg. Edith Cresson appointed by Francois Mitterand, Kim Campbell by Brian Mulroney. Both women conveniently took the fall for their respective parties/governments.

    It sounds as though this woman has a hope of being competent (with appropriate support),

  16. She is very weird…when she was the principle or something for Kingdom schools she was wearing her abaya on her head when I saw a clip of the tour she was giving of the school. Then her picture is posted wearing colored hijab not even black. When all the religious&conservative people started saying she is setting a bad example for our daughters… she said it was my passport picture and I did not allow them to post it! Pick a side and defend what you believe in. Is she hinting that Najdy roots forces one to wear niqab even if they don’t believe in it. so she is not wearing it because of her beliefs?

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