The diary of a Saudi man, currently living in the United Kingdom, where the Religious Police no longer trouble him for the moment.
In Memory of the lives of 15 Makkah Schoolgirls, lost when their school burnt down on Monday, 11th March, 2002. The Religious Police would not allow them to leave the building, nor allow the Firemen to enter.
I always take a perverse pleasure in seeing what our smoother spokesmen say in the West, and contrast that with the reality of what actually happens back home. And they don't come any smoother than Prince Turki Al-Faisal, currently UK Ambassador, soon to be US Ambassador. Our loss is your gain.
In a reflective article, he trots out the usual boring platitudes -
Prince Turki recalled the death of King Fahd whom he described as “a much loved king.”
“We are, however, tremendously fortunate in his successor, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah, who is well known for his wisdom and compassionate statesmanship not just within Saudi Arabia but within the international community as a whole.”
Indeed. And whilst Abdullah is one of the better ones out of a pretty bad bunch, he has not totally escaped the congenital idiocy of the Saud family. Turki didn't mention this priceless quote of our good prince, when demonstrating his "wisdom" and "statesmanship"
''It became clear to us now that Zionism is behind terrorist actions in the Kingdom.
I can say that I am 95 percent sure of that'', he said.
He regretted that Zionism has misled some of our sons.
Moral - never go for a racing tip from Abdullah. Anyway, back to Turki, who is now getting quite misty-eyed
He mentioned one abiding memory that he would carry with him acquired from the second summer festival of Saudi Arabia in the UK.
Held in Manchester, soon after the terrorist bombings in London, the festival attracted 35,000 visitors, among them 3,000 schoolchildren, visiting on a special educational project, the largest in the UK this year.
He's referring to this festival
, as described on his own embassy's site. I have to say that I found this photo totally creepy. After all, having dressed up these young girls as little Saudis, were they told, especially in the session when "A Saudi woman gave a personal account of the role of women to remove some of the common myths in the West about women’s lives in the country",
that in Saudi Arabia, they could be required to get married and have sex, with men as old as their grandfathers? Only yesterday in the "Arab News
", we were told that"It’s not uncommon to find old men marrying young girls....One extreme case of such a marriage involved a 15-year-old girl being married off to a man more than 100 in Jizan. ..... In another case, a man above 60 married an 11-year-old girl."
I wonder what Mum and Dad would have made of that, as their daughters were being dressed up as little child brides?
Another lecture at the same festival "gave an analysis on current religious issues that face the world and how Islam and the West could live side by side in peace."
Well, one way that the Prince could help the two religions to live side by side in peace, would be to tell his disfunctional relation, Prince Naif of course, to stop locking up Christians and trashing their bibles. As recently as June this year
,....reports of 46 confirmed arrests of Christians, with some sources citing in excess of 100 Christians arrested. From last Friday through yesterday, Saudi authorities engaged in a major crackdown involving a joint effort of standard police forces and Muttawa religious police. In the last couple of days the raids have spread from the Capital, Riyadh. This is the largest crackdown in several decades in the religiously oppressive country.On Saturday, May 28. 2005 at 8:30 p.m. Chittirical John Thomas (Passport # A9757690), an Indian national, was pulled from work in Riyadh by Saudi Muttawa authorities, dragged to his home, and beaten in front of his maid and 5 year-old son. The Muttawa gathered his Bible and all religious paraphernalia, and took 37 year-old Thomas to the Shemaissy Detention Center.These arrests followed Samkutty Varghese's detention outside of his bible study on March 22, 2005. Varghese (Passport # E8421022) possessed the names and numbers of other Christians attending the same fellowship group. ICC has received credible reports that Varghese was sentenced to 10 months in prison along with several lashes.
Of course, they were "only Indians", so there wasn't a big fuss. And I gather they've now mostly been released. But that'll teach them to be Christians in the center of the Muslim world. We'll live "side by side in peace", once you drop your religion.
So the smooth Prince Turki glides off across the Atlantic, and will no doubt become another charming darling of the diplomatic circuit. He wouldn't be tastless enough to mention all the nasty stuff that happens back home. But when he arranges another festival of Saudi culture, if you've got an 11-year-old daughter, you may want to give it a miss.