Saudi Insanity

A story reproduced by Fox — originally from The Times of February 26 — reports:

A university professor allegedly caught in a Saudi-style honey trap has been sentenced to 180 lashes and eight months in jail — for having coffee with a girl. …

[O]ne senior Saudi journalist told The Times he was Dr. Abu Ruzaiz, a married man in his late 50s with children.

“He is highly respected and above-board. Nobody believes the religious police’s version of what happened. The whole of Jeddah (the main city near Mecca) is in uproar about this. Everyone believes he is innocent and was set up,” the journalist said.

Contact between unrelated men and women is strictly prohibited in the desert kingdom where religious police, commonly known as mutaween, patrol public places in teams to enforce their brand of ultra-conservative Islam. … They are under the command of the Saudi Commission for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice. …

Ruzaiz is said to have received a call from a girl purporting to be one of his students who asked to meet to discuss a problem that she did not want to talk about over the phone. The professor agreed to meet at a family cafe, provided she brought her brother along as a chaperone.

When he arrived, he was surprised to find the girl alone, and was promptly surrounded by religious policemen who handcuffed him and hauled him into custody. He was accused of being in a state of khulwa — seclusion — with an unrelated woman. …

In another high-profile case, an illiterate Saudi woman is hoping that King Abdullah will spare her life after she was condemned to death for “witchcraft.” Her accusers included a man who claimed that the woman, Fawzi Falih, had made him impotent with her sorcery.

An international human rights group said Falih — who faces being publicly beheaded — was allegedly beaten by religious police and forced into fingerprinting a false confession.

Prosecutors are currently investigating 57 young men arrested last week for flirting with girls at shopping centres in Mecca. They were accused of wearing indecent clothes, playing loud music and dancing in order to catch the attention of girls.

The Times published an earlier account of the “witch.”

Here is yet another story:

A 37-year-old American businesswoman and married mother of three is seeking justice after she was thrown in jail by Saudi Arabia’s religious police for sitting with a male colleague at a Starbucks coffee shop in Riyadh.

Yara, who does not want her last name published for fear of retribution, was bruised and crying when she was freed from a day in prison after she was strip-searched, threatened and forced to sign false confessions by the Kingdom’s “Mutaween” police.

And here is a follow-up:

A US businesswoman living in Saudi Arabia fears for her life after the religious police issued a rare statement defending her arrest this month for having coffee with a male colleague at a Starbucks coffee shop in Riyadh.

According to that Times story, the absurdly named Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice made the following statement:

It’s not allowed for any woman to travel alone and sit with a strange man and talk and laugh and drink coffee together like they are married.

All of these are against the law and it’s clear it’s against the law. First, for a woman to work with men is against the law and against religion. Second, the family sections at coffee shops and restaurants are meant for families and close relatives.

Yes, some people in Saudi Arabia are upset about these sorts of abuses. But the mere fact that this sort of religious-based fascism exists indicates widespread cultural insanity in that country.

Americans who want “faith-based” politics should look seriously at what that actually means when seriously enforced. No, no American (that I’ve heard) has complained when a man and woman “laugh and drink coffee together.” No, various American Christians merely advocate the complete ban of all abortions from the moment of fertilization, say that “in the Old Testament, Harry Potter would have been put to death,” and call for “the death penalty for homosexuals” and for “Biblical theocratic republics.” But at least in America the religious crazies don’t get to go around brutalizing people with state sanction and resources.

One thought on “Saudi Insanity

  1. Burgess Laughlin

    The quoted articles reveal the mechanics of power in a theocratic society. Zealots uphold and enforce theocratic laws. Opponents–of the behavior of particular religious-police in particular circumstances, if not of their principles–can do nothing but (anonymously) express their hope that someone in power will offer clemency or overturn the case in an appeals court (one that is subject to “pressure”).

    Coincidentally, I am reading Robert Ferrigno’s novel, Prayers for the Assassin, a story set in the former USA, around 2040, a few years after an Islamic Republic of the US arises from a time of chaos brought on by a supposed Zionist nuclear attack on Mecca, New York, and Washington, DC.

    Ferrigno’s style is naturalistic, sometimes repulsively so. However, he is a skilled storyteller and he does capture several historical phenomena such as the simultaneous presence of “moderate, modern Muslims” and fundamentalist zealots jockeying for power to control society, with zealots gradually winning because they are a philosophically motivated wellspring and their opponents are not.

    Ferrigno also accurately shows that the only part of the US likely to secede from the new Islamic republic (which does not cover the whole, former USA) is the Bible Belt. When the Bible Belt states do secede from the Islamic Republic of the USA, they revert to primitive Christian fundamentalism.

    Ferrigno also neatly shows the inevitable but slow decline in the economy and technology that follows from the rise of a theocracy.

    I cannot recommend the novel yet, even for its sociological interest, because I have not finished it. But it might interest anyone who is intrigued by the process through which a society passes when it changes from one dominant worldview to another.

    For the same reason, reading a detailed history of the rise to power of Christians in the philosophically decaying Roman world is fascinating.

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