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, May 30, 2006

What every woman knows.... 

"Every man who is high up loves to think that he has done it all himself; and the wife smiles, and lets it go at that. It's our only joke."

So speaks the knowing wife, in J.M.Barrie's play of that name. Written in England in 1908, it preceded the Women's vote. It tells of a time when women were powerful in the home, but not in society at large.It took the efforts of thousands and thousands of women like Emily Pankhurst here, and on both sides of the Atlantic, to get the vote. They knew that no-one was going to hand power over to them. The sad lesson of human progress is that nobody gives away power for free, it has to be taken.

I mention this because of a discussion that has been going on in the Comments section, about how Saudi women can achieve real power, to be able to drive, to wear what they like, have equal rights in marriage, the list goes on.

I think the discussion was prompted by this young Saudi woman, who had been denied her internet rights by her caring male relatives. It's nice to be able to report that she's back online although her language is still as ripe, but who can blame her....

It seems that the dickless dicks have had a change of heart and I've been granted internet access. Nonetheless, they are still dickless dicks as far as I'm concerned, because this filthy country makes damn sure that the ball is always in their f*cking court.

....and not only that, it looks as though one of her own gender is causing her problems....

UV: Who are you talking to, day and night?
Me: huh?
UV: Your mobile!
Me: What about it?
Me: Who do you think I’m talking to?!
UV: I don’t know. You tell me!
Me: It’s none of your God damn business!

And with that I walked off; ignoring her excruciating screaming.So now my phone’s being threatened. This is the bullcrap that I have to bloody endure. I’m 23 for f*ck sake. It does not concern ANYONE who the hell I’m talking to on the phone.

If every Saudi woman were like her, the streets would be buzzing with women driving to each others' houses, shops, schools and of course the places where they work, wearing bright clothing and sporting bare faces with makeup. But it is not so. And answering the question "How do we change things?" is not easy. The parallels with the suffragettes are very few:

1. They lived in democracies, the issue was their getting the vote for themselves; in Saudi Arabia, no-one gets the vote.

2. They lived in countries where political protest was acceptable and generally legal; in Saudi Arabia, a simple peaceful demonstration can buy you gaol time.

3. They were free to travel round and associate, which meant they could hold plan, organize, hold meetings, get together in large numbers; in Saudi Arabia, with the exception of trips to the shops or elsewhere where they are "allowed", they are generally confined to the house.

Let me illustrate the last point, and provide a sort of an etiquette guide at the same time. It's a bit of a Western misconception that in the home, women rule the roost. Now it is true that they can be very influential within the close family, but in no sense are they the "woman of the house". If as a male you are ever invited to a traditional Saudi house for a meal, with or without your wife ("significant others" don't get visas, sorry), this is more or less what will happen.

Husband will open the door and welcome you. There may well be an incense burner in the doorway, as a mark of greeting. Waft the smoke over your hair and clothes. Remove your shoes (best to come in sandals).

Husband will lead your wife to a back room. That is all you are going to see of her, all evening.

Coffee or tea, and dates, will be ready on a table. You sit down (better on the floor), drink, eat, talk "guy talk". You may hear sounds of movement and rustlings from the next room.
At a certain point, husband will lead you thru to the next room where, miraculously, food will be laid out. The dishes are probably set out on a plastic sheet on the carpet. Nothing, and I am being absolutely serious here, beats eating in a reclining position, perhaps leaning on a decorative camel saddle, with the food at floor level, and using your hand (right, not left, but don't ask why) to eat.

There will be enough to feed a small army. Arab hospitality demands that guests should never leave hungry. When you see all those dishes for just the two of you, including one with several small roast chickens, do not make the foolish assumption that this is the main course. PACE YOURSELF.

When you have assured your host that you have eaten all that you can manage from what is before you, he will remove many dishes. However he will return and replace them with an even larger selection of larger dishes. Carry on eating. Aren't you glad you are lying down? (It allows the stomach to distend more easily).

When you have eventually finished (NB If you are the "BellyBuster" champion at your local restaurant's "All you can eat Prime Rib Night", don't try and eat everything, they will only bring out more, so that you won't leave hungry) , you get up as best you can, and repair to the room you originally started out in, where miraculously fresh coffee will have appeared. Resume the horizontal once more. More "guy talk". There will be more sounds of rustling from next door.

As the evening draws to a close, husband will leave you and return from the back room with your wife. Say your farewells, put your shoes on, waft the incense, and out you go. Your wife will then inform you that your host also has a wife, who did all the cooking, and laid out and removed plates for the menfolk, not to mention coffee, as well as doing the same for herself and your wife. And you thought it was just a miracle.

[There is a slight variation to this routine, if the guests are male relatives of the husband. In that case the wife may emerge to pour coffee, but she will have a cloth draped over her head (rather like the cloth you would cover your parrot cage with, to shut it up) . Not that she's going to say anything, of course, she will just pour the coffee; the cloth is thin enough to allow her to see the spout and the cups, without curious male relatives being able to see her face].

The main point of that etiquette guide was just to show how little the typical Saudi wife is able to get out and about in her own house when the men are around, never mind get out and about in society at large. If you're going to be confined to a backroom or under a parrot-cloth, how the hell are you going to go out and organize a social revolution?

I wish to God I knew the answer, apart from collectively battering the men of Saudi Arabia over the head with a blunt instrument. First, the womenfolk need to get their attention. As every woman knows, there are two ways to get a man's attention:

1. Switch off the TV when his favorite sport is on.

2. Deny him his conjugal "rights".

The advantage of the second one is that it does not involve going out into the street waving banners. It can be done from the comfort of one's own home. Also, it does not break any criminal law. Carried out resolutely, it can be unbelievably effective. Ask the women of ancient Sparta, Boeotia, and Corinth, other societies where women did not have a voice. In Aristophenes' play "Lysistrata", the women, encouraged by the heroine of that name, went on strike in order to end the Peloponnesian War.

Here's some of the dialog. It is a bit fruity, the ancient Greeks didn't go in for nuance or euphemism!

LYSISTRATA: We will all swear at once. Put your hands on the cup, everyone, and repeat after me. I shall not go near my husband or my lover.
ALL: I will not go near my husband or my lover.
LYSISTRATA: Speak up—No matter how big a hard-on he has.
ALL: No matter how big a hard-on he has.
LYSISTRATA: I will be completely celibate.
ALL: I will be completely celibate.
LYSISTRATA: And wear nothing but seductive clothing
ALL: And wear nothing but seductive clothing
LYSISTRATA: And get my husband as horny as possible
ALL: And get my husband as horny as possible
LYSISTRATA: But I will never willingly give in to him
ALL: But I will never willingly give in to him
LYSISTRATA: No matter how he pressures me
ALL: No matter how he pressures me
LYSISTRATA: And if he tries to force me
ALL: And if he tries to force me.
LYSTRATA: I will not do the thing where I put my legs up over his head
ALL: I will not do the thing where I put my legs up over his head
LYSISTRATA: Nor will I pretend to be a lioness he has caught in the forest
ALL: Nor will I pretend to be a lioness he has caught in the forest
LYSISTRATA: If I keep my oath, let my cup be filled with nothing but wine
ALL: If I keep my oath, let my cup be filled with nothing but wine
LYSISTRATA: And if I break it, let it be filled with nothing but water.
ALL: And if I break it, let it be filled with nothing but water.
LYSISTRATA: Do you all solemnly swear this oath?
ALL: We do.

