Confusion Prevails

Before KAUST, segregation was the norm and mixing was haraam. Then KAUST happened, and suddenly mixing turns out to be okay. Al-Shethri opened his mouth. He was sacked. The others got the message.

The new Minister of Justice explained in detail how segregation is a foreign concept and mixing is actually cool. Sheikh Ahmed al-Ghamdi, head of haya’a in Makkah, gave a lengthy interview to Okaz where he basically said that there is nothing wrong with mixing and those who oppose it are opposing Sharia. Meanwhile, his organization continue to terrorize people in other parts of the country.

Clown Mohammed al-Nujaimi before KAUST was inaugurated stressed the importance of segregation in education, something he described as one of the fundamentals on which the Saudi state was built. Few weeks later, after al-Shethri was sacked, he took a full U-turn.

Problem is, apologists like Jamal Khashoggi now have to make up lies to make this sounds normal. Mixing at KAUST is very restricted, he says, that a Venezuelan student can’t have his Mexican female friend over at his place.

Is that true, Nathan? I know you threw a nice Thanksgiving party earlier this year, and from the pics I can see you had some girls over. I hope you didn’t get any trouble after that party.

So confusion prevails. In the past we were told mixing is sinful. Now we are told it is alright. Those who don’t want to appear contradicted talk about good mixing and bad mixing. Are we supposed to believe the “mixers,” the “segregationists,” or the “hypocrites”? Such a dilemma…

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26 thoughts on “Confusion Prevails

  1. I remember seeing a photo of King Abdullah posing with a group of saudi college girls (can’t remember which university) and one of my friends said:

    “طيب,مين الشاطر الي بيقول هذا حرام؟”

    :D

  2. I believe it is good to see that some long time ignored issues are revisited and some scholars are looking at it from different angles now. Such debates and different viewpoints should be welcomed not only in KAUST and its issue of segregation; but in so many aspects of our daily life.

    About Mr. Khashoggi editorial the other day; I was also a bit surprised by how he was confidante describing those so claimed rules! We have seen number of pictures stating the otherwise!

  3. I think I got to read some students experiences before about the housing, there are some restrictions related to the dorms, however I can’t get to that information atm. I might look for them later after work.

  4. The example given of the Venezuelan student and his female Mexican friend makes it almost sound as if the issue is segregation of Latin Americans, however I recognized it is a gender issue.

    It does seem rather recherché as a “problem” at KAUST which is in that sense more analogous to a government funded Western compound with a few Saudis (15% of students 5% of faculty). Given that these students are more mature ie grad students not 1st year undergrads, and accustomed to co-ed living it would seem that there is less risk of mass inappropriateness. Except of course for the temptation to have a “friend” given that spouses are not with the married students, it seems.
    Hmmm. Perhaps the KAUST officials should remember that most campuses have special apartment-style residences for married students, and their children, if any. Another way to reduce the temptation to haramness, should KAUST decide that it is worth the minimal cost to allow wives/husband to join their student spouses.

    Also as corporations learned the hard way, employees are better, happier, more productive workers when they are happily married, and happily geographically with their spouse. Grad students are a combination student/uni employee so it would seem to apply to them too.

  5. Everybody knows how it works in Saudi Arabia. Religious scholars, media channels and newspapers are politically pressured to agree with the ideas of the man in power. Some people are fighting to speaking against the religious establishment but the religious establishment itself does not have complete freedom of expression. Do you know newspapers are actually required to write Custodian of the Holy Mosques when they refer to King Abdullah?

    http://adnisa.wordpress.com/2009/12/25/will-you-wish-merry-christmas-this-christmas/

  6. I’m at KAUST. Spouses are allowed to accompany their student husbands/wives. I’m not familiar with the exact rules regarding restrictions in the singles dorms. However, the gym is strictly segregated with the bigger, better facility available for men only.

    • Thank you for clarifying. It wasn’t clear whether Nathan’s wife was absent for personal reasons or institutional ones, which is why I wrote “seems”.
      There should be even less concern about mass inappropriateness then.

      As you are probably aware, singles dorms on campuses in other countries come with different degrees of restriction, from unisex and doors locked with a night desk person on duty, to both men and women singles sharing an apartment, and a variety of permutations in between.

      The point remains that KAUST is hardly set up to be a den of iniquity by most standards.

