Press freedom ranking, arms, doctors, genies, he’s back!

  • At least 20 Saudi medical doctors wanted to show the world what kind of ignorant idiots they are, so they went and joined an ongoing campaign calling for special government hospitals for women in order to prevent mixing of genders. Carol Fleming, who worked for hospitals in Riyadh, comments.
  • The recent US-Saudi arms deal, with an estimated $60bn price tag, was marked by the unusual absence of any opposition by Israel and its lobby in Washington DC. Dov Zakheim, blogging at Foreign Policy’s Shadow Government blog, says this is “In part because the Israelis do not expect such an attack [from the Saudis]; in part because they will be receiving the more advanced F-35 the same year that the Saudis begin to take ownership of the F-15s…” At the end of his post he mentions one more reason: “Riyadh is the biggest prize and the Israelis are ready to go to great lengths to win it over — and if that means silence in the face of a massive purchase of American arms, so be it.”
  • Speaking of Foreign Policy, they have this aptly titled article by Simon Henderson about the return of Prince Bandar bin Sultan, head of the National Security Council, after two years of being AWOL. Elaph had the scoop on this one a couple of weeks ago.
  • RSF released their 2010 Press Freedom Index. Saudi Arabia, unsurprisingly, is at the bottom ranking 157 out of 178. Last year we were 163. Can we call this progress? As a journalism student, I’m not quite sure how to feel about this.
  • Everybody back home is laughing about this. I don’t want to talk about it.

Who Needs Doctors?

Saudis comprise around 20% of the workforce in the healthcare sector. Considering this very low figure, the government have decided to open new colleges of medicine and health-related sciences to cope with the increasing demand of healthcare services in the country. It seems pretty much straightforward and it should make sense to almost everyone. I say “almost” because there is one particular man who strongly disagrees.

Sheikh Saleh al-Fowzan, a senior cleric and member of the Ulema Council, recently wrote to Al-Riyadh daily expressing his dismay at this approach by the government, which included opening health colleges even at Imam Mohammed bin Saudi Islamic University, and asking the government to open more religious colleges at the “civic” universities. I thought we already have large Islamic studies departments at all of our universities but what do I know.

Sheikh al-Fowzan argues that people need Sharia more than they need medicine and science, and that they need muftis and preachers more than doctors and scientists. (!)

With mentalities like this one, no wonder our country is still struggling to join the modern world. Such statements readily exposes that there are still some people in the religious establishment who seem so detached from reality. I have to say that at first I was laughing and thought nobody would buy his argument, but going through many comments on the newspaper’s website had left me frightened. This man owns a seat in the body which has the highest religious authority in the country, and his opinions — bizarre and foolish as they maybe — exert much influence on how regular folks here think.

I don’t want to ask him to be more responsible and act according to what is in the best interest of our nation because apparently that doesn’t concern him at all. But please, cut the nonsense and stop insulting our intelligence. Oh and btw, I think he could really use a doctor.