There's my suggestion, for what it's worth. Will it be the start of the Great Saudi Sexual Strike of 2006 (1427)?

If anyone has any alternative suggestion, please leave it in the "Comments".

(Also any advice on how to do the "pretend to be a lioness he caught in the forest" thing).

Monday, May 29, 2006

Not this time... 

....I'm not going to be "conned"!

Like many blogs, I fell for the Iranian color-coding the Infidels story, and its subsequent retraction, and duly ate humble pie.

I managed to steer clear of the Two Saudis on the School Bus story, because for me it didn't ring true as some sort of dastardly crime.

And this one is definitely someone trying to stir up trouble and give the Muslim Offense Level a real boost.

Ready for the soccer jihad?

It appears that this is some kind of World Cup soccer ball, with the flags of the various participating nations -- including Saudi Arabia.
So what? Well, as you can see, the Saudi flag prominently features the Shahada, the Islamic profession of faith: "There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger."
And...people are going to kick that?

Nice try, guys. Except this is nothing to do with the 2006 World Cup. It looks like the tacky product of some back-street Third World sweat-shop factory. And the reason it has nothing to do with the World Cup? The flags of Northern Ireland and Israel. They are not in the World Cup. Israel, maybe next time, but come on, Northern Ireland have about as much chance of ever qualifying, as the Imam University team.

As the post goes on....

This one could rival the Cartoon Jihad. But of course, it is never possible to guess about what will be chosen as the next pretext to stoke the sense of grievance and rage that the jihadists need to garner support and recruits.

Well I'll be the first to point to and make fun of contrived Islamic outrage. But let's concentrate on the real cases, bloggers, not try and stir up trouble with some tacky fabricated story about a tacky soccer ball.

Update 30th May 2006

Apologies to all (probably the vast majority) who are not soccer fans, but with the World Cup looming, the temptation of writing about soccer exceeds even that of Mme Nicotine. The next month could get really boring, now might be the time to take that cryogenic vacation you always promised yourself. Anyway, thanks to "Uwe", The Religious Policeman's soccer correspondent in Germany, here is a photo of the official Saudi team coach, complete with

The Green Hawks cannot be stopped!


Saturday, May 27, 2006

My First Love 

We never forget our first love. I was reminded of that, on a day when the Saudi press is relatively quiet. Not a lot happening. Nothing to tremble the Muslim Offense Level meter. Not even an unctious story about thirty royal hangers-on saying farewell to the King as he is driven all the fifty miles from Makkah to Jeddah with a bag of candy and his favorite comic.

Then this story caught my eye.

With Attitudes Changing, Companies Prefer to Hire Nonsmokers

Work attitudes are seemingly shifting in the Kingdom with many companies that previously sought competencies in English and computer literacy preferring nonsmoking workers over smokers, according to a report published by Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper. Job seekers need to brace themselves in ticking the nonsmoking boxes in job applications.

I had also got an email from "Thess", who had been kindly doing some research into why snuff may be Haram. She had found this ruling

Islamic Ruling on Smoking
It has become abundantly clear that, sooner or later, smoking, in whichever form and by whichever means, causes extensive health and financial damage to smokers. It is also the cause of a variety of diseases. Consequently, and on this evidence alone, smoking would be forbidden and should in no way be practiced by Muslims. Furthermore, the obligation to preserve one's health and wealth, as well as that of society as a whole, and medical evidence now available on the dangers of smoking, further support this view.

Not snuff, of course, but near enough. And my mind started to drift away, as it can do at the weekend, to a distant time when I was much younger. To a time when, as the Craig Douglas song should have said:

I was only sixteen, only sixteen
I loved her so
But I was too young to fall in love
And she was too old, I know

So who was she, and why was this love forbidden for one of my tender years?

Let us begin with her title. Definitely not Miss, because she had been "round the track a few times", and then some. Not Mrs, because that conjures up notions of domestic responsibility, definitely not her. And Ms always brings to my mind ambitious female accountants in power suits. No, we have to travel abroad. Apologies to all respectably-married Francophones out there, but for the rest of us, this title is synonymous with Gallic naughtiness - Madame. But Madame who?

I was first introduced to Madame Nicotine by a schoolfriend. As I said, she "put herself about". And for a sixteen-year-old in search of excitement and experience, she seemed to be the answer to my adolescent prayers. I remember the first time as though it were only yesterday. It took place in a dark and secluded corner, of course. But I will never forget the excitement as she first brushed my lips, her taste as she entered my mouth....

And then afterwards. The exhilaration. The guilt. The nausea. I decided there and then, that this was a dangerous lady, once was enough, no more.

And so it was for a few weeks. Then we met again, and I succumbed again. "But no problem", I thought to myself, "I can take her or leave her". So I left her. But some weeks later, I took her once more. And so it went on, and each time she grew on me just a little bit more. Less nausea, more excitement, more satisfaction.

Until the day came that I realized we were inseparable. We were meant for each other, and I was her willing slave. I began to spend more and more on her, because she didn't come cheap. Parents would warn me against her, say she was bad for me, but I didn't care, I would flaunt our relationship, deliberately parade her in public. As a student, I would often spend money on her instead of food, because when I was with her, I no longer felt hunger. She became a part of my every waking moment.

I left college and started earning money, which of course I spent on her. We couldn't get enough of each other. We would consummate our relationship twenty times a day. Sometimes it would be eager, greedy, I would snatch gratification from her selfishly. Other times it would be gentle, relaxed, we would luxuriate in the quiet enjoyment of each other. Often, though, I would just take her for granted, my hand reaching out for her unconsciously, taking her while my mind was on other things. But she didn't mind, as long as I kept spoiling her with my money.

When I married, she became part of a ménage à trois. I felt guilty, of course, that she was taking money that should have gone into the marriage, into the home. When our children arrived, I was even more guilty. Suspecting that she might harm them, we confined our meetings to the garage, the garden, furtive once more. Who would want their own children to fall for Mme. Nicotine's charms when they grew up?

Many times I tried to give her up. I told her so. She just laughed in my face. She knew my weaknesses only too well. And of course I couldn't live without her. Before long, I would come crawling back. She always took me back, for sure, but not without making me feel inadequate, humiliated. She always knew how to humiliate me. How many times, discovering late at night that she was no longer there, did I wander the streets searching for a place where I might find her? Or, being somewhere where she was not allowed, how often did she entice me outside, for a quick and sordid liason in the pouring rain?

