Routes d’Arabie, Rami Khouri, Reverse culture shock

  • The Saudi Routes of Arabia exhibition in Paris has been receiving some pretty good reviews. Hundreds of artifacts never before seen outside Saudi Arabia are currently on view at the Louvre. I have seen most of these pieces at the National Museum, and I’m glad the whole world is getting a chance to see this part of our history. I wish they would do more to promote the museums and exhibitions like this inside the country for the locals who only get to hear about such events when they take place abroad.
  • Rami Khouri thinks the new media in the Middle East synonymous with the Al Jazeera effect of the 1990s, i.e. it is merely venting and therefor will not lead to any real change in the Arab political landscape. I’ve heard this rhetoric many times before. If he thinks that the current wave of activism is useless, then what exactly does he suggest? Should we just sit down, keep our mouths shut, and wait for his generation to bring about change? Based on their history, this seems pretty unlikely. But lamenting this whole phenomenon as merely venting is naïve. Khouri and other old media people obviously still struggle to understand new media and their influence. I never said blogging will change everything, but I think it is the start of something good, something that our predecessors were not able to do. The evidence is his comparison to Al Jazeera, which is a one-way medium just like the one he comes from, unlike new media where people are actively engaged and involved and not simply passive consumers.
  • My friend Ben has been living in Saudi Arabia for a year, and now he is back to the US and is suffering from a “reverse culture shock.” Thankfully, he says, his condition is treatable. The doctor has prescribed him movies, lots of bacon, and a few happy hours.

On Saudi Students and Hijab in France

When the French government decided to ban all religious symbols in schools few years ago the decision hardly went unnoticed, especially by Muslims as many of them found the rule directly targeting the hijab. While I find this French rule idiotic, I find it equally if not more idiotic what some Saudi female students who got scholarships to France have to say about the implications of this rule on their education.

“There should be a clear agreement between our two governments by which Muslims going there for education could keep their hijabs on,” one of them told Arab News. After spending SR 7,000 to study French, she is now asking the officials to sort it out.

The only way I see for our “officials” to “sort it out” is this: one of them gets the French citizenship, he wins the presidential elections there, and then he makes the parliament change the law. Pretty straight forward, huh? No offense to Ms. Abdulhadi, but don’t you think you could have spent a few hours learning some general information about France and its laws before you apply for a scholarship there?

Another student went as far as asking the government to stop scholarships to France altogether. Sorry Missy, just because you think French laws contradict what you believe in doesn’t give you the right to deny others the chance to go and pursue a better education in that place as long as it suits their beliefs.

I think this story says a lot about the political awareness of our youth and how they view the world. They somehow seem to believe that it can be modified to become more in line with their liking, and that a simple call to the so-called officials disguised in the name of religion is enough to change everything as we often see around here. This should be a rude awakening to Ms. Abdulhadi and her friends, as well as for the rest of us who are still delusional about where we stand in this world today.

UPDATE: According to John Burgess, there is some confusion around this issue. Apparently wearing hijab in French universities is not forbidden, but medical schools have rules which ban head coverings as unhygienic. However, this doesn’t change much of what I said here.