MOCI new law, women’s driving, marrying (and cheating) foreigners

  • One thing that I failed to mention in my last blogpost about the new online media law is that MOCI has broken one of their promises. Back in March 2010, Abdulrahman al-Hazza said the ministry has no plans to pre-approve the editors of news website like they do with newspapers. The text of the law that came out on Saturday listed the approval of the editor-in-chief by the ministry as one of the conditions to register an “electronic newspaper.” MOCI keeps saying that they are extending a hands to us and we should trust them, but how are we supposed to trust them when they can’t even keep their word?
  • Over 100 Saudi citizens signed an open letter to the Shoura Council, asking the Council to discuss the issue of women’s driving. I know, I know. It is indeed sad that we are still discussing this, but that’s Saudi Arabia for you. The signatories suggested a trial period for women’s driving, where women are only allowed to drive in a certain city during a certain time of the day, among other conditions and restrictions. I see what they are trying to do, which is to find a practical approach to implement this, but honestly I hate this gradual oh-let’s-consider-the-feelings-of-our-super-senseitive-society way to do things. A basic right is a basic right. Let’s get this over with and move on.
  • American Bedu has a nice interview with Tariq al-Maeena, columnist for Arab News. I met Tariq in Jeddah during the Saudi BlogCamp. I find it strange that despite being married to an American, he does not encourage Saudis to marry foreigners and thinks the government should have some stringent demands before approving a Saudi’s request for a foreign partner.
  • It rained in Jeddah again, and again it was pretty bad.
  • During my time in Riyadh I had a chance to closely watch the expat community there. One fascinating aspect of that community, of course, was the relationships between men and women. The interaction between the expats and the social restrictions of the city creates an interesting dynamic, although I have to admit that listening to their gossip sometimes felt like watching some lame soap opera. But if this is your thing, then you should read orchidthief’s blogpost about cheating among the expat community.

Dubai: Saudis and Britons

I was surprised when I read earlier this week that there are 5,000 Saudis living in Dubai. I’m not sure if this number is big or small, but I don’t think there is a larger Saudi community living abroad anywhere else. I can understand why, though. Beside the booming economy and the glitz, it is a place where they can lead a more normal life compared to the stifling, restrictive one back home. It is also just next door in case they needed to visit or return.

Many people in the Gulf feel that their countries are trying to catch up with Dubai, but not everyone is keen on remaking the Dubai story. A Saudi columnist recently wrote that we should not compare ourselves to Dubai because it is “too open” and we simply cannot — and should not — do the same.

However, many Saudis who live in the rapidly growing emirate quickly responded to him, passionately defending their new home and saying it could be true that Dubai is welcoming the world with wide open arms, but it is also offering choices their own country did not give them; better opportunities and much, much more freedom: no one would force you to live your life according to their whims and wishes.

The Daily Mail ran a long piece yesterday on the bad behavior of British expats in Dubai and how it could cause a backlash and a rise of religious extremism, suggesting that an act of violence would burst the D-bubble. So between the Saudis who want to enjoy a normal life and the Britons who move there to go wild, how can this city keeps its leadership in the region, economically and socially, and how its rulers will deal with the pains of growth?