Finally I decided "Enough is enough". She was bad for my health, bad for my pocket, her scent covered me and told of our shameful relationship to the world at large. I announced to her that we were finished. How did she react? Just like that scene in "Fatal Attraction", where Glenn Close says "That's alright with me, if you want us to split up. We've had our fun, you more than me, but now your wife deserves to have you all the time. Don't worry about me, I'll be fine on my own. It'll be a good chance to learn cross-stitch. Give my love to the rabbits!"

As if. "Hell hath no fury". Cruella de Ville on steroids. "You'll never leave me", she spat out in rage, "you are weak and puny and have no will power at all. You won't believe how much I'll make you suffer!"

She was right. Those first few weeks were a living hell. I don't know what stopped me going back to her. In desperation I flung myself into the arms of Miss Mint. She was a sweet thing, sure enough, and for a few brief moments she could take my mind off Mme Nicotine, but she didn't have the personality, the depth, or the sheer naughtiness of my former lover to make it a lasting relationship. And I think she always knew that, that when she had served my selfish needs, I would throw her away like a candy wrapper into a trash can. Men are like that. But she fulfilled her purpose, and finally I was free.

That was a while ago. Time has been hard on Mme Nicotine. Once the companion of royalty and film stars, she is no longer welcome in her former haunts, at the movies or around the dinner table. Time has also altered my memories, and I just remember her as dirty, smelly, her hand forever in my wallet.

Occasionally I see her again, in the distance, in a cafe or bar, and she gives me a look of sad reproach. For a very brief moment, I remember our good times together, that first time she brushed my lips.

I sometimes agree with Mme Nicotine's fellow-countryman, Marcel Proust, when he said

There is no man, however wise, who has not at some period of his youth said things, or lived in a way the consciousness of which is so unpleasant to him in later life that he would gladly, if he could, expunge it from his memory.

But then, if we expunge the memory of our first love, what else is worth remembering?

Thursday, May 25, 2006

You're safe with me, I'm a policeman 

Maybe, just maybe, there is a glimmer of light on the horizon. Maybe our Modernizing Father Figure has had a little word in the shell-like of baby brother Prince "Nasty" Nayif, Minister of the Interior.

Prince Naif Curbs Power of Virtue Commission

Interior Minister Prince Naif yesterday curbed the powers of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice in handling issues such as harassment of women. Such cases have now been brought under the Commission for Investigation and General Prosecution, the Saudi Press Agency said.

So what does that mean?

The role of the virtue commission will be restricted to arresting suspects and handing them over to police.

The "virtue commission", if you hadn't figured it out, is the Religious Police. A complete misnomer, of course. Makes them sound like a group of choirboys. The reality is that they are the no-hopers, the social misfits, the failed Imams, the men who will never be married even though we have a surplus of eligible unmarried women. Ugly in looks, ugly in nature, ugly in behavior. If the Saudi gene pool had a pool boy, they'd have been sucked out with the dead insects and rotting leaves, and emptied down the drain long ago.

And the change is that while they will still be able to pounce on the unsuspecting victims (like the young Saudi pair I once saw wandering slowly up and down the aisles of the supermarket, deep in conversation alongside the frozen chickens, one sack of rice in the trolley, obviously in love, obviously not married, obviously keeping out of sight of their families, a doomed Romeo and Juliet story in the making), the Muttawa will only be able to make the arrest, but not indulge in their usual knockabout interrogation routine (The number of slaps increasing with the darkness of your skin, women usually treated slightly more leniently, but not necessarily).

And that change is A Good Thing. A step in the right direction, however small. For while the police have their faults, I would much rather be in their care than in the care of the Muttawa. The police may be lazy, and reluctant to go after anyone who looks remotely like a Prince, but they are not such a rule unto themselves, and do not have the reputation for mindless gratuitous abuse and violence that the Muttawa do.

However, we will still be a long way away from the situation enjoyed by people in First World democracies. For, once inside police custody, people just disappear from sight. Not for ever, and not badly treated, and they do finally re-emerge, but disappear they do.

A true story will illustrate what I mean. I knew the couple involved, although I heard the story at second-hand.

The couple were both Westerners, both teachers. They lived in a compound in the north of Riyadh. While they got on together reasonably OK, they both tended to do their own thing. He did "guy" sorts of things, liked playing golf with his mates, a few drinks when he could get them. She was quieter, enjoyed books and pastimes that involved needle and thread.

One Thursday (our "Saturday"), they went out to the supermarket in the morning (and indeed such couples need to do this together, otherwise who is going to drive?). When they got back, they had lunch, husband announced that he was going out for a trip in the desert. Off he went. Wife settled by the pool with a good book.

Husband had committed two errors already. One, he left his mobile phone at home. Two, although he had a good 4WD, he went out into the desert entirely on his own, not in the company of another vehicle. And that is dangerous, because while a flat battery may be a nuisance in the suburbs of Boston, it can be a death sentence when the temperature is 130, you're ten miles from the nearest road, and away from the regular picnic sites, Bedu camps or even tracks.

At some point husband went somewhere he shouldn't. A site that was sensitive security-wise, not that you'd know, there are no signs, and it just looks like the same old desert. Soldiers emerge, he speaks no Arabic, they speak no English, they take him into custody in a nearby (previously unseen) group of portacabins.

Meanwhile, wife has had a pleasant afternoon by the pool, feels hungry. Noting that husband is not back yet, she decides not to cook, and instead treats herself to a meal in the compound restaurant.

Husband has now been handed over to police, who also speak no English, but drive him back to a Police Station on the outskirts of Riyadh. He would like to phone his wife or his friends or anybody, but has left his cellphone at home.

Wife settles down for an evening in front of the TV. Husband not yet home, obviously drinking with his mates somewhere in some other compound.

Husband is now being questioned by English-speaking cop. All relatively polite, but he's not going anywhere soon. "Why were you there?" "Where? I wasn't anywhere special" etc. Asks if he can phone home. "Yes, you can use your cellphone." "It's at home." Despairing look you would give an idiot, shrug of shoulders. This is not the USA or anywhere like that. No call to your lawyer, or anyone else.

Wife decides on an early night, husband obviously "playing truant" as he apparently did sometimes. Not wanting to wait up for husband's enebriated and late return, she goes to bed.

Husband's interrogation finishes for the night. He's not going anywhere though, he gets to sleep in a cell. Still not allowed to phone out, although he's not completely surprised by that, he'd heard the anecdotes, that's why you should always carry your cellphone.

Wife wakes next morning, not too early, and notes that "significant other" is still missing. Comes to the conclusion that there may be a problem. Rings his cellphone. It responds from the next room. Starts to phone the "Usual Suspects", his golf and drinking buddies.

Husband eats breakfast (Egyptian Foul - sort of beans in a sort of sauce. There's a first time for everything.) The good news is that there won't be any interrogation today, because it's Friday, and the interrogator will be going to Friday prayers. The bad news is that he's not back until Saturday.

Late Friday morning. Wife has drawn a blank with all his pals. Time to call the Embassy. Bad day to do that, Friday. People out on picnics, socializing, what you lot do on Sunday.

To cut a long story short, the Embassy staff finally tracked him down, sorted the matter out, and got him released by Friday evening. He'd been in custody for about thirty hours, incommunicado.

