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.
Friday, April 28, 2006
When we were talking about The Work Ethic the other day, I did make the suggestion that we could reduce Saudi unemployment, not to mention Saudi fecklessness, at a stroke by only employing Saudis as drivers for Saudi families. Hey, Presto, 1.25 million instant jobs.
However I am a hopeless idealist, and simple solutions in Saudi Arabia usually end up being simplistic. And everything in Saudi Arabia is a complex jumble of issues. My solution won't work because the drivers are needed to transport our females to their relatives, shops, and (but only extremely rarely) their place of employment. And because we keep our Saudi youth in a state of monastic seclusion, never seeing the merest sliver of female skin, even keeping them out of shopping malls where they might glimpse women from afar, we work them up into a fever pitch of extreme hornyness, without them having anything but the vaguest idea of what to do about it. So putting one of these sexual time-bombs in the same car as our cherished females would be just asking for trouble.
Now some of you out there might be equally seduced by simple solutions, and suggest that we allow our women to drive. We've been thru this before. As Hussein, the forum administrator of Saudi Arabia's "false flag" website targetted at the West, the "aren't we all really reasonable and enlightened" Netmuslims site, explains, with all the smoothness of a skilled apologist....
The rule of women not driving is because Saudi women are supposed to wear full Niqab. If they are in full niqab, they would not be able to see well enough to drive a car.
....which may lead the more impatient of you to suggest abolishing the Niqab as well, and kill two birds with one stone. Indeed. Isn't it tempting just to cut thru all the crap, unravel the whole tangled ball of nonsense, and join the rest of the world? Someone decided to do just that, in style. A WOMAN driving at a speed of 160km/hr was stopped by road patrol on the Madina-Qasim expressway recently, reported Okaz newspaper. Police were surprised when they found a woman in her 30s behind the wheel, while her younger brother was sleeping comfortably in the back seat.
That is how God meant life to be in Saudi Arabia. The women drive, the men dream. Instead, the Wahhabis have unfairly loaded the burden on the menfolk, and created a land where men do both.
“I was driving to work on a busy morning in Makkah,” Al-Ahmadi said. “That day was special for me because I was about to get a promotion on the job from the company manager. I started drawing a picture in my mind of me standing in front of the company board members receiving an award for my hard work and listening to all their compliments. I was smiling about this mental picture, but the smile soon turned into a look of terror when I slammed into the back of a water truck.
But back to our original story. I do have an arrangement with Mrs A. If, God Forbid, I'm driving and have a heart attack or stroke or other disabling condition, she must take the wheel and get me to medical help as quickly as possible. To hell with the consequences. And these are the consequences....
They were both taken to the police station where they stayed until the woman’s husband came to release them. He was forced to take a pledge that the incident would never repeat itself.
You see, the wife has no legal responsibility in this situation. It's just the same as if your children misbehave, you have to go into the police station and promise that they won't do it again. It's deliberately humiliating, of course. If you have four wives, fair enough perhaps, it's a bit like having a pack of naughty puppies, you can never guarantee that Number 4 is not up to some mischief somewhere where you can't see them. But if you only have the one wife, what humiliation! You "can't control just one woman?". The looks of scorn and pity from the policemen, who probably keep "their women" locked up in the house so they can't go out and commit the sin of driving or anything else.
Anyway, because our wives must wear the Niqab, they are not allowed to drive. Therefore they need a driver. But that can't be a sexually explosive Saudi man. So what we do is to ship drivers in from the Indian subcontinent. All 1.25 million of them. Don't you see that there's a beautiful logic about the whole thing? It's almost as if God designed it himself.
And no sub-continental would dare to have "ideas above his station" when it comes to our women....
....the Asian expatriate was working as a driver for the girl's family before the death of the girl's father....
....and sometimes, when Boy meets Girl....
....he said that he expressed his desire to marry the girl to her father before his death....
....but this Saudi father is not very keen on the idea of daughter marrying a dark-skinned foreigner....
....But the family terminated his services and sent him back to his country....
....so that's the end of that. Daughter had a silly girlish thing for the driver, but it's all forgotten. But Love will always find a way....
....But he returned to the Kingdom. The expatriate escaped with the girl from Makkah to Jeddah and they were married by a fellow countryman. After that he returned with her to Makkah and lived with her in his house in Al-Azizia District. They lived together for three years and she gave birth to a baby boy....
So they all lived happily ever after. Except that, in Saudi Arabia, happiness is frowned upon, especially true happiness with your Asian driver. As is having a dark-skinned baby. We have a legal system for that sort of thing. Daughters are the property of their family until the day they die. So elopement is, of course, a very serious crime....
....for escaping with a Saudi girl and marrying her without her family's knowledge....The Penal Court in Makkah....
I think you know what's coming next....
....sentenced an Asian expatriate to three years in prison and 1,000 lashes.The court also sentenced the girl to 16 months in prison and 99 whiplashes.
Yes. Three years in prison, and a thousand lashes. Or 16 months and 99 lashes. Occasionally, women get the better deal. But there could be another reason, as we'll see later.
We all know about prison. Let's talk about lashes for a minute. Because you may get the impression from some Saudi apologists that lashing is more symbolic than punitive. I have heard Western expatriates being told that the person doing the lashing "must have a copy of the Quran under his upper arm at all time, so as to limit the blow. The real punishment is from the humiliation of being stung many times....."
So let's take a close look at this photo. I don't see any Qurans under the armpit. I do, however, see two big guys taking it in turns to lay into that guy's back. A covered back, of course. Less hygenic, but it spares the sensibilities of the gawping crowd. A bit like the blanket that the Picador's horse wears in a Spanish bullfight, so you can't see where it has been gored.
The judicial punishment of flogging, which amounts to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, is regularly imposed.
There appears to be no upper limit on the number of lashes judges can impose. The most lashes in a single case recorded by Amnesty International is 4,000, imposed on Muhammad 'Ali al-Sayyid, an Egyptian convicted of robbery in 1990. The sentence was reportedly carried out at a rate of 50 lashes every two weeks. After each session he was left with bruised and bleeding buttocks, unable to sleep or sit for three or four days afterwards.
"I thought it will be fast but no, it was done one at a time... [The policeman] really takes his time before striking. I started counting and when it reached 40 I thought I could not make it... I prayed so hard... At last it reached 60... I could not explain the pain I experienced."
As I said, symbolic.
Why, when both are party to the same "crime", does the husband get 1000 lashes, and the wife 99? Here's another clue. There has been an update in the case of Miyati, the Indonesian maid, who lost several fingers, toes, and teeth at the hands of her Saudi employer, and was sentenced for "falsely accusing" her employer.
The judge who had previously sentenced an Indonesian maid to 79 lashes for falsely accusing her sponsor and his wife of torturing her has reversed his sentence.....the judge who in December sentenced Nour Miyati, the maid brought to a Riyadh hospital back in March 2005 in a critical condition, has revoked that sentence.
....but upheld the sentence of 35 lashes against the sponsor’s wife for beating Miyati.
So just to recap,
....the employer, who beat up the maid and caused her to lose fingers, toes and teeth, was sentenced to 35 lashes
....the maid, who was beaten up by the employer, but who falsely accused her employer of beating her up, was to get 79 lashes for the false accusation, even though the employer was sentences to 35 lashes for beating her up, but that was a false accusation...
Just so long as that is clear.
Thankfully the same judge who passed the original sentence, briefly stopped twitching his head, drooling, giggling, and talking to himself, and in a short moment of lucidity has partially undone the grief he has caused. Meanwhile the Saudi defending lawyer, perhaps overcome with relief, or who perhaps genuinely enjoys kissing nether regions, observed....
“This proves the integrity of the Saudi judicial system” Anyway, here's a little puzzle.
A Saudi who beats up the maid, is sentenced to 35 lashes.
An Indonesian, who gets beaten up, is sentenced to 79 lashes.
A Saudi, the female half of an illegal marriage, is to get 99 lashes.
An Asian, the male half of an illegal marriage, is to get 1,000 lashes.
An Egyptian robber is the lashing record holder, having had 4,000 lashes.
Somewhere in there is a pattern. I'll leave you to work it out.
....for our Saudi World Cup Soccer team in Germany. I know it's the next-door country, but I feel just like that little Dutch Boy, sticking his finger into the dyke (you in the corner, why are you sniggering?) and every time one leak gets plugged another one sprouts up like a Gorgon's Head because I'm going frantic here and mixing my metaphors dreadfully....