  7. LOL…. im laughing my gutts out here.. i swear

    i was sitting one day with my cuzn who recently moved to saudi arabia for job purpose from abroad … and King comes in and he greets a lady and shakes hands with her..and i swear he jumped “oye…! HARAAAAAAM!” LOL i was like welcome to KSA… where haraam is not haraam but anything sensible can be haraam lol

    • Ahmed MDS, sometimes people are too used to an social action like shaking hands that they instinctly proceed with it even though its not appropriate. This happened to me at my first day at work as I was lost and late for orientation, I reach the meeting room and see my boss at the door and orientation at the door.. to make up for my lateness I ,without thinking through that my boss is female, exteneded my hand shake while asking that if its okay to join the orientation now.. she noded and instructed me to go in and have a seat.

      It happens to everyone… not about halal and haram..

  8. It is like saying in Islam ,forbidden too eat pork and it is Ok to eat christians food who eat pork ..This is religion and religion still rule Saud Arabia ..

  9. Do you people realize that your country invaded it’s neighbor a few weeks back? Your silence on this issue is deafening. I guest some topics are too hot to touch for “controversial bloggers” like yourself or are you only interested in issues involving skirts and natural disasters.

  10. Ya akhi your efforts are appreciated but why dont you comment on the ridiculous behaviour of the iranians? Or why dont you talk about something postive for a change like that guy who saved 14 people in jeddah.

  11. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year Ahmed!

    Actually, there is no contradiction between the comments that Jamal made and my Thanksgiving party last month.

    There are three types of housing at KAUST: female only, male only, and married. KAUST policy says no cross-gender visits in the male or female housing (the female receptionists were especially quick to chase men away).

    The Thanksgiving party was being held in a married apartment (I am married). Married housing (obviously) has no official gender-segregation policy for guests.

    So you see, there is really no contradiction behind the confusion. The American student can have his male and female friends over for thanksgiving dinner if his wife permits. : )

    Hope this helps,
    -Nathan

  12. Nathan–thanks, that clarifies at least for me, and is rather standard policy on more conservative campuses, or before it was discovered that having coed undergrad residences helped the boy-men to maintain a modicum of civility rather than engaging in drunken vandalism (I exaggerate only slightly).

    However, I do think that the point in Saudi would be that unless they were all married couples in your married students’ quarters, ie each woman with her mahrem and one who permitted her not to cover in the presence of the mixed group, in the rest of Saudi this would be haram, verboten, not a good idea.

    I hope Saudis will chime in to clarify the confusion that does seem still to reign in the sense that some on Saudi soil are more equal than others.

  13. Is having “mixed” guests in one’s private home legally verboten in all of Saudi?

    I have been told that, while “mixing” is haraam in public, in the privacy of one’s own home there are no enforceable rules or laws about entertaining (within reasonable moral limits, of course) “mixed” guests. One might be in danger of mildly offending conservative neighbor, but not of attracting the wrath of the religious police because of a dinner party.

    For my own information, please clarify. Thanks.

  14. I hope a Saudi will answer this for you but to the best of my knowledge yes it would be verboten. ie you couldn’t in a non-compound, non-KAUST setting have a group of your single female and male classmates over for dinner, unless you were willing to take the risk that your jealous neighbour for example wouldn’t call for the religious police.

    The best example to my mind would be the strict segregation of wedding celebrations: women in one room/ building, men in the other even though many of the guests would be related or even married to each other.

    In the context of a mixed dinner party I think the issue is that maybe no one would make a fuss, and maybe someone would and if they did the law would be against you.

    If I am wrong I hope someone will correct me on this. If I am right I hope they will give us other examples.

  15. I still see no hope for this country. religous and political leaders want us to dwell on small matters like this which will keep the population busy so they will not bother the elite.
    New minister of justice and every one else who claim gender mixing is OK never went out in puplic posing with their women.

  16. Hey ahmed
    I believe that we have to listen to all of the opinions and decide for are selfs
    I’m sure that they wanted to tell their real opinion like Al-Shethri but they can’t because in islam its forbidden to go against your leaders in our case our king, I don’t know if you noticed in the ceramony at KAUST, the head of ift’a(المفتي العام) al-Sheikh was sitting next to the king and some other religous heads.
    So they have their opinions BUT the king has another So what would you do if you were put in that position!!
    When they changed their opinions to the kings, I admired them more and more because they sacrificed their image in front of us so that they obey god Allah’s word by obeying the kings word!!

  17. Hey ahmed
    I believe that we have to listen to all of the opinions and decide for are selfs
    I’m sure that they wanted to tell their real opinion like Al-Shethri but they can’t because in islam its forbidden to go against your leaders in our case our king, I don’t know if you noticed in the ceramony at KAUST, the head of ift’a(المفتي العام) al-Sheikh was sitting next to the king and some other religous heads.
    So they have their opinions BUT the king has another So what would you do if you were put in that position!!
    When they changed their opinions to the kings, I admired them more and more because they sacrificed their image in front of us so that they obey god Allah’s word by obeying the kings word!!

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