What amused everyone about the story is that the wife didn't seem to miss the husband until the next morning. Well, all marriages have their own foibles. But what this illustrates is how long anyone can disappear down the black hole of our police custody. Imagine if it were an Indian street-sweeper, no relative in the country, an embassy that doesn't give a damn? The answer is a week, even two weeks. Longer, anecdotally, if the arresting officer books you just before his vacation - you wait till he comes back. And that's only if you are "Not Guilty".

So police custody is better than Muttawa custody. It lasts as long, but they probably won't slap you around. And we must be grateful for what may be a slight step forward. But won't it be nice, on that dim and distant day, when the "virtue commission" finally gets wound up? When that happens, I'll probably go on a bender myself, I just hope Mrs A misses me a bit sooner!

And talking about being held incommunicado, here's another little Muttawa (Hay'a) anecdote from a woman blogger.

(Thanks to a number of correspondents for that article)

Two New Links 

I've added two new links over at the right.

Saudi Arabian Women's Rights is a blog site run by a group of Australian students. It is designed to raise awareness of the lack of these rights, and to campaign for improvement. There's a petition over there that you can go and sign.

Alien Memoirs is a nice blog run by Aya, a Saudi student who is currently studying in the USA. It's good to see a sane, common sense site being run by a Saudi.

And, sadly, a link to a Saudi woman who will no longer be able to blog for the moment, thanks to the men in her life. Pretty strong language, I don't blame her one bit, if it were I, I'd use the Lysistrata Strategy.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Guidance Counselor's Report 

Subject: Turki bin Faisal al Saud (Nicknames "Prince", "Ambassador")

Date: 23 May 2006


1. Principal, you may remember that I have already written to you on a number of occasions about our student Turki.

2. I initially advised you against admitting him to our school.

Whilst his family is extremely rich, its wealth was acquired by dubious means. There are many reports of the family patriarch, sometimes known as "Abdul Aziz Al-Saud", sometimes as the "Allahfather", conducting gang warfare against the Hashemite syndicate who used to run the West Side. The Hashemites were eventually driven out and took refuge up north. Shortly after, in a story more reminiscent of the "Beverly Hillbillies" than "Dallas", the Al-Sauds discovered oil in the family compound. They have since become extremely rich, which unfortunately makes them think that they are above any law, and that anyone can be bought. Young Turki is no exception.

The extended family can only be described as extremely dysfunctional. The Bin-Laden branch of the family runs a building business, but one of their sons "went bad" a long time ago and now leads a gang that trashes planes, trains and buildings. Even the more law-abiding side of the family have their problems. They are on the extreme wing of the "Religious Right", treat their servants like cattle, and their women no better.

3. When I originally recommended against admitting him, you were perhaps persuaded otherwise by the offer of the al Saud family to fund a "small prayer room" for the Muslim students. We should perhaps have become suspicious when we suggested a "multi-faith prayer room" that could also be used by other religions such as the Jewish students, for them to reply that "The Jews …there is no bond that binds them, except for a corrupted religion. They seek to extinguish the light of God with their mouths…" And by the time that the "small prayer room" had been built, four times the size of the college chapel with a dome that can be seen ten miles away, it was too late. Certainly the football team regret the loss of their two fields and, as a result, their entire program.

4. Since admitting Turki he has been, as you know, nothing but trouble. Although very polite and well-mannered when talking to authority figures, behind our backs he is a different person. He constantly incites his clique into a campaign of offensive insults against the mainstream students (whom he referred to as the Infidels), not to mention the Jewish ones. Thus remarks such as....

Anyone who turns away from God’s orders and befriends the infidels is the loser…

....the infidel, even if he is your brother of kin, is your enemy by religion.

The infidel is the wretched one. Hell is the abode of the infidel.

The Jews have taken upon themselves to run that [prostitution], to spread it and to run the bars in Europe and America and in Israel itself.

The Jews’ deception, slyness and crookedness [was shown] when they used to greet the Prophet by saying ‘poison be upon you [al-sam ‘alayka]’ as if they were saying ‘peace be upon you [al-salam ‘alayka]’

....and especially this, which he says without a hint of irony...

The Jews are wickedness in its very essence. One of the wicked ways of the Jews is that they whisper to one another among themselves....

....obviously caused great friction with the main student population. However, when they retaliated verbally, they were accused of being "racist", "islamophobic", and even "orientalist", whatever that was supposed to mean.

5. As you know, behind every dysfunctional student there is a dysfunctional family. In view of the above behavior patterns, and triggered by the extreme behavior of his Bin Laden relative and associates, we arranged for a home visit to assess the family situation. Put simply, we were appalled and distressed to see the racist and xenophobic so-called educational material that was readily available to the younger members of the family. No wonder the Bin Laden offspring and many other impressionable relatives have gone completely sociopathic. We were able to find examples of the above insults in those books, together with such "educational" exercises as....

5. What is the fate of the infidels and hypocrites on the Day of Judgment?
[Answer:] Their abode is Hell.

(Dictation exercise)
Now it [Palestine] is occupied by the Jews, a people of treachery and betrayal, who have gathered there from every place: from Poland, Spain, America and elsewhere. Their end, by God’s will, is perdition.

6. We pointed out to the family how this reading matter had demonstrably led to extreme acts of violence by many members of their family, how it had made hatred systemic within their extended family, and for that reason they should do something about it as a matter of urgency We were solemnly assured on numerous occasions that this was happening . One of the uncles told us last year....

We have removed materials that are inciteful or intolerant towards people of other faiths.

and another added, only few days ago,....

The education reforms....go beyond textbook rewriting....Textbooks are only one of the steps that has been taken

....leading us to conclude, quite reasonably, and after four years, that all offending material had been removed. However "telling the truth" seems to be an unknown concept for the al Saud family, presumably because they are only dealing with "Infidels" like you and me. It is therefore sad to report that new material, published only last year, and still available to their children today, has been smuggled out of the house by domestic staff and passed to us. If anything, it is worse than what they had before.

They are the people of the Sabbath, whose young people [Jews] God turned into apes, and whose old people [Christians] God turned into swine to punish them."

You can hardly find an example of sedition in which the Jews have not played a role.

Jihad continues until the Day of Resurrection.

The hour [of judgment] will not come until the Muslims fight the Jews and kill them.

Some of the Jews worship the devil.

....not to mention the "old chestnut", warmed up once again....

The Protocols of the Elders of Zion "were discovered in the 19th century. The Jews have tried to deny them, but there are many proofs of their veracity and their origin among the elders of Zion.

7. I spoke to Turki and asked him why these books had not been destroyed, as we had been assured they had been. His reply was exactly the same old mixture of tired excuses for a late assignment, that teachers the world over could recite in their sleep....

....a massive undertaking.....hundreds of books....the process remains ongoing. The report....is by no means a final report, and was never presented as such.

8. We should call a halt to this endless prevarication. My recommendation is that we expel this troublesome student immediately, and have nothing to do with his problem family, ever. They are smooth and accomplished liars who just regard us with contempt, as "Infidels" who are capable of being "bought". There is no point in trying to deal reasonably with people who believe, in their own words, that....