First we had the "Skin Issue", expanses of skin in and around their hotel. The hotel got rid of those, thankfully. Then we had the "Rind and Crackling issue", with the hotel kitchen awash in bacon grease. I don't know what the hotel are doing about that, but as some commenters very wisely suggested, there are a number of Kosher Hotels in Germany, and I think the team would be well advised to stay at one of them instead.
But now we have yet another "Skin Issue" (Thanks to "Christer" and "Gerald" and "Thomas" and "Alessander" for bringing this to my attention, and once more "Uwe" for his help with translations).
Here, as you see, is the problem. It is a wall. On the wall is a picture of a young lady. The young lady has a great deal of skin. The young lady is displaying most of that skin, and appears to be lifting her bikini top. Because this wall is in Cologne, you may be forgiven for thinking that this may be an advertisement for Cologne. Perhaps the young lady has sprayed some Cologne on her bikini top, and is now sniffing it? Sadly the truth is much less fragrant. The wall belongs to a building. Inside the building are many such young ladies, all with a great deal of skin, but, I fear, with as little covering. The young ladies work in what is known as the "Personal Services Sector" of the German "Hospitality Industry". This being Germany, the services on offer are subject to close government supervision and health inspection. The building is in fact the largest of its kind in Germany, the Pascha in Cologne.
The slogan on the wall is a play on the words of the official World Cup slogan. Being a slogan, it doesn't transfer too well into English, and the official German slogan
Die Welt zu Gast bei Freunden
translates literally as The World as Guest with Friends. That's rather clumsy, so on their English website they go for A time to make friends. Either way, you get the gist.
Meanwhile, on the wall, they've changed Freunden to Freundinnen, which now reads A time to make girlfriends - which, if you think about it, is quite appropriate for such a building, although it does imply relationships lasting longer than 20 minutes.
If we avert our eyes from the young lady's exposed chest for a moment, and look further down, we can see something very interesting. Not the fact that she is about to take a left-footed penalty kick without a run-up in a very dangerous pair of high heels. (I do hope she removes those when offering "Personal Services"; in some circumstances she could cause a very nasty eye injury.) No, I was referring to the set of national flags.
In fact, they are the flags of the competing nations in the 2006 World Cup. With two exceptions, which football devotees will readily spot. But let's allow Germany's "Der Spiegel" to take up the story.
It must have seemed like a good idea at the time. Europe's largest brothel, the Pascha in Cologne, which incidentally claims to be the world's only brothel with a money-back guarantee for dissatisfied customers, (presumably the ones who get their eyes poked out?), attached the flags of all 32 nations competing in the World Cup to its façade in a bid to demonstrate international flair and attract custom during the tournament this summer.
However, as well as attracting custom, this attracted the attention of some concerned local citizens, who felt it their duty to warn the establishment of the insensitivity of having certain flags on display....
Men from the Muslim community came to the door complaining that showing the flags of Saudi Arabia and Iran was an insult to the Prophet Muhammad.
It's the writing, you see. The Saudi flag says "There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his Prophet" which is deemed, in that location, to be offensive to Muhammad. Now whether Muhammad, having been dead fourteen hundred years, is terribly interested in, let alone offended by, his name being on a flag on top of a brothel in Cologne, Germany, is an interesting theological question. I would have thought it more important to worry about what God thinks, because His name is there as well, but some of our brothers seem to care more for Muhammad than for God, which strikes me as Idolatry, but what do I know? As for humans, one doubts if anyone could actually read that writing on a flag fluttering in the wind all the way up there on the top of a twelve-storey building. And it's in Arabic, of course. And most men who pass this way have eyes missing anyway.
But no matter. Our Muslim citizens came, passed on their advice, and went. Then they came again, as perhaps many try to do in this building, when the 20-minute timer is inexorably ticking away. But no, they felt that another gentle word was in order, some peaceful, caring Muslim advice....
Later, some returned in masks. "On Friday evening we were threatened by 11 masked men who demand that we take down the Saudi Arabian flag," Lobscheid told the Kölner Express, a local newspaper. Not wanting any trouble, the brothel obliged and removed it and the Iranian one. But that still left the flags printed on the poster.
That's right, there's still the poster on the wall. So even more warm and loving Muslim advice is on its way. Yes, they are going to come a third time.
"On Saturday night there were 20 masked men armed with knives and sticks. They threatened to get violent and even bomb the place unless we black out the Iranian and Saudia Arabian flags on the poster as well," said Lobscheid. The men had left before the police arrived. But to spare his establishment any more trouble, Lobscheid ordered a crane to black out the two flags as well.
Excellent. Isn't it nice to reach reasonable agreement with reasonable people, rather than let things get confrontational? It's the Muslim Way.
It's also good for our team. If they drove past there in the team coach, and saw their national flag fluttering alonside all the other World Cup flags, they might be tempted to stop, under the impression that it was part of the stadium. By the time they discovered their mistake, it could be too late. Fifteen minutes to go before the kick-off with Spain, and there they are, not warming up on the pitch, but instead lolling around by the touch line, dreamy smiles on their faces, smoking cigarettes....
But they could teach the young lady how to take a proper penalty....
....two of my favorite interests. But enough about me, there are far more important concerns. Remember this item about the Saudi soccer team? How the off-the-field preparation for the World Cup involved dealing with the "Skin Issue"?
"We do have a photo exhibition in the pool area which shows a lot of skin and it goes without saying that it will be removed by then," Michel Prokop, the hotel's general manager, told Reuters."
....and more ominously....
There are also five art nouveau paintings hanging in a theatre in the park that belongs to the hotel. The paintings by Wilhelm Kleukens feature naked boys wearing wings - and will come down.
....but let's not dwell on that. Because, although General Manager Michel Prokop is reported to have lived in Egypt for two years and therefore should know better, there are other issues still unresolved, issues that could seduce our team down the slippery path of darkness and perdition. I'm not just talking about them losing 7 - 0 to Spain, I'm talking about them losing their immortal souls.
I am extremely grateful to "Uwe" for pointing this out to me, and helping me with translations. For we are talking not about the "Skin Issue", but the "Rind Issue", even the "Crackling Issue"
Schinkenspezialitäten = Ham specialties Schwartenmagen = Stomach (Tripe), could be either cow or pig Leber und Blutwurst = Liver (unspecified animal, but pigs have good ones) and blood sausage Grumbenschmalz Kasseler = Smoked pork loin Wurstsalat = Sausage salad Kartoffel Specksalat = Potato and bacon salad Mettwurst = Pork sausage, salami
....not to mention Grilled Pork Knuckle, Grilled Spare ribs, and many similar dishes.
Folks, this isn't a Hotel, it's a veritable Temple of the Pig! A Monument to Pork Products! They should call it "Der Palast des Schweins"! It's about as Haram as you can get without actually going into the pigsty and giving one of the fellows a wet sloppy kiss all over the snout!
And of course, that's not to mention all the wine-based sauces. And, as Uwe points out, harmless-sounding desserts with names like Berliners which are donuts, deep-fried in lard from who knows what?
Now of course, the team could always bring in their own cooks, to prepare their own menus. But that still doesn't solve the problem, because they'd have to use the same kitchen, which must be literally awash with piggy byproducts, the whole place must be contaminated, there'll be condensed pig fat in the flues, and in the crevices in the ovens, it doesn't bear thinking about.
I think we should cancel the reservations at that hotel, and instead book a Boy Scout camp where they can live in tents and cook food in the uncontaminated open air. I know it won't be as comfortable, but they are not there to be comfortable, nor to look at little naked boys with wings, nor to smell the sizzle of the sausage, they are there to win the World Cup for Saudi Arabia, and no sacrifice is too great.
Mind you, talking about Halal food, I've never understood two theological problems.
Problem 1. It's all based on the Jewish idea, as described in their Book, about the blood of an animal containing its life, therefore we can't eat blood, nor animals that eat other animals and their blood, nor animals like the poor old pig where you can't slit their huge muscular throats easily and so get them to expel their blood quickly and cleanly. I understand that, although it gets so enormously complicated, only a University Imam Graduate understands the fine points
Blood on meat does fall under the category of filth. However, it is excused filth (ma‘fuww ‘anhu), meaning that one can cook the meat and eat it without having to wash off the blood. If one adds water to the meat for cooking purposes, and the water changes because of contacting the blood on the meat, this water may likewise be consumed. There is a caveat, though: if one pours water on the meat with the intention of washing off the blood, the blood is no longer excused (because it has come into contact with a foreign substance) and one must wash it off completely until all its traces are gone. Slight traces that are hard to remove remain excused. (Fath al-‘Allam bi Sharh Murshid al-Anam, 1.359; Hashiyat ‘Abd al-Hamid ‘ala Tuhfat al-Muhtaj, 1.293) And Allah knows best.
