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.

Monday, April 26, 2004

The Religious Policeman FAQ 

1. Who are you?
I am a Saudi, living in Riyadh. I am married (to my one and only ever wife), have a family, a Filipino maid, and a driver (her husband). Beyond that, I am not prepared to disclose.

2. Is that your photo?
No, it's a little joke of mine, but you'd have to live here to appreciate it. And he's not a Religious Policeman, although he looks like one.

3. Why The Religious Policeman?
Because, in my opinion, the Religious Police epitomize what is wrong with my country at present. They combine religious fanaticism and intolerance with the apparatus of a police state. They are recruited from the dregs of society, yet they presume to tell other God-fearing people how to conduct their religious lives. They killed innocent young lives in Makkah, yet they were never held to account.

4. Why are you publishing a Blog?
I'm a great believer in the Internet, and in the power of information to cast a light into the darker corners of our world. I'm addressing an English-speaking audience, in the hope that they will recognize that on the whole we are good folk, just like anyone else, but caught between an ultra-conservative Royal dictatorship on one side, and terrorists on the other. I am hopeful that this will inform their opinions of us. I would also like to encourage my fellow-countrymen to become fellow-bloggers as well.

5. Is it dangerous to do this?
The ruling elite would not look kindly upon my efforts. If found out, I would certainly lose my job, as already happens to those who publish critical letters in the press. I might also become a guest of Prince Nayif, until I "got my mind right". However I'm not a super-hero; if I suspect that a net is closing, then I will cease blogging.

6. How do you avoid being intercepted?
All Saudi ISP's are connected to the outside world thru a bank of servers in the KACST (King AbdulAziz City of Science and Technology), where no doubt much listening goes on. However, like many Saudis, I illegally use a satellite link for my connexion. This materializes who-knows-where in the wider Internet. Maybe there is also some form of relay involved. Who knows?

7. Where did you learn to speak such good English?
Thank you, very kind of you to say so. I was educated both in the UK and the USA. God also gave me the gift of being a linguist; indeed, I would go so far as to say that I am a language "geek". I could make myself sound like most Arabs speaking in English, simply by missing out "the", "a" and "an" all the time, but that would offend my sense of perfection. I suppose I am also a bit of a mimic. In addition, learning English exposed me to a whole world of literature, from Shakespeare thru Tolstoy (in translation) to Garrison Keillor and all points between, not to mention all those movies, not to mention the trashiest bits of 21st century popular culture.

8. What did you study abroad?
That would be a giveaway! However in the UK I learnt to speak correctly, to be polite, and never to smile when making a joke. In the USA I learnt to misspell ;-), to question and challenge, and that people only get the respect they deserve.

9. Are you really a Saudi and a Muslim?
Well, perhaps I am like that dog in the cartoon. Perhaps you all are, as well. Perhaps all the humans are doing what they should do, not being on the internet, but spending time with their families. Saudis are in the best position to judge from my writings, whether I am genuine or not. However one did write to me, but was obviously ambivalent. He said that I was a disgrace to my Country and my Tribe, but that I wasn't a Saudi at all!
I am a Muslim. I am also deeply religious, in that I feel the presence of God all around. However I would feel more comfortable as a Muslim in other countries where they have a more relaxed, but no less holy, approach to their religious life. I also believe that whatever we call Him, we all worship the same God, and he requires us to love one another. I am not going to kill you because you read from a different book.

10. Will you reply to emails?
As I was taught at school, I will aim to reply to every letter I get. I will even answer simple questions if they are not too taxing. However I will not answer detailed lists of questions, but may address them in subsequent posts, as the opportunity arises. And I will not enter into an exchange of correspondence, so that I do not reveal any further personal information.

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