True belief means . . . that you hate the polytheists and infidels

Thanks, "Jim", "Thompsom", "Paul", "Jonathan", "mkshafeek", "John Bradley"

Monday, May 22, 2006

A Million Thanks.... 

....Oh Modernizing Father Figure!

....Oh Engineer of Economic Reforms!

....Oh Grower of the Grecian Feline!

We thank you most sincerely for your economic reforms, especially charging the rest of the world more for their gas so that you can cut the price of ours!

Campaign to collect 1m messages of thanks

Riyadh: There was a tremendous response from both citizens as well as expatriates to the campaign launched yesterday to collect one million messages of thanks to King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia.

The voluntary campaign has been kicked off in various parts of the country as a token of showing gratitude to a series of welfare measures being introduced by the monarch to improve the living standard of the people and giving them succour.

These reforms and welfare measures have earned the king the title of "Engineer of Economic Reforms." Abdurahman Al Mutawwa, director general of the campaign committee, told Gulf News that the campaign is aimed at highlighting the magnitude of gratefulness and appreciation that each citizen and foreigner is holding to the leadership of King Abdullah. He drew attention to a raft of measures and reforms introduced by the king.

Sadly, the "raft of measures and reforms introduced by the king" lost its little plastic inflation tube plug thingy, deflated, squirted bubbles, and sank ignominously before it got 100 meters. Anybody who can name one reform of his, apart from a general pay rise to government workers, cutting the price of gas, and a "can't lose, even if you're stoopid" Mutual Fund, gets a tin of the finest Friborg & Treyer Santo Domingo Snuff .

But why am I being churlish on such a day, when the loyal and devoted people of Saudi Arabia are sending in their thanks! And not only there. The people of the Religious Policeman blog join in the general tumult of appreciation! All the people over on the right, 22 visitors from 11 countries, or whatever, want to thank you for being able to pay $3 a gallon, or 1 Pound Sterling a liter, or whatever!

I'm so overwhelmed, I'll have to stop, tears on my keyboard....

Thanks, "Naren"!


The Suburban screeches to a halt, tyres squealing, black clouds of rubber rising with the dust. Four pairs of spindly, hairy legs emerge, four dirty thobes, four ridiculous sticks, four long straggly beards that have never ever known the scented seductiveness of shampoo, deep inside which are the small dried-up memories of meals long forgotten.

But enough of the niceties. There's men's work to be done. The Commission for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice are on a mission. To Promote Virtue. But before that can be done, all Vice must be Prevented. And there's serious Vice on the streets tonight.

What can it be? A Pakistani woman walking along the road with three strands of hair showing? In the mall, a Saudi family lingering in the food court during prayer time? A lonely Barbie Doll, pining for her Ken in the dusty corner of a shop at the tatty end of the Kuwaiti Suuq?

No. The truth is far more Sinful than that. So dark a Sin, it hardly dares speak its name. But that name is.....



Yes, snuff!

Snuff, as in "Snuff Movie"? Like those grainy 30-second Afghan and Iraq .mpg's that the Imam University sickos like to watch and email to their friends, some poor soul having his head chopped off by a Muslim crazy with a sword?

No, worse than that!

But what could possibly be worse than that?

Snuff. Dried, powdered tobacco. You sniff it up your nose. Makes you sneeze.

Ah, that snuff! I see the problem!

Makkah Officials Bust Snuff-Making Factory

Officials of the Commission for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice yesterday apprehended several Arab expatriates who reportedly manufactured and sold shemah (a snufflike substance which contains various ingredients) in the Al-Otaibiya district of Makkah.
The officials also seized more than two tons of the contraband from a secret manufacturing center in the city.

Now before you ask me why the Religious Police are going out and confiscating snuff, I haven't a clue. Although in this case, there were....

....several schoolboys carrying pouches containing a substance for sniffing....

....I don't know what the fundamental problem is. Kids shouldn't be buying it, any more than they should be buying cigarettes. It is a nicotine product, after all. But snuff is widely available for sale to adults throughout the world, especially posh tobacconists here in England. And anyway, why the Religious Police, Allah's own policemen?

I have four possible theories.

One. Some Prince has noticed that it's being manufactured in industrial quantities - two tons ready for distribution - and so wants to take over the action for himself.

Two. It's a Muttawa kneejerk. "Sin may be Fun, but Fun is definitely a sin".

Three. Our halitosic friends have just discovered this latest substitute for female company, and have decided to get a stash in to keep at Mutt HQ, alongside all the confiscated booze and porn.

Glug - glug. Uuurrpprr. Hey Ahmed, look at this one! Look at the overhang on her! You don't get many of those in half a kilo! Sniff........Aasschhoooo! Glug.

Four. (And this is the least likely). There is actually a religious prohibition on snuff. Now, the lads in Makkah 1400 years ago weren't exactly a bundle of fun, and once they got going on the polytheists and whores and sinners they turned the Arabian version of Las Vegas into the Arabian version of Amish country. But they didn't manage to prohibit things that had not yet been discovered or invented. So, to my knowledge, there is nothing in the Quran or Hadiths to prevent us sticking powder up our nose, except during Ramadan of course.

In fact, I'm so certain of that, I'll send a tin of the finest Friborg & Treyer Santo Domingo Snuff to anyone who can demonstrate otherwise!

Saturday, May 20, 2006


That's a lazy title. I've got a mountain of work to get thru this weekend, so I'm going to post two articles that more or less speak for themselves, with the very tenuous connection of the title, and let you get on reading them for yourself.

When Edward Lear wrote his nonsense poems, he obviously had Saudi Arabia in mind when he spoke of the "Land where the Bong Tree grows". But how about the "Land where the Jumblies live"?

A clue - I very rarely write about it, although it's often whackier than the Magic Kingdom.

Another clue - it's run by someone with a name like "A Mad Dinner Jacket"

That's right! The Islamic Republic of Iran! And what are their wacky, fun-loving politicos and religious types up to?

Thanks to "Brian" and "Howard" for this. Apparently they have become jealous of the only two countries in the world with a national uniform, us and North Korea, and want their own. Not only that, but instead of wearing the colors of their favorite team, they get to wear the color of their religion! How cool is that?

A colour code for Iran's 'infidels'

The law mandates the government to make sure that all Iranians wear "standard Islamic garments" designed to remove ethnic and class distinctions reflected in clothing, and to eliminate "the influence of the infidel" on the way Iranians, especially, the young dress. It also envisages separate dress codes for religious minorities, Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians, who will have to adopt distinct colour schemes to make them identifiable in public. The new codes would enable Muslims to easily recognize non-Muslims so that they can avoid shaking hands with them by mistake, and thus becoming najis (unclean).

Isn't that nice? And aren't they doing wonders for the image of Muslims, worldwide? But have they anything special lined up for the Jooos?

Jews would be marked out with a yellow strip of cloth sewn in front of their clothes.

Yellow! How thoughtful! How retro! I'll leave you to read the rest.