But if we think that all this is a good idea, and it's a Jewish idea, indeed something they practice even now, why are we supposed to hate and despise the Jooos?
Problem 2. God made everything for a purpose. So, if we can't eat it, what is the purpose of the Pig?
You can't ride it.
It doesn't bark and keep burglars away.
It can't catch mice.
It's too heavy to put on your lap and cuddle.
You can't shave it and cover yourself in its fur.
You could try sending a bunch of them round a track, but what would they chase, and who (apart from the British with their love of day-long games) would be interested in a race that lasted for three hours and ended up being won by something called "Fat Boy" or "Bacon Butty"* or "Rushing Rasher"?
So what is the point of the pig, if not to eat? Could the Christians possibly have stumbled on some divine truth, after all?
However it is not for me to ponder, and we are told they are forbidden and serve no purpose on God's earth. But as they are so cute, perhaps we are really supposed to kiss them after all?
* An English delicacy, strips of bacon in a white bread roll, ideally covered with HP Sauce*
* An English delicacy, a sauce made of.....Oh, forget it, this goes on for ever....
When God created Saudi Arabia, he also presented us with three gifts:
- The Holy Mosques at Makkah and Madinah, for our spiritual needs
- The Oilfields, for our material needs
- The Indian Subcontinent, so that we had people to sweep out the former and pump out the latter.
Perhaps as a result of this, we have developed certain fixed ideas about what we will and will not do for a career. Generally, we want to work in:
- the Armed Forces, Police, or Security services. However, you need to be in "the right tribes" to get these jobs.
- Saudi Airlines. As pilots, naturally. Egyptians (men and women) usually work as the cabin staff.
- Banks. (Nice clerical jobs)
- Civil Service (ditto)
- University or School. (teachers are very revered in Islam)
- Mosques (Imams ditto)
- Other professions, or as "Managers". But not salesmen, that's for the pushy Lebanese.
(As an aside, my own profession fits somewhere in the above. But if you think I am being smug and superior, I will point out that while at College I made extra money as a Tyre Mechanic. I actually became quite nifty with the tyre lever (both manual and pneumatic), valve key and "spider". Something that has stood me in good stead on two occasions when getting a flat tyre on a desert road. With a hot and grumpy family being being broiled in temperatures of 130 plus, it is a time for rapid personal action rather than trying to call someone out via a dodgy cellphone connection in the middle of prayer time.)
Anyway, the corollary of these jobs that we will do, is those jobs that we won't do. Usually involving touching things other than guns, airplane joysticks, books, pens or computers.
Now for a long time we have had this program of Saudization, involving taking over certain jobs from the expatriates, so that we become less dependent on foreign labor as the oil gradually runs out. The trouble is, decades of foreign labor means that we associate certain jobs with our darker-skinned brethren, and no self-respecting Saudi is going to do one of those jobs, ever. Like the picture above, the Saudi walks proud, the Indian keeps his eyes on the ground 'cos that's what he's sweeping. And only one of them would like to swap roles.
But Saudization is not catching on, and we're having to backtrack.
Labor Minister Ghazi Al-Gosaibi announced yesterday that his ministry was reducing the Saudization rates for certain categories of jobs from 30 to 10 percent after noticing that Saudis rarely apply for such jobs.
So the Labor Ministry has finally "noticed that" Saudis do not like to touch flour, cloth, metal, wood....
"The decision covers jobs at bakeries, tailoring shops, blacksmithy, carpentry, aluminum works, mechanical works, auto workshops, laundries, farms, agricultural and animal projects, land transport, driving trailer trucks and other heavy vehicles, gas stations, pharmacies and optical centers,”
However, the minister insisted that administrative, financial and receptionist jobs at the above workplaces must be filled by Saudis.
Of course! We'll let them do the nice clean jobs! And can you imagine a male Saudi Receptionist? Or a male Saudi Secretary? I don't need to imagine them, I've actually met them, every company has them, but don't get me going on that subject!
So what are we to do with our fastidious and unemployed youth? This is where nice liberal Alhamedi becomes horrible arch-conservative Alhamedi. Because while I believe in democracy and human rights and all that, I don't believe in social security payments to lazy youth who spend all day in bed or watching TV or drinking coffee rather than go out and get some job, any job, that will earn some money for them and for the economy. And I'm surprised that the most pious country in the world can allow at least 25% of its males to live the life of pimps, their "b*tches" being those oil pumps that work tirelessly for them, night and day. So I would cease any payments to them, and their families, until they were starved into going out and get that job. But then, they'd probably rather die of hunger than pick up that Indian's broom.
But the Labor Ministry disagrees. Instead, we import more foreign labor and reduce those quotas. Then we'll whine because the foreigners have the temerity to send their earnings back home and spoil our balance of payments.
So what we do instead is to create more nice government jobs. And where better than in the Passport Department? Because you need a passport to leave the country, and enter it, and an exit / re-entry visa, then a work visa if you're a foreign worker, then visas for your relatives to come and visit, and a visa to nip across to Bahrain, and a visa for Hajj............We can create visas to celebrate every occasion, and they all need clerks to process them. But no Indians need apply. Even the ones with degrees.
So what happened when we created 500 new clerical government vacancies?
An unexpectedly huge crowd of applicants turned up in Riyadh on Wednesday when 500 job vacancies were announced....The applicants, who came from across the Kingdom, had begun to converge in front of the department and in nearby streets since Tuesday morning. Many of them had been sleeping on the sidewalks or in their cars....the youths with no apparent reason at all grew impatient and started to shout and heckle, disregarding instructions to queue up quietly before the counters.
Ah, yes, "queues". Sometimes known as "lines". Like Christianity, something that we are aware of, but do not believe in. There is no such word as "queue" in our language. Why should there be? What is there in the desert to queue for - a McDonalds counter or a portable lavatory?
The Four Rules of Saudi Queueing.
1. Queue is a foreign word, for foreigners. Saudis do not need to queue. If you see a line of people, that indicates that there is something desirable at the front, and it is waiting for you, so just go and get it.
2. If the line is from the Indian subcontinent, they will not dare to stop you from going to the front. Indeed they will be grateful, in their quiet and humble way, that you have honored their line with your presence.
3. If the line contains Westerners, they may object to your going to the front. Affect not to understand their unrefined languages. If some smartass has a smattering of Arabic, pull a face that suggests you can't make head or tail of his silly accent. However if there are no other Saudis around, be careful, as some of them can become extremely threatening and physical. The men can be scary as well.
4. If you meet another Saudi at the head of the queue, precedence goes to the better family or tribe. Unless one of you has a relation behind the window or whatever it is you are queueing for. However if a Bedu from out of the desert turns up, let him go first, because everyone expects him to be pig-ignorant and not understand queues and you just can't be assed trying to explain it to him, and anyway he can't read so he's probably come to the wrong place and he'll bugger off soon enough as it is.
However the problem arises when there are 10, 000 Saudis, and no other nationalities, all after the same thing, and having no word to encapsulate the notion of "queue".
They pushed and kicked, knocking several youths unconscious and injuring others. Officials at the counters could not cope with the waves of applicants scrambling to reach the counter at the northern gate of the department. Overwhelmed by the furious youths, the recruitment officials who were trying their best to complete the formalities of registration after receiving the applicants’ files, had to suspend the process.
They shouted at the officials and accused the officials of dumping their files in a box without recording such details as the weight and height of each applicant. Some of them even attacked the officials at the counter and the officials were forced to stop their work.
Finally, the authorities had no choice but to call in police to control the unruly crowd. In the meantime some officials tried to quell the unrest by announcing on loudspeakers that all the files would be processed only if the applicants waited patiently in the lounges until their names were called out....the situation went out of control despite the best-laid plans because the applicants did not abide by the instructions given to them
"Wait" and "patiently" and "abide by" and "instructions". Again, understandably, missing from our language. If the idea is useless or unpleasant, why bother inventing a word for it?
Any other country, I'd feel sorry for these guys. But it's not as if they don't have a wide choice of jobs anyway, jobs that someone in Cairo or Damascus or Amman would jump at if they were available in their own towns. And there are 1.25 million foreign drivers employed by Saudi households, we could 100% Saudiize those tomorrow, and I bet every single one of those guys can drive, even if he can't do anything else; the only obstacle would be their own vanity.
