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.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Memo from King Abdullah's Press Secretary 

To: Head of Saudi Press Agency
From: Press Secretary to King Abdullah
Date: October 15th, 2004

Subject: Translation of Barbara Walters interview transcript into Arabic

When the Saudi Press Agency translates the transcript of the King's interview with Ms Walters into Arabic, King Abdullah would like the following points to be noted:

1. When questioned about unemployment in the Kingdom, the King replied

We need to find approximately 100,000 jobs for those who are seeking jobs but cannot find them at this time

Clearly the King gave a number that is considerably below the correct figure for the total jobless. However, he believes that even this lower figure may still be demoralizing for internal Saudi consumption. You should therefore change it to say

Only about 100,000 remain who are looking for work, and most of them are waiting for work to become available for them in the cities.

This will give the impression that there are in fact plenty of jobs available in the country, if only the lazy slobs would get off their backsides and go out into the desert to shovel camel dung.

2. The Jewish woman asked

Terrorism to some degree starts with extremism, and there are people who feel that the educational system here in Saudi Arabia has in the past contributed to extremism and hatred. When we were here three years ago, we found textbooks that called for the killing of Jews. What is being done to stop this … extremist teaching?

She is of course arguing a special case on behalf of her own race. Questioning a phrase about calling for Jews to be killed implies that there is something wrong with that idea. Our religious establishment would be enraged if we were to soft-pedal on that, and so to avoid difficulties, King Abdullah would like the phrase to be removed. Therefore the question in Arabic should read

Terrorism to some degree starts with extremism, and there are people who feel that the educational system here in Saudi Arabia has in the past contributed to extremism and hatred. What is being done to stop this … extremist teaching?

3. In a further response to the question on textbooks, the King said in Arabic that

Yes, we have adjusted them a little.

Unfortunately, the translator made the mistake of translating this to….

Yes, we have. … We have toned them down.

…giving the unfortunate impression to the kuffars that we had responded to their squeamish “liberal” complaints by removing our teachings on deviants such as Jews and Freemasons. The translator has now been moved to a position where he translates yoghurt labels and the packaging for toilet rolls. However the King does not want our people to think that we are diluting our religious teaching in any way, and has requested that the entire phrase be removed from the Arabic version.

4. When the King said

The questioner is often times more knowledgeable than the questionee

He was making “a compliment”. This is apparently a Western concept that involves saying nice things to women. Its purpose was “flattery”, another Western concept used for such purposes as gaining sexual favors or changing the subject. The King wishes to emphasize that his objective was definitely the latter, not the former. However justifying all this to a conservative Saudi audience would present difficulties. Rather than trying to explain to the typical Saudi male why one might say nice things to women, the King would rather forget the whole exchange – it should therefore be deleted from the Arabic version.

5. While the King made no concessions whatever in the interview to “progress” or “liberalism” or “female emancipation”, this interview is nevertheless an opportunity to build morale by holding out a false promise of hope “just over the horizon”. We have “suggested” this spin to the editors of our national newspapers. They have responded extremely well. For example, the “Arab News”’s Abdullah Wins Applause for Assurance on Women Driving is an excellent example of how to build optimism out of the meaningless words "some day"; together with the right measure of deference. If any of your newspaper contacts would like to run similar headlines, we can supply a range from the "touchingly naive" to the "cloyingly sycophantic".

A. M. Al Shegri
Press Secretary
Royal Palace

(Religious Policeman's note: These are the actual changes that were edited into the Arabic transcript of that interview. Thanks to "Jeff" for pointing this out to me in this article in "The New Republic".
The rest of the memo's contents are speculative)

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