Update Sunday 21st May 2006. It looks like I, together with a load of newspapers and bloggers around the world, have been "had". Iranian emigrees spreading nonsense, similar to some of the emigree stories pre-Iraq-invasion. Like Bush and Blair, we swallowed it because we thought it was completely possible. Humble pie, humble pie. Thanks, "Brian" and others.

Jewish MP denies Iran badge plan

Update Tuesday 23 May 2006. For those who would like more background on this "hoax", but a hoax that I personally find about as funny as the "Protocols", here are a couple of sources

Who Started the Iranian Badge Story?

Another Fraud on Iran: No Legislation on Dress of Religious Minorities

Thanks, "Timewarp".

Back to clothes.....

Thanks to "Anne" and "momlls" and "kschoening" and "Ayman" for this. It's the tricky subject of Saudi women and fitness. We, and this of course includes men as well, do start at a disadvantage with our climate. Nobody wants to go jogging, cycling, or even walking, in 100 to 130-plus temperatures. But they have a similar problem in Arizona, for example, and there are enough indoor and outdoor facilities for everyone to get fit, if they so choose. Whereas in Saudi Arabia, there is no such thing even as a public swimming pool. The nearest we get are the men-only pools in the big hotels or resters, or the compound pools that can only be used by expats. But then we add our own little complications. There are some roads that have pavements wide enough for walking, but we then get the youth in cars beeping their horns and shouting , and even the muttawa telling single women to go indoors. In fact, the only public place that I can think of where women are generally OK by themselves, is the Corniche in Jeddah.

The problem starts in school. The "Poodle Parliament" did discuss the idea of girls' schools having exercise sessions, but it was voted down. So no girl soccer teams.

Exercise a Challenge for Saudi Women

Under their modest flowing robes, two-thirds of Saudi women are too fat. They can try dieting, but you won't find many in aerobics classes or power-walking along this city's walking trails. And very few of their daughters attend schools that have physical education classes.
There are no laws against women exercising outside their homes, but in this conservative society many are influenced by scholars and clerics who argue against it.
In Riyadh, hotel gyms and pools are off limits to women. Along the city's walking trails, where the women walk covered in the mandatory black cloaks, they are sometimes harassed by the muttawa.

Again, you should look at it yourself, it's an excellent article.

One particular section did catch my eye. Apparently there is a booklet written by a Muhammad al-Habdan on the subject, in which he warns against exercise for girls in school. And here is the tenuous clothing connection. Apparently:

....if girls' schools began P.E., Saudi girls would have to change into workout gear — and good girls should not disrobe outside their homes. Changing in a locker room might cause them to lose the shyness that is the hallmark of good morals, the booklet warned. It went on to say that the girls might become attracted to each other after seeing their classmates in tight leotards and tops.

All I can say, Muhammad, is that you're watching the wrong sort of DVD. You're getting entirely the wrong idea about female sexuality, and you're going to end up growing hair on the palms of your hands.

Update 23 May 2006

For westerners who are tempted to get some exercise out in the desert, perhaps as one of the "Hash" running and walking groups, a fresh warning that it may make them especially vulnerable:

Thanks, "Down in Dhahran"

Warden Message #04A/2006

Embassy of the United States of America

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia


May 21, 2006

The Embassy requests that wardens pass the following message in its entirety to members of the American Community:

The Department of State continues to remind Americans living in or traveling to Saudi Arabia that the security environment in that country remains unsettled. The Embassy has received recent information that terrorists may be targeting diplomats and foreigners who may be camping or exercising on the outskirts of the city of Riyadh and farther out into the desert. Based on this information, the Embassy is barring official Americans from participation in such activities for the immediate future. We strongly advise all members of the American community against exercising in public places on the periphery of the city, pursuing recreational activities such as group runs in isolated areas, or congregating with large groups of readily identifiable expatriates. We urge all citizens to remain alert to their surroundings, vary their times and routes, and actively cultivate good personal security practices.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

A Memo 

From: Royal Press Secretary
To: Editors of all Saudi Newspapers
Date: 20, Rabi al-Thani, 1427

Subject: His Majesty's views on women in newspaper photographs. World Food Program donation. Risk-Free Fund. Taboo items. "Modernizing Father Figure".

1. It is clear that certain foreign newspapers and agencies have deliberately chosen not to understand His Majesty's very clear views on this subject, when he met with local reporters earlier in the week. Indeed, we are bound to agree with today's Arab News that

Once again the wire services and international news agencies got it wrong by misquoting Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah....The wire agencies completely misinterpreted and misrepresented the king’s views.

2. Let me make it perfectly clear, for the avoidance of any doubt, that when the King started to talk about journalistic standards to a gathering of Saudi reporters, and expressed his displeasure because....

There are photographs published in some newspapers ... and one needs to think if he would want his daughter, sister or wife to appear like that. Of course, no one would

....it does not mean that he was referring to Saudi newspapers. It should have been clear to anyone with any common sense that he was referring to foreign newspapers instead. The fact that there were no foreign reporters in the room is completely irrelevant. The "one" referred to, who needs to think....

if he would want his daughter, sister or wife to appear like that.

....is of course a foreign "one" , not a Saudi "one". The quote....

Of course, no one would

....should not be understood as a King speaking on behalf of his subjects, but instead that of a simple man, a father, brother and husband, who feels a moral responsibility for his fellow human beings everywhere, wherever they live.

I trust that is now clear.

3. Sadly we are witnessing a deliberate misunderstanding of the King's remarks by the press worldwide, and the last count of Yahoo! News showed that 137 newspapers are all reporting the same thing, that our beloved King wishes to ban photos of women from Saudi newspapers. This is a wilful misrepresentation of the truth, and one scurrilous newspaper even went so far as to comment that "this octogenarian King is getting so confused that it is unfair to make him run a country, he should be snoozing in front of the TV with a large tabby on his lap!"

We therefore need to engage in a major damage repair exercise, and all Saudi newspapers are instructed to publish articles, along the lines of the "Arab News" article quoted above. The following quotes should all be used:

At no point during his meeting with the editors did the king warn local media against publishing pictures of Saudi women, as reported by the news agencies.

The wire agencies completely misinterpreted and misrepresented the king’s views.

A senior official from the Ministry of Culture and Information also denied reports that the king had banned publication of women’s pictures in the local media.

“King Abdullah has not issued any royal decree against the publication of women’s pictures in Saudi media,” the official told (insert newspaper name here).

A Gulf editor who was present at the meeting said that the king was misquoted. “This is exactly what the king was advising against — sensationalism,” he said.

“King Abdullah didn’t talk about stopping publication of women’s pictures,” said the editor in chief of a leading Saudi daily

“What’s being reported about what the king said is totally inaccurate,” he added.

“There is no such ban and the evidence is that all Saudi newspapers continue to publish pictures of Saudi as well as non-Saudi women,” he pointed out.

I appreciate that all these comments may seem extremely repetitious within the one article, but it is a well-known fact that making the same point again and again and again is very effective in persuading people, winning arguments and adding credibility to any story.