So the ones who don't get those jobs will continue to waste their youth and their lives. And only the Muttawa will take any interest in their moral welfare.
A Hail court handed down on Wednesday a sentence of 500 lashes and six months in jail to a youth on charges of falling prostrate before a dancer in a musical program held in a rest house (a sort of (usually) alcohol free mens' club / pub out in the suburbs) in Hail seven months ago, Al-Watan newspaper reported yesterday.
The punishment will be given in front of two secondary schools and a mosque in the city. The prostration was recorded by a mobile phone camera and posted on a website. Several visitors to the site demanded the punishment for the youth who prostrated before the dancer.
Better news today for journalist Rabah Al-Quwayi, who went into the police station to get a crime number for his vandalized windscreen, and came out with….
Well, actually, he didn’t come out.
“They said they had closed the case of vandalizing my car and opened a new one that said they doubted my belief in Islam based on writings I posted on the Internet,” said Al-Quwayi. At the police station he was questioned by the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice about his Islamic beliefs,
This is actually the first mention of the Muttawa being involved. But that shouldn’t surprise anyone. Not being a fit person to be in charge of your own soul is a serious offense in Saudi Arabia, so it’s a case for the “Soul Squad”. If they think your faith is a bit shaky, that perhaps you have a little bit of doubt or even scepticism, maybe even a hint of despair, they don’t go in for Christian-style confessions or retreats or counselling, they have a more practical solution. Lashing. In fact, lashings of Lashings.
Fortunately, it didn’t come to that on this occasion.
No further details about the case surfaced until Saturday afternoon when Al-Quwayi was suddenly released from detention. “Al-Quwayi’s case is closed for good,” said Al-Lahem. (his lawyer)
That’s good. In fact, it’s how we make Good News happen in Saudi Arabia. We do something really Bad, so lots of people get really Angry about it, and then we reverse whatever we did, so it looks Good, and lots of people then feel really Happy. Try it yourself. Find a baby with candy. Then take the candy away. Then, when the baby is really cross and red in the face, give the candy back. Happiness! Works like a treat, every time. We may be Saudi, but we’re not stupid.
But here’s someone who’s not so happy. Unlike Jack Straw, UK Foreign Minister, in the Kingdom selling airplanes, who is himself staying at the British Embassy, his minions are booked in at "The Intercon". As are all foreign officials when lured to Riyadh by the sweet seductive smell of oil money. And this includes a Hamas delegation from Palestine. Having been thru their routine of innocent outrage because Western governments won’t finance the political wing of a terrorist group, they are also in town with nothing to sell, but with their hands outstretched like pathetic Oliver Twists. (But don’t get me going on that subject).
....was staying in the same hotel in Riyadh as Mr Zahar, even though Britain has adopted a policy of avoiding all contact with Hamas. "I wonder if I can go down and have breakfast," a British official mused after being told of the potential for embarrassment.
Ticklish problem that, old boy. But you can avoid them easily enough. Hamas are the guys with those big bulky belts. That way, nobody crowds them at the buffet table.
Britain's aerospace industry received a massive boost yesterday after the Government announced a deal worth an estimated £10bn to supply Eurofighter Typhoon fighter aircraft to Saudi Arabia. The biggest beneficiary of the huge arms deal will be BAE Systems, which has a 37 per cent stake in the pan-European consortium that makes the Eurofighter. Other companies who will gain include Rolls-Royce, part of the Eurojet consortium which makes the plane's engines, Smiths Group and Dowty. BAE shares rose 6 per cent to 370p.
The government will argue in Britain's highest court next week that foreign officials who commit torture abroad should be immune from civil action in the English courts.
Christopher Greenwood QC.... will argue for the British government, which has intervened in support of Saudi Arabian officials accused of detaining and torturing four Britons in Saudi jails.
The cases of Sandy Mitchell, Les Walker and Bill Sampson arose from a series of terrorist bombings in Saudi Arabia six years ago which the Saudis blamed at the time on an alcohol turf war among westerners....The torture of Mr Jones, which has been confirmed independently, involved being beaten on his hands and feet, suspended for long periods by his arms, deprived of sleep and given mind-altering drugs.
....the government has weighed in to support the argument that the individual torturers should not be responsible. They have actually intervened formally and put in an argument in support of the Saudi government's argument that the individual torturers should continue to have immunity It's good when your government supports you.
....that I, in my capacity as the Muslim Ummah's official keeper of the "Muslim Offense Level", downgraded the level to "Condition Blue - Somewhat Offended". Although the color does clash a bit with the green of the blog, it is now appropriate because:
There have been no further major provocations by Unbelievers in recent weeks
We have now trained the Unbelievers to apologize unconditionally without asking
As an example of point 2, this article (Thanks, "xtmprszntwlfd", but can't you get an easier name?) explains all....
The Opus Dei prelature has issued an apology for the publication of a sketch depicting Mohammed in hell. The public apology released by Manuel Sanchez Hurtado, the director of communications for Opus Dei, follows the controversy caused by an illustration in Studi Cattolici, a magazine edited by members of Opus Dei. The illustration showed Mohammed in hell, as depicted by Dante in Canto XXVIII of the Inferno.
Never mind that the original picture was created by Gustave Doré about 150 years ago, we'll still accept apologies for it, however belated. And while you're at it, you can apologize for this other picture as well. It's one of Doré's illustrations for a book on the Crusades, and it's called "Baptism of the Infidels". Which must be a mistake of course, it's not baptism ofthe Infidels, it's baptism bythe Infidels, and they are committing involuntary Apostacy on some of our Muslim brothers, thus condemning their souls to hell-fire. Real full-heat Muslim hell-fire, that is, the stuff that can cook a whole turkey in ten minutes, not your puny Christian stuff that's only good for hardening boiled eggs. So baptising Muslims is definitely worth another apology, not to mention the Crusades themselves....
But I digress. The important thing is that the apology was unsolicited - I mean, which Muslims flick thru a copy of Studi Cattolici with their bedtime cocoa? (Although I have heard that their racing tips are very reliable). It's what we've been trying to encourage all along, a good Pavlovian cycle of
- "Oh, no, we might have offended someone!"
- Grovelling Apology
And not only was it unsolicited, but it came from no less a body than Opus Dei, the secretive and highly disciplined branch of the Roman Catholic Church, recently made more famous by the Da Vinci Code. I've never seen the film, but I understand that the assassin was an albino Opus Dei monk called Silas, who later atones for his sin by whipping himself while wearing a spiked thigh bracelet. So I reckon that a voluntary apology from this celebrity and masochistic Christian organization, especially a good muscular apology involving lots of pain and self-degradation, must be worth a reduction of the MOL by one level. It's just a shame it was done behind closed doors. Although we don't do apologies ourself, it's not a Muslim thing, but we do enjoy a good apology, especially a public one, it's the next best thing to a public execution or flogging, so if you could bear that in mind for next time.
Now if you want to go for broke, I'm prepared to reduce the MOL all the way down to matching Green, but I will need a really good apology for those Crusades, and from another major Christian celebrity or organization. The South Tulsa Baptist Church Altar Cloth Embroidery Guild just won't do, I'm afraid. Nor the Central Manchester Salvation Army Brass Band. Not even Pat Robertson, although he's our kind of guy. No, we're talking major big-time contrition here. I can't be any more specific, because then it wouldn't be a voluntary apology, but I think we're talking fancy robes, and big pointy hats, and maybe balconies, and possibly even German accents....
The problem with democracies is that you don't know who is going to be the next ruler of your country. Instead you have ballots every now and then, it's just like playing Bingo, and it's all a surprise. But with our system, we can see who's coming down the line, there's a certain horrible inevitability about the whole thing. When King Fahad was on the throne, we knew that next in line was Abdullah, than Sultan, then Nayif. And sure enough, when Fahad turned up his toes, in stepped Abdullah - a nice enough guy, but a bit colorless, not a mover and shaker, and he'll never set the world alight. But hopefully he'll outlast his two brothers, because the next two are definitely from the shallow end of the Saud family gene pool, the murky bit where the pondweed gathers and the frogs lay their spawn. Those readers who are also serial polygamists will sympathise because, as you will appreciate, King AbdulAziz's DNA was definitely getting watered down towards the end of his quadruple career as father of Saudi Arabia, King, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, and Spreader of the Al-Saud Seed. You'll know what it's like as you get towards the end of your reproductive career, you feel a bit like that champion racehorse who's been put out to stud too long - they keep bringing in some eager young filly, and while it might have been great fun when you could still run three miles without breaking sweat, nowadays you can't even go three minutes without breaking wind, and all you want to do is have a snooze in that shaded corner of the field where the nice green grass is. So when it gets to something like Princess Number 31, not only can you not remember her favorite brand of shampoo, nor her birthday, you can't even remember her name, and you're just trying to squeeze out the last drops of your manhood like that old tube of toothpaste you've grown so fond of.
