The Shoura Council is an advisory body comprised of 150 members appointed by the King and serves as a quasi-parliament. Those members are academics, technocrats and businessmen. They are, in other words, the intelligentsia of the Saudi society, the crème de la crème, the elite, the… well, you get the idea.
However, I find myself rather gobsmacked by some of the conclusions they make and the recommendations they reach on some issues. Here’s a recent example: after being equally split over a need to simplify the regulations of Saudi marriages to foreigners, the newly appointed vice president Bandar al-Hajjar rejected the proposal. What a disappointing start for Mr. al-Hajjar who was just a few days ago the president of the National Society for Human Rights.
I do not understand the harsh restrictions enforced on citizens who want to marry foreigners. Why should the government bother with who one chooses to marry? I really do not understand the government’s obsession with interfering in the minutiae of people’s personal lives.
The argument offered by the proposal opponents is embarrassingly weak and wrongheaded they should be ashamed of themselves. “Such recommendations would greatly increase the number of Saudis marrying foreigners while we are fully aware of the complications that such marriages create,” they said. They also said changes would only exacerbate the problem of spinsterhood in the Kingdom. Are they trying to convince us that by taking these unfair measures they are actually protecting Saudi women?
As for the “complications” bit, the best response comes from Sabria Jawhar who says, “Well, those complications are created by the Saudi government in the first place. Perhaps minimizing the complications that exist in the law would help those marriages.”
Now how can a large group of supposedly intelligent people all agree on taking such an unintelligent position is just beyond me. Sadly, it is not the first time and this is not an isolated, single case. Remember the weekend thing?
Around one year ago, my good friend Khaled said that we should not get all worked up over the nonperformance of the Shoura Council because it is nothing more than a dead body that we should respectfully leave to rest in peace. I guess he was right all along.