To complete the process of "getting the reader's mind right" you should use, as the "Arab News" did....

“The king was referring to indecent pictures in general....

....which will cause male readers immediately to think lewd thoughts about "humungous mammaries", and therefore enable you to slip this under their radar....

....and not women’s pictures in particular....

....even though one’s daughter, sister or wife generally refers to women, in particular, but their critical faculties are now focussed elsewhere, so add....

....He didn’t allude to women at all.

....and the reader's mind will be so absorbed with other thoughts as to swallow this complete whopper of a lie into his subconscious without blinking. Now, of course, is the time to change the subject.

4. At the same meeting, His Majesty announced the donation of the excedingly generous sum of $10 million towards the World Food Program's drought relief program in north-east Africa. Fortunately the King did not hear the sotto-voce comment from the back of the room that "When it comes to giving money the Saud Family are tighter than a duck's buttocks", because the culprit would have spent the remainder of his career reporting the goat cheese auctions up near the Iraqi border. Whilst $10 million may seem a small sum in comparison to the US's $1 billion annual donation, or indeed Japan's $136 million, and even our annual oil revenues exceeding $150 billion, commentators should bear in mind that recent announcements such as gas price cuts and guaranteed Stock Market profits all cost money, and anyway, "charity begins at home". However, perceptions are shaped by brand names, and so all Saudi newspapers are required, as the "Saudi Gazette" has already done, to headline this program as:
Saudi Arabia the Kingdom of Humanity

5. The Risk-Free Stock Market Fund recently announced by His Majesty has not yet been given an official title. However it is not to be referred to, even in jest, (as I overheard one reporter at the meeting), as the "Everyone's a Winner, even the Mugs" fund.

6. Might I just remind all editors, in line with His Majesty's request - "I ask you to go easy on ... unclear issues based on rumors and not to write things that hurt your country" - that the following subjects are off-limits for reporting:

Grecian 2000

All other vinegar-based "mens' cosmetics"

Any notional shape that His Majesty's beard may resemble (not least because representations of living creatures are Haram)

Popular Google searches made by Saudis. Especially those in search of the sins of Sodom and Onan as committed by the Jews in the first Zionist-Imperialist occupation of Palestine.

7. His Majesty wants it to be known that he should be referred to, whenever possible, as "A Modernizing Father Figure". This will conceal the lack of any actual modernization whilst maintaining the pretence that it is imminent. He has, however, fathered innumerable children.

Wikipedia, ergo sum 

To counter rumors that this blog is in fact the idle musing of a cute but middle-aged rodent, I am now pleased to report the publication of an authoritative account.

I believe it was Descartes who originally said in Latin "Wikipedia, ergo sum" ("I am in Wikipedia, therefore I am"), and indeed there he is , so it must be true. And if we go to the same source, what do we also now find?

The Religious Policeman

The Religious Policeman is a weblog written by an anonymous Saudi Arabian man who writes under the pseudonym of Alhamedi Alanezi. The name of the site is a deliberate reference to the Saudi religious police, who are more officially known as the Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice.

Many thanks to "Mike" for his painstaking research into this elusive subject, and for creating the definitive entry in Wikipedia.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Talking Up 

King Abdullah has come to the rescue of our tumbling Stock Exchange. But first, he has other important matters to consider....

And may I say, Your Majesty, how nice your pussy is looking this morning!

It's not just me, is it? There is a black pussy cat on his chin, isn't there? Now if it were possible to fail an "Ink Blot Test", I'd be the person to do it. But look here, surely someone else sees a resemblance?

Anyway, this is not another Cat post, it's a Stock Exchange post. So we must once more travel to that corner office in the Ministry Of Finance....

Saeed awoke with a start and snorted, which propelled the stick of Miswak out of his nostril and groundwards at high speed. It lodged between his big toe and its neighbor, which was quite amazing, except that he had other things on his mind besides Miswak Miracles.

"Kaffirs", he grunted.

Ibrahim and AbdulAziz looked at him in surprise. He wasn't normally this talkative. "Kaffirs?", they asked.

"Yes, Kaffirs. Infidels. Unbelievers. Westerners. We'll get them to prop up our Stock Market."

"Not a chance!" said Ibrahim, "They aren't stupid. They've had Stock Exchanges for a century or more. They've seen it all, the ups, the downs, the frauds, the bubbles. They wouldn't touch ours with a long pole!"

"They won't have a choice", replied Saeed. "Because they can't do without our gas. You'd think they'd be sensible enough to go for small automobiles, but no, they seem to get bigger and guzzlier all the time. I've been there. Huge Humvees coming out of gated compounds driven by little old ladies, really scary. It's like "Cocoon" meets "Patton"" .

"OK, so they buy our gas", said AbdulAziz, "But how does that help our Stock Market?"

"Simple. Set up a Mutual Fund for small investors, the ones who haven't been burnt yet. Base it on the Stock Market. If the market goes up, their fund goes up, and they're happy. But if the market goes down, we'll use our windfall oil revenues to shore up their investment, so they don't lose a Riyal, and they are still happy.
And every time the Kaffirs pump gas, they pump up our Stock Market!"

AbdulAziz looked at Saeed in admiration. Perhaps there was an argument for inbreeding, after all....

And so it came to pass....

King acts to calm Saudi investors

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia promised to create a risk-free investment fund for ordinary Saudis yesterday as the Gulf kingdom's collapsing stock market experienced another sharp fall.

In his latest effort to revive the market and appease an angry public, King Abdullah said the state would shoulder any losses from a new fund aimed at small investors with a maximum of SR500,000 ($133,000) to invest.

Mind you, it's about time the King stepped in. Everyone's been talking down the Stock Market for weeks now, like the UK "Financial Times"....

The Tadawul All-Shares index was down 9.7 per cent by yesterday afternoon, exacerbating a collapse that has ruined tens of thousands of Saudi investors, who had been encouraged by the authorities to ride the stock markets as a means of spreading wealth generated by the oil boom.
Saudi stocks have lost half their value, or about $400bn, since peaking in February, when frenzied speculation drove the market's value to the equivalent of more than 200 per cent of gross domestic product.

King Abdullah has had enough of the nay-sayers, the moaners, especially the negative, carping press. He said as much to journalists earlier this week (Thanks "Angie")....

The king, whose media persona is of a modernizing father figure (??!? - AA), also warned the media against "hurting the country" in comments that appeared to refer to a stock market crash that began earlier this year.
"I ask you to go easy on ... unclear issues based on rumors and not to write things that hurt your country," he said.
"Some correspondents just want to stand out and they go too far. If he has something, he should go to the relevant minister to clear up the picture. Others just want to laugh at misfortune and that's not our way."

Quite right. Enough of this pessimistic journalism, not to mention Blogs. No more Talking Down. Now is the time for Talking Up. That's King Abdullah's way.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006


What is it with Arab leaders and Grecian 2000? That thought crosses my mind every time I see Saddam Hussein's hair on TV, and of course our own beloved King Abdullah's mustache and beard. How does he avoid getting it on his lovely white thobe? What induces him to trim his beard to look like a rear view of an overweight black cat, and then apply a mixture of Propylene Glycol, Mineral Oil, Stearyl Alcohol, Glyceryl Stearate, Ceteareth-20, Sulfur, Panthenol, Lead Acetate, and Acetic Acid (better known as vinegar)? These are questions that trouble me, but suspect I will never learn the answer to.