So that accounts for Prince Nayif, or "Nasty Nayif", or "The Prince of Darkness", whom I've featured many times on this blog. But there is also his older brother, appropriately named Sultan, because he shares all the humility, modesty and sheer common touch of his namesakes who led equally useful lives in their Turkish Ottoman seraglios.
They made Sultan head of Civil Aviation, a great mistake for an overgrown dork and plane-spotter who was able to replace his Airfix models with the real thing. Swimming against the airline tide of reduced costs thru increased standardization, he got Saudi Airlines to buy virtually every airplane type produced on the USA's west coast, requiring enormous subsidies, but hey, it wasn't long since you filled your gas tank was it? Certainly the three passengers on the otherwise empty MD80 from Riyadh to Tabuk would like you to know how grateful they are for their ridiculously cheap fares.
But it is when he opens his mouth that his intellect and wisdom really sparkle. I had collected some of his gems earlier. On the dangers of elections to Saudi Arabia's "Poodle Parliament"....
....elections might pave the way for some illiterate persons, albeit supported by their people, to join the Shoura.
On the freedom to campaign politically....
Referring to the political campaigners arrested earlier this week, the defense minister said they were “outlaws who have revolted against their fathers and the country...Five of them have been released. As for the rest, we pray to God to guide them (to the right path),” he said, without specifying how many remained in detention.
On Civil rights....
People need not fear arrest provided they adhere to Islamic teachings, work for national security and keep away from “deviant foreigners”, he added.
"Deviant foreigners"? Here's a clue....
Prince Sultan declared himself satisfied that Washington would not impose democratic reforms on any country in the region, blaming the “Jewish-controlled US media” for playing up a US “Greater Middle East Initiative”
Anyway, not to be outdone by his brother Abdullah, Sultan has also been doing the Grand Culinary Tour of Asia. It was supposed to be about diplomacy, but we'll soon see what sort of a diplomat he is. He shared some thoughts with accompanying journalists....
Describing the legal system in the Kingdom as the best in the world, he said great efforts had been made to carry out reforms.
What a diplomat indeed. All the legal systems in your tin-pot little countries are inferior to that of the pinnacle of legal excellence, Saudi Arabia. What do you think about that, Khamys Mushayt Girl, still awaiting execution for killing your rapist? Or the Physics Teacher sentenced to 3 years and 750 lashes for witchcraft, now thankfully reprieved? Ask the so-called "Booze Bombers", still with the scar tissue on the soles of their feet from our civilised use of "Bastinado". Or more recently, the restaurant owner sentenced to 90 lashes for - gasp - employing women? (Who sensibly has now "done a runner" out of the country; thanks "Russ"). So no, Sultan, let me explain this patiently. "Best" does not involve hiding the most people for the longest period of time while inflicting the most depraved practices on them. And if becoming King depended on an exam, you've just scored 1/10 for Civil Rights and Legal Systems. We'll pass on the diplomacy, perhaps it was an unguarded moment, we'll give you another chance.
So let's try him now on Economics and Industrial Development.
He also referred to the government’s efforts to eradicate unemployment among Saudi men and women and urged the private sector to cooperate by employing Saudis in large numbers. “There will be no unemployment in the Kingdom after five years.” So let's see. The most conservative estimates puts male unemployment at more than 25%. And of course female unemployment is 95% plus. On top of that, we're backing off the Saudization campaign because all our young men want to be fighter pilots and "managers", certainly not handle wood or concrete or plumbing or metal or electrics or glass or cloth or trash or bodily fluids. We're not growing any industry and we have no program of technical innovation. And yet there will be zero unemployment in five years? 1/10 again, and that's being generous.
So he'd be a disaster on internal policies. But perhaps he is a diplomat after all? Just the man to win friends and influence people abroad? This one is especially for you readers from Singapore, because there were 168 visits from you in the last 7 days! So what does Sultan think about your Island Country?
On a question about facilitating Saudi businessmen’s entry to Singapore without visas, the crown prince said: “I discussed this matter with the Singaporean authorities and told them that you are a developing country but you deny yourself the support you need.”
I'll carry on for a bit while our friends from Singapore fall about, choking with rage and / or laughter. For those of you who have not been there, and I am fortunate enough to have done so, it is an island at the end of Malaysia, three or four times the size of Washington DC, with a population of 4.5 million. It is a parliamentary democracy and manufacturing / trading / financial center with an unemployment rate of 3.3% (Saudi Arabia 25%+ (and that's only males!)), its literacy rate is 93% (Saudi Arabia 78%), and its per capita domestic product is $29,900 (Saudi Arabia $12,900, most of which comes squirting out of the ground by the grace of God). My own personal impression was that it is almost Paradise on Earth; a mixture of modern and well-preserved-old, clean, litter-free, great public transport, fulfilled hard-working people, no poverty or squalor that I could see, and the A's loved the night-time walk around the Zoo!
So for Sultan to say that, he not only gets a straight 0/10 for Diplomacy, but if there were some sort of Nobel Prize for arrogance combined with stupidity combined with sheer ignorance, then he must win it. Sorry about that, Singapore, he's just one of our royals and he doesn't know any better.
But, as they like to say in the United States....
I bring you, all the way from the dankest methane-emitting sediment at the bottom of the shallow end of the Al-Saud gene pool, Crown Prince Sultan, deputy premier and minister of defense and aviation, and....
As we approach June, I apologize in advance to those who don't follow "The Beautiful Game", but I may become slightly obsessed with soccer. That's because the World Cup in Germany is almost upon us. Here we see the Saudi team, not a bad bunch of lads really, thankfully most are clean-shaven; not only does that lower their wind-resistance, but a large and sweaty beard is the most disgusting thing on God's earth.
For our team, the World Cup is always a triumph of hope over realism. Racially we're just not big enough or fast enough or physical enough to cope with huge Europeans and even huger South Americans. The one thing we do have is stamina but that just gets used up in chasing after people who can run past us. Still, we can always hope. In our group, we stand a chance of beating Morocco, but if we can also do well against Ukraine (!) and Spain (!!!) then we might even get thru to the next round. Sadly, the Israel team did not qualify, because that would have made an interesting match, although there was a rumor that we would drop out rather than recognize and play "Occupied Palestine"! Such silliness. As it is, the overwhelming majority of the teams are "Christian teams", although there's an outside chance we could meet Iran, which would also be interesting. (Forget all the Saud family rhetoric about solidarity with our fellow Muslim brothers over there, there's a real and palpable hatred of those non-Arab Shiites over there. Silly again.)
The team are going to be staying in a small town in Germany known as Bad Nauheim near Frankfurt. I was very concerned about their welfare there, because Saudi males, especially the single ones, have an extremely bad reputation when abroad, and can really go off the rails. It's the problem of going from complete repression to complete liberation in one plane journey. Ask any resident of Bahrain or Dubai what they're like, and it's a story of men making the intimate acqaintance of Jack Daniel and Johnny Walker and young ladies called Olga or Natasha, although they're not above propositioning any passing Western woman on the assumption that they are ready, willing, and able.
So how will they be looked after, when they are abroad in Germany? Will they be suitably chaperoned and allowed to focus entirely on the game? Well, I was glad to learn that full arrangements are being made for their moral welfare.
Yet the luxurious Hotel Dolce Bad Nauheim is doing all it can to shield the Saudi Arabia team from all those western ways when they take up 59 of its 159 rooms on May 27 for the finals. The Saudis play Spain, Ukraine and Tunisia in the opening group stage.
"We do have a photo exhibition in the pool area which shows a lot of skin and it goes without saying that it will be removed by then," Michel Prokop, the hotel's general manager, told Reuters."
Of course it goes without saying. Although not specific as to whether male or female skin is involved, skin in general is a problem; it can cause daydreaming about tender caresses, which is an extreme distraction when trying to go for a hard bruising tackle.
"There are 20 tasteful portrait photos, but out of courtesy there will be no skin and no breasts," he added.
Obviously I don't need to elaborate on the breast problem. Breasts come with a lot of skin.
There are also five art nouveau paintings hanging in a theatre in the park that belongs to the hotel. The paintings by Wilhelm Kleukens feature naked boys wearing wings - and will come down.
I myself have a problem with naked boys with wings. Not that sort of problem, you understand. But these Christian cherubim, they're just aerodynamically ridiculous. Little fat toddlers with bird wings. To stay up in the air, they'd need to flap their wings as rapidly as a Humming Bird, which would scatter debris and dust all over the place, it would be like a helicopter scene from "Apocalypse Now". Anyway, I don't want our team looking at little boys' skin, it's just not healthy.
"We're following some basic 'do's and don'ts'. The whole staff is taking cross cultural training sessions to make them aware of the differences of Germany and Saudi Arabia." .... all 123 hotel staff members have been taking eight-hour courses in sensitivity training....
....which is vital, because Saudi men are just so sensitive. But eight hours isn't really long enough to cover the all differences. I've been blogging for two years, off and on, and we're just beginning to scratch the surface. But as long as they cover the vital stuff....
"Among the things they're learning is about dress codes, that skirts should not be too short," he said, ...."To avoid all problems, all women staffers are going to wear trousers instead of dresses."
...in other words, cover all the skin, that's the main priority. But we need also to think about their reading matter....
With the help of the local Islamic community, the hotel will set up a separate prayer room and will also remove bibles from Saudi rooms.
This is not a religious issue, you understand, nor even a skin issue, although there is a fair amount of skin in the bible, and those Israelites were obsessed with foreskin. But no, it's a morale issue. We don't want them reading passages like this from Deuteronomy 32:35, especially if up against one of Jehovah's favorite teams, on a wet pitch...
Vengeance is mine, and recompense, for the time when their foot shall slip; because the day of their calamity is at hand, their doom comes swiftly.
....it would be too bad for morale. Just like this quote, not from the bible, but from Catholic Brazil....
Whenever the ball flew toward our goal and a score seemed inevitable, Jesus reached his foot out and cleared the ball.
(Author unknown, from an article in Rio de Janeiro's Jornal dos Sports)
So no skin, either on the hotel staff or in paintings, and no demotivating bibles. What else should we worry about?
"All the alcohol will be removed from the mini bars and replaced with soft drinks," he added.
Of course, nearly missed that one. And those bacon-flavored chips (crisps), I hope. But I'm still worried that there are other potential distractions.
"We will leave the Pay-TV on in their rooms but the porn movie channels will of course be turned off"
Oh dear! I missed that one as well. We've done skin, but I forgot the skin-flicks! Improbably-endowed men meeting improbably-endowed women, improbable amounts of skin to see. Letting them see that could channel their energies in entirely the wrong direction.
But what will they watch instead?
"They will be able to watch 35 Arabic language TV channels in their rooms so they can see all the (World Cup) games in their own language."
So that's good. When they are not on the training ground, or in the stadium, we'll keep them nice and cocooned, away from all distractions, back in their hotel. It'll be a little Saudi Arabia in the middle of Germany.
When I was younger I always wanted to play international soccer for Saudi Arabia. It's the lure of the glamorous lifestyle.
And the A's are off to spend Easter in a hotel, not that we celebrate idolatrous festivals of course, it's just that there are some good offers out there. Complete with bible and mini-bar and a parental block on the TV. Back the middle of next week. If it applies to you, have a joyous Easter!
Many of us have been there, at school. You're not in with the "In Crowd". In fact you're barely in with the "Out Crowd". But you detest the "In Crowd" with every fiber of your being. Except now, one of them is handing out invitations to their party, and you're not invited. Which makes you desperate to go to the party, even though you despise them.
Marx knew all about this, and one of the tenets of Marxism is:
I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member
The corollary is equally true....
I always want to join any club that won't have me as a member
Imagine my feelings then, when I learnt that a fellow Saudi Blogger, Ahmed of Saudi Jeans, was approached with a very special invitation. As Ahmed says....
So I met Mohammed Al Mesa'ed.... the OCSAB Guy. Few days ago, he called me pretending to be a reporter for Al-Riyadh newspaper. He gave me a false name, and asked me for an interview, which I agreed to do. We decided to meet in a nearby coffee shop, and only when I met him and he gave me his business card I discovered that he was lying. I was puzzled over how he got my mobile number, but then realized that it was not something really impossible to do, especially that I'm not a privacy freak of any kind.
It's not impossible to get someone's mobile phone number in Saudi Arabia. There is no mobile phone directory, but if you have access to the records of the (regulated) phone companies, as people in government do, then it's quite easy. So that, and the false name, and the false job title, makes Ahmed understandably suspicious about this definitely dodgy guy. What's he selling?
He's selling OCSAB, the "Official Committee of Saudi Arabian Bloggers". What makes it official? A good question. After all, how did the deranged Dr. Muhammad Al-'Arif from yesterday's post, know that the Western....
organizations for people who marry animals - she marries a dog, a donkey, and so on... The organizations exist, and strangely enough, they are official.
....are in fact "official"? Perhaps the organization for people who marry dogs is endorsed by the Kennel Club, or by Crufts?
Anyway, OCSAB must be official, because it says so, and also because it's been set up by the sort of people who are mysteriously able to get hold of unpublished cellphone numbers.
But the real point is, why didn't they approach me? Not that I like the sound of them at all, but I hate the thought of being excluded from these things. So I want to join.
But there's a snag. And it's the rules.
1- That the blog does not touch on Islam improperly in any way or shape, which thereby rules out blogs that call to secularism and liberalism.
Bit of an ideological problem, that. Since when was Islam incompatible with "liberalism"? Or even "secularism", for that matter? Ataturk founded the Republic of Turkey to let Secularism and Islam coexist. But these are just words, we could discuss them, and I really want to join. So on to the next rule.
2- Because the community is for Saudi bloggers, it follows that the blog must be run by a Saudi.
Now there are lots of people who claim that I am not Saudi, or just wish I weren't, but I trust these OCSAB guys, I'll show them my Id. Next one.
3- That the blog specifies a certain direction for it to follow, be it Islamic, scientific, technical, medical, social etc. We apologize for not accepting purely personal blogs (i.e diary-like blogs)"
No problem. This isn't a diary, it's a themed Blog, and its theme is the idiocy and hypocrisy of the House of Saud, and their Mephistophelian Pact with the extremist Wahabi cult. Or words to that effect, I can tidy them up. Three out of four, just one more to go.
4 - Since we exert much effort into maintaining an elevated level of blogging, the language in use must be Arabic. An exception: Blogs with a non-Arabic speaking audience are excluded, only on the condition that they call to Islam or reflect a pleasant image of Saudi Arabia.
Bugger. They've got me there. You see people, if it's not in Arabic, it's not "elevated". So forget the languages of Shakespeare and Dante and Tolstoy and Goethe and Hugo and even poor old Omar Khayyam, because they are not "elevated" languages, only Arabic is. But no Arabic here. This will always be an English-language blog. However they make allowance for exceptions.
Will I "call to Islam"? I've no problem doing that, except that every time I did, somebody would probably decapitate another Indonesian schoolgirl, so it gets to be a bit of a waste of time.
And will I "reflect a pleasant image of Saudi Arabia"? Well I could. The original is not pleasant, of course, but "reflections" are after all "mirror images", so I could pretend that it was the complete opposite, and nice and open and free and tolerant and all that stuff. A bit of a sell-out, perhaps, but I do really really really want to join the club. I know there are people out there who say that the whole notion of an "official" list of approved, certified, vetted, USDA-tested Saudi bloggers is a government-inspired futility that can be likened to trying to herd cats and will be as successful as previous attempts to stop satellite TV and cellphones and the Internet itself, but I always wanted to join a club and now this is my big chance.
But it's not just me. Maybe they will let me in as their token "bad boy", but what about the commentors? Is it possible that the people who write in the Comments threads will let the whole side down? There are some pretty feisty women in there, and they come in shamelessly without abayas and veils, women like "Angie" wielding words like a rapier, and "timewarp" with her penetrating analyses, and "debbie" and "nahncee" and "k from Oslo" and "northern shewolf" and "Bridget" and "Ingrid" with their pithy and hilarious comments, and others too numerous to mention. Then there are the men, like "Scott from Oregon" who is with words what Michael Jordan was with a basketball, and of course "Al-Jack" our resident Islamic guru, and "Mike C" and "Padraigh" and "Ibn" and "Prup" and "coffee_guy" and "Pluto's Dad" and "John_L" and many more. They are all good friends, but dear me, I have to admit, what a rabble! OCSAB will never let them in, that's for sure.
So there's the choice. Do I try to join OCSAB and make them my new best friends, or do I stick with my old friends who've been around loyally all the time?
I'll do what I always do. I'll stick with my old friends. But now I'll never go to the party.....
We've been talking about fish a lot recently. Not least the special "Allah" commemorative fish, limited edition, personally autographed by Him. And as several readers have pointed out, the fish also has a special significance as a Christian symbol. I understand that this sign was marked at the entrance to the Rome catacombs where the underground Christian church would hold its services, in the times before Constantine made it the official religion of the Roman Empire.
Not that the Christian Church is underground any more. Although the Christian church is being physically attacked in a number of countries, for example Pakistan, Iraq and Nigeria, nowhere is it actually underground. Or is it?
Well (and you already know the answer) yes, it is. In Saudi Archaica, the Land That Forgot Time, it is illegal to worship in any religion other than Islam. In public, that is. In private, in theory, you are free to do as you wish. But theories are of course just theories.
It's OK if you are a Westerner. A number of the Western embassies hold religious services for their expatriates, and that's all legal, because they are the sovereign territory of the country concerned. So the authorities can't do anything about them, except presumably mutter angrily to themselves. A Christian Westerner friend of mine (Oh, I can't believe I said that, I deserve another "disappointed" email from Hussein Sakr) told me about how he had been to a confirmation service in one of the embassies, complete with the local Bishop, normally resident in the Emirates, in full Bishop's outfit. He told me he couldn't begin to describe how great it was to see a fully-robed Bishop in Riyadh. Sadly, it'll be a few decades or centuries before he's able to emerge out of the Diplomatic Quarter.
But what about this theory that you can do whatever you wish behind your own front door? Well, thanks to "Mahmood" of "Mahmood's Den" who sent me this item, the theory is slightly flawed.
A Catholic Indian priest was yesterday forced to leave Saudi Arabia. He was discovered by the religious police as he organized a prayer meeting in the lead-up to Easter. Arrested on 5 April, he remained in police custody for four days and on Saturday 8th April he left for India. The practice of any religion other than Islam is forbidden in Saudi Arabia. Meetings held privately in people’s homes, among friends, are also banned. Actually, they are not supposed to be unlawful. Islam is really quite strict in saying that what people do behind their own closed doors should be their own affair. But The Muttawa make an exception for Christians. Especially dark-skinned Christians from the sub-continent.
On 5 April, Fr George had just celebrated mass in a private house when seven religious policemen (muttawa) broke into the house together with two ordinary policemen. The police arrested the priest and another person.
The Saudi religious police are well known for their ruthlessness; they often torture believers of other religions who are arrested.
Yes, but at least they don't nail them to crosses, because crosses are haram. Nor do they feed them to the lions. You just can't get the lions these days.
AsiaNews sources said there were around 400,000 Indian Catholics in Saudi Arabia who were denied pastoral care. Catholic foreigners in the country number at least one million: none of them can participate in mass while they are in Saudi Arabia. Catechism for their children – nearly 100,000 – is banned.
So the children of Western Christians are small enough in number to be prepared for confirmation by a bishop in their embassies. Whereas those from the sub-continent are too numerous, even if their own embassy were interested, which it's probably not. So they have to go underground, but without the fish symbols on the door. And even then they are not safe. That's why the life of a sub-continental "Guest Worker" in Saudi Arabia is complete crap.
In response to popular demand from the Comments section, I'm publishing some more fan mail that I've received. Thankfully, this time, it's not in block capitals, and is relatively polite, although obviously deeply disappointed...
I have visited your Web site several times. While we both share the same sentiment regarding the restrictions of Saudi Arabia, the difference is that I, as a Muslim, accept the way of life here.
OK. Different folks, different strokes. Perhaps the authentic voice of "Jamil Public". But more on this later.
Your site is a disservice to Muslims around the world. It is deplorable that you, as a former Muslim, would bring shame to the Muslim Ummah. According to your Web site, you are safe from the religious police in the UK. However, you are not safe from Allah (sub7anahu wa ta'ala).
So no longer is he the voice of Jamil Public. He's now God and the Prophets all rolled into one, and he's passing judgement on me! And he's decided to label me as "a former Muslim". Listen, Pal, I'll decide if and when I'm " a former Muslim", not you. And right now, I'm "a current Muslim", although it's a hell of a strain at times.
Being judgemental and pious, (about other people of course), is very much a zealot characteristic. And sadly we don't have any Quran passages or proverbs about casting stones.
You should use your Web space more productively to teach people about Islam rather than make a fool of yourself and insult the religion of Allah(swt). You have a choice of doing Dawah and teaching people the beauty of Islam or follow satan and make fun of others. The choice is yours.
I felt that I should have stood up straight and taken the silly grin off my face while receiving this stern dressing-down. It reminded me of one particular master at school in England - I can still smell the pipe smoke. I think that a friend and I had just made that wonderful discovery of early adolescence, that if you blow into the palm of your hand you can imitate flatulence. But I will cease to make a fool of myself for the moment, and instead make a deadly serious point.
I am all for "teaching people about Islam". Everyone should learn more about the faiths of others, or even their reasons for unbelief. So what language do we use to teach people about Islam? The language of words? Unfortunately, the language of words is being massively drowned out by the language of actions. For millions of people who had never heard of Islam, their crash course, Islam 101, was the images implanted in their brains of airplanes flying into the Twin Towers. And people have now moved on to much more advanced courses. There were special lessons for the people of Madrid, the tourists in Bali, the people of London. Yes, there has been terrorism and carnage before, but never so explicitly in the name of one specific religion. The North African hooligans in Paris could have just shouted "Enculeur de porcs!" as they torched those hundreds of cars, but instead they were much more pious, and shouted "Allahu Akhbar!", the unmistakeable tribal chant of the Muslim Ummah. The same words that are used when terrorists carve off the head of some innocent on one of their "snuff videos". No doubt the same words that were used when Christian schoolgirls were beheaded in Indonesia. Perhaps the tens and hundreds of thousands Muslims who have died of thirst and starvation in Darfur, at the hands of fellow-Muslims, were spared this final insult to God, but we will never know.
So, I would love to be able to put across the message here about the good side of Islam, but my quiet voice is being completely drowned out by those who have a different vision of our religion. So much so, that people come to the Comments here and enquire politely whether I am nuts to be a Muslim. Perhaps I am.
Still, Mr Sakr was very polite, and kept to lower case and black ink.
Now his email address is email@example.com, and www.netmuslims.com/is the website of an "Online Muslim Community", with a very professional looking website. It has all sorts of lovely stuff in it, like calligraphy images, and uplifting anedcdotes from readers, and it's clearly designed to present the "soft side" of Islam. Also, it obviously targets a US audience; its English is very good and its sports forum is headed "Discuss the four seasons: baseball, basketball, football and hockey" which rules out most other countries in the world. It has games and all sorts of nice downloads and must, as they say here in England, "have cost a few bob". Not surprising, because it is in fact funded by Saudi Arabia, with the Webmaster's address being....
P.O. Box 62217 Riyadh Saudi Arabia 11585
....and indeed, we find Mr Hussein Sakr much in evidence within the site, moderating all the forums. So as someone who earns a living managing a website that is part of the Saudi Wahabi PR machine, his observation that....
I, as a Muslim, accept the way of life here.
....did bring to mind the response of Mandy Rice-Davies, 1960's English high-class prostitute, who when told during a court case that one of her society clients had denied ever knowing her, made the entire courtroom laugh with her saucy response....
Well, he would say that, woudn't he?
But let's go back to that statement of his....
While we both share the same sentiment regarding the restrictions of Saudi Arabia....
Do we really share the same sentiments? Will we have a coffee one day in the lobby of the Al Khozama Hotel in Riyadh, and have a laugh together at all that nonsense? Especially the ban on women driving? Do we both think that it's a complete nonsense? Because when someone posted this news item in one of your forums....
RIYADH (Reuters) - Tired of playing second fiddle to men in conservative Saudi Arabia, five women decided if you can't beat them, join them.Al Watan newspaper said the five women underwent sex change surgery abroad over the past 12 months after they developed a "psychological complex" due to male domination.Women in Saudi Arabia, which adopts an austere interpretation of Islam, are not allowed to drive or even go to public places unaccompanied by a male relative.
....you replied, as the Moderator, that....
There are places in Saudi Arabia where women can drive.
True enough. Rounding up goats in the depth of the desert, where the cops never go. But how about this?
The rule of women not driving is because Saudi women are supposed to wear full Niqab. If they are in full niqab, they would not be able to see well enough to drive a car.
I have to say that I prefer this one, Excuse No. 16, to the other one, Excuse No. 7, that said "there are already too many jams". Because the clever thing about No. 16 that it's a circular "double-whammy" sort of excuse; women must always wear a veil, even if they were allowed to drive, only if they drove in a veil they couldn't see, so they're not allowed to drive, although they must still wear the veil when not driving of course.
But I have to say, Hussein, that we don't actually share the same sentiments on that issue, and probably most other issues to do with women's rights, civil rights, democracy, religious tolerance etc. So no, we won't have a coffee together in Al Khozama, and no, you can't be my special friend and tell me where my life is going wrong.
Anyway, Hussein Sakr's site is the soft outward-facing profile of the Saudi Wahabi Islam PR machine, designed for consumption by people in the US, Muslims and Unbelievers alike. But let's turn now to the Dark Side, the PR for internal consumption only, where Saudis learn the Awful Truth about Western Unbelievers. (Except those awful people at MEMRI have gone and spoiled it all again , they're telling everyone about it, what gossips they are) . (Thanks, "Nuria").
Here (clip #1104) is Saudi author Dr. Muhammad Al-'Arif, in a program produced by the Saudi Ministry of Religious Endowments, which aired on Saudi TV a few days ago.
One of the most important things that distinguish Man from beast is the ability to control one's desires. Allah said about some of the infidels: "They are like cattle; nay, they stray farther off the path." ....they have organizations for homosexuals, organizations for people who marry animals - she marries a dog, a donkey, and so on... The organizations exist, and strangely enough, they are official.
Strange indeed, official Western organizations for people who marry donkeys. I'll certainly think twice before giving any more money to that local donkey rescue sanctuary.
But not half as strange as those Danes, as any God fearing Muslim might suspect.
According to statistics from Denmark, 54% of the births in Denmark are illegitimate.
OK, I thought, sounds a bit high, but that might just be randy teenagers letting their hormones get the better of them. But I'm wrong.
In this case, the term "illegitimate" does not mean a girl getting pregnant by her boyfriend. It refers to a woman, who gives birth in a hospital, and when the doctor asks her under whose name to register the baby - who's the father - she says: "I don't know. It might be the doorman... No, no, it might be the company director... It might be the clerk, or the taxi driver... I don't know."
It actually means that 54% of Danish mothers do not even know who the father might be. It could be the street-sweeper, the bus driver, the guy on the counter at McDonalds, even the second bassoon in the Copenhagen Philharmonic. Who knows? They are such joyless encounters that ten minutes later it's all forgotten.
So, Unbelievers, as you see, what we do is to say one thing to your face, and quite another thing behind your back. But you already knew that already, didn't you?
Anyway, Hussein Sakr, rather than handing out gratuitous advice to hopeless reprobates like me, why not start a new forum on your website? Call it "Sexual Aberrations of the Unbelievers". It'll be phenomenal for traffic. I'll even write you some specially prurient posts for you. I'm already working on the first one - "My Baby's Daddy is a Basset Hound.....I think.....he had long ears anyway"
I don't know about you, but I think I've had all the surprises I can take for now. But there's more. Just when we'd thought we'd seen the last of the "Allah Fish", another one pops up, (Thanks, "Sohan"). According to the "Gulf News"
It should have been an everyday expedition for the Pakistani fisherman as he sought his catch in the Arabian Gulf. But what started as a routine voyage rapidly turned into a day he will never forget after landing a fish which allegedly had the Arabic inscription of the name Allah on its side.....News of the fish spread like wildfire prompting people to come to Dubai from all over the UAE.
Some silly and superstitious people will read some deep meaning into these multiple sightings of the "Allah Fish". They will see them as a sign from God. However I am a rational modern 21st Century sort of believer, and I do not hold with that kind of nonsense. As if the Ultimate Creator would waste His time doodling his signature on the sides of fishes. Maybe he did though; he could have been stuck in a long-winded planning meeting with the Archangels, you know what they are like when they start talking, they seem to think they have an absolute eternity to talk. Yawn, fidget, reach down into the ocean, grab a passing fish, squiggle on it, laugh at its goggle-eyed look of surprise, put it back in. But the amazing thing is that if you turn the fish upside down, the writing looks like the McDonald arches. Now I'm surprised that nobody has spotted this before, but to me it is a clear sign that "Big Mac", the Supersized One, is very angry that so many of His clowns have been burnt in Muslim riots recently. Think I'm fantasising? Next time you have a Filet-O-Fish, have a quick peek under the bun top.
More surprises, too, in The Land where the Bong Tree grows. You may remember Saudi journalist Rabah Al-Quwayi from a post last November. Just to look at him, you know he's like a red rag to our zealots. No beard, you see. They never trust a man whose beard is not as long as the width of his fist, as our Book commands. Anyway, Rabah went onto a fundamentalist website and made a shocking assertion....
In a long article I wrote in a discussion of the Holy Qur’an and posted on the Internet, I said that ‘nothing should be taken for granted.’
Oh, the shame of such heresy! This obviously caused our devout zealots to put pen to paper and compose a learned and measured reply, which they then wrapped round a stone and and it used to smash his windscreen. The reply said....
In the name of God, the Most Gracious and the Most Merciful: This time it is your car but next time it is you. Return to your religion and forsake heresy. This is the last warning.
Praise the Lord! God's message is one of forgiveness and welcome, yet He entrusts it to the very lowliest of his messengers, and even though their behavior may seem a little bit clumsy, we know that they did what they did with true Muslim brotherly love in their hearts!
Several months have since elapsed, so Rabah might be forgiven for thinking that it's all in the past. But he's not reckoned with our fun-loving legal system.
In a telephone interview with Arab News on Tuesday night, Al-Quwayi said that authorities in Hail contacted him asking him to come in and fill out some paperwork related to his complaints of harassment that stem from the incidents last November.
Fair enough. No doubt he needed a Crime Number so that he could get the insurance money for his broken windscreen.
He responded that he had obligations at his job and couldn’t come in. The police sent an explanation letter to the editor in chief of the paper, and Al-Quwayi was given permission to go to the police station.
That's nice. the police were being really helpful, getting him time off work. Besides, they had a nice Surprise!
He was immediately arrested upon arrival.
You don't expect that when you go in to get a Crime Number for a broken windscreen! What a great sense of fun these cops have!
Police told him they had discarded his complaints of harassment....
So they were only kidding about that broken windscreen!
....and opened a new investigation into his Islamic faith.
Ha! Ha! They've got him for a Thought Crime! They're the best!
“They told me that if I didn’t complain to the police in the first place they wouldn’t have suspected my beliefs,” said Al-Quwayi.
A bit naive, perhaps. It's quite usual in the West, when you report a car crime, that the cops ask you to recite the Lord's Prayer and the Apostle's Creed, just to prove your true religious faith. That's why people keep saying them in church every Sunday, so they don't forget them and get arrested.
But that's not the best bit of the surprise. It gets even better. You see, no-one really knows who is responsible! The cops have him in their prison, and they've got the key....
Hail police chief Gen. Nasser Al-Nowaisser said Al-Quwayi is detained...."Our job was to execute the warrant"....
....but at the request of someone else....
....under a warrant requested by the Commission for Prosecution and Investigation....
....but they are just the middle men for yet another organization....
....and nobody knows who they are!
Lawyer Abdul Rahman Al-Lahem announced yesterday that he would be representing Al-Quwayi....he is still unclear who the plaintiffs in the case are; nobody has come forward as the accusers.
Well of course they are not going to come forward; that would spoil all the fun! Much better to have Rabah locked up but not knowing who's behind it, it all adds to the piquancy of the surprise. Anyway, there's no hurry, they've got plenty of time to sort out the muddle, these things shouldn't be rushed.
The commission has the legal right to detain any suspect for up to six months, said Al-Lahem
Like I said, I don't think I can take any more surprises. But for me the best bit about this, is that it's a Thought Crime. Just when you thought that the only safe place was inside your skull, they can also go poking around in there too. Who can forget the movie, "1984"? And hero Winston Smith's immortal words....
Thoughtcrime is death. Thoughtcrime does not entail death. Thoughtcrime IS death. I have committed even before setting pen to paper the essential crime that contains all others unto itself.
....and the conversation with his interrogator, in the Ministry of Love....
Winston Smith: Does Big Brother exist? O'Brien: Of course he exists. Winston Smith: Does he exist like you or me? O'Brien: You do not exist.