Covering Up

Niqab-less Norah al-Faiz

Norah al-Faiz is supposed to be a symbol of progress in Saudi Arabia. She was appointed deputy minister of education by King Abdullah in February 2009, making her the kingdom’s highest-ranking female official. At the time, many observers hailed the move as a sign of reform.

But controversy has dogged Faiz since the beginning of her tenure. Continue reading at Foreign Policy

Update 6/27/2012: Saudi state press agency published this new photo of al-Faiz, reportedly taken in Riyadh last night during her visit to an Aramco cultural event. She is the first from the left in the black abaya.

Norah al-Faiz in Aramco cultural event in Riyadh

Al-Faiz in the TIME 100

norah_alfaiz_2In their annual TIME 100 issue, Time magazine named Norah al-Faiz, the new Saudi deputy minister of education, as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. I have nothing against al-Faiz, but I think that the magazine is overestimating her influence. The woman has been in office for less than 3 months. Her most talked about decision was a directive she sent to schools warning the students of the perils of reality TV shows. I’m not trying to pick on her, but I think it is way too early to try to assess her performance or influence.

Now the selection of al-Faiz by Time might be questionable, but how the Saudi media handled the news is just laughable. They reacted orgasmically, saying she came ahead of Obama and his wife! Does it really take a genius to realize that the list published on the website is not ordered according to influence? Probably not, but it is exactly this kind of idiocy that makes me despise Saudi media.

Again, I want to repeat that I have nothing against al-Faiz, but I believe that a critical analysis for the performance of her department could be much more useful than celebrating a fake victory.