Perhaps he is frustrated by the ravages that time has wrought on him, as it does on us all. We all get frustrated for a variety of reasons. I get frustrated by the slow - no, by the stationary - rate of progress in Saudi Arabia. Does this so-called "Modernizing King" also get frustrated, because he certainly hasn't modernized anything yet?

Well, apparently, he doesn't want to. In fact, he wants to wind the clock back further, if that is possible. As we learn from this CNN report (Thanks, "Angie")....

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah, under pressure from Islamists to curb reforms, has warned local media against showing pictures of Saudi women, ....at a meeting with newspaper editors late on Monday.

What sort of pictures are getting him all worked up? Surely not "girly pictures", we don't have those, do we?

Newspapers have broken with tradition and have more frequently begun printing photographs of Saudi women beside stories, usually with hair covered but faces showing,

Oh! The horror! But seriously, who could possibly be so stupid as to object to a woman's face, peering out from under a scarf?

.....which many Wahhabi Islamists consider morally wrong....

Oh yes, they could possibly be so stupid. In fact they certainly are that stupid. But what about our "Modernizing King"?

"There are photographs published in some newspapers ... and one needs to think if he would want his daughter, sister or wife to appear like that. Of course, no one would"

Aaaaggghhh! How do we begin to unpick the layers of stupidity, prejudice, and sheer ignorance out of that? We are talking about women showing their scarfed faces in newspapers, as they already do on the TV News! And the implicit assumption that it's all down to the men, and how they feel about it! Who cares how they feel about it? Why don't you ask the women what they feel, it's their faces we are talking about. In fact - Shock! Horror! - why not let them decide? And don't say "Of course, no one would" as if you speak for everybody, including me, because you don't!

Then it gets even worse.

Young people are driven by emotion and the spirit, but the spirit can go astray.

What is he saying here? That our young men are going to be driven into such a frenzy of lust by the sight of newspaper photos of women's faces, that they are going to disappear into quiet corners with a copy of Al Riyadh, and commit dark solitary acts of self-abuse?

The spirit can go astray, alright. It can go astray out of sexual frustration. It is no coincidence that sexual frustration means that our country is notorious for its sexual predators, once abroad. Not that we are alone. Unfulfilled sexual curiosity, whether active or passive, is endemic in the more extreme Islamic and Arabic countries.

Thanks to "Martin" for pointing this out to me. Sabbah's Blog has an interesting analysis, showing who is using Google to search for particular words. And if we select the word Sex, then we see the countries whose inhabitants most often search for it. Well-represented are the "Usual Suspects" of countries where women are repressed and the men are frustrated. I was a little disappointed to see that Saudi Arabia was only the seventh country in the list. However if we select instead the F*ck word, we jump to fourth! Well done, lads!

It's similarly interesting to see the searchers' language. Sex is not an Arabic word, but it seems to be our favorite! (For some reason the Vietnamese also have problems; however this is not a Vietnamese blog and I can't worry about them as well).

So this is what our society has achieved. Starved of female company, or even newspaper photos, our men trawl the internet in search of virtual outlets for their frustration. And we are world leaders at it. If only we might perform as well in the World Cup as we do Googleing for Sex.

However, once we get married, it seems to get no better. There are two problems.

One. Because lots of marriages are arranged, quite often they turn out to be loveless. There are approximately two million divorced women in the Kingdom, and no doubt even more locked in desperately unhappy situations.

Two. Because many fathers are getting increasingly greedy, they are demanding larger and larger dowries for their daughters, and pricing them out of the market. The result is that there are approximately one and a half million unmarried women of marriageable age.

Here is frustration multipled a million-fold. However, with the apparent connivance of our religious authorities, we have come up with a new and legal solution to these problems.

New for us, that is. Western society discovered it several centuries ago and has effectively discarded it in the last century. It is, of course, The Mistress.

Here is the famous painting by Holman Hunt, the pre-Raphaelite artist, known as "The Awakening Conscience". According to London's Tate Gallery, "the still small voice [of conscience] speaks to a human soul in the turmoil of life’. A kept woman, realising the error of her ways, rises suddenly from the lap of her lover, inspired by the light pouring through the window from the garden."

The guy in the photo likes the idea of having a mistress, because he can get away from his good-but-joyless "society marriage", he can come here to the warm embrace of this young lady, play the piano, have a few drinks, you can guess the rest, and then, when his frustration has been satisfied, return to the patient wife who does his washing, cooks his meals, cleans his house, and brings up his children.

Meanwhile, it's not so good for her. It's a comfortable existence for a poor girl, but it's hours and days of lonely boredom doing her crochet work, until Mr Whiskers here suddenly turns up at the door unannounced with all the finesse of a randy Labrador. So finally she's had enough, and she's off. Whether it is "realising the error of her ways", I don't know, because while that's all very well, it doesn't pay the rent. I prefer to think that she has met some poor-but-honest artisan out in the East End of London who is going to make "an honest woman" out of her and raise a brood of poor-but-honest children, but I'm a sentimental so-and-so and I can feel the tears welling up already.

Meanwhile, back in Saudi Arabia, we have legalized The Mistress. It does help, of course, if you already allow multiple marriages for men. We call the arrangement the Misyar Marriage

Misyar marriage is a legal alternative marital arrangement more Saudi men and women are using to offset prohibitive marriage costs and the stigma unmarried women face.
In a misyar marriage the woman waives some of the rights she would enjoy in a normal marriage. Most misyar brides don’t change their residences but pursue marriage on a visitation basis. ....
Most of the women opting for misyar either are divorced, widowed or beyond the customary marriage age. The majority of men who take part in such marital arrangements are already married.

So how do men feel about it?

The reasons men gave for favoring misyar most often related to cost, with some asking “why not?” “I get to maintain all my rights, but I don’t have to take care of her financially and don’t even have to provide a house for her,” said 25-year-old Rayan Abdullah, an unmarried medical student at the city university. “It’s a great solution — isn’t it? It costs less than having a girlfriend — doesn’t it?”

“What are the things most of us married men complain about?” asked Ghazi Ahmad, a 38-year-old husband and father of three children. “Don’t all of us constantly complain about the financial burdens, the lack of personal freedom — the routine patterns? Then this is the best marriage ever as far as I’m concerned. Married but not married — perfect.”

And the women?

More than 86 percent of the women 20-40 would not even consider such a marriage for themselves. Only four women — all in the over-40 category — would consider such marriages for themselves or relatives. Most of the women respondents called it “legal prostitution” or objected to the lack of women’s rights in misyar marriages.

In Victorian England, the wives were usually more understanding than Saudi wives. Even when The Mistress got pregnant

“My second misyar marriage was doing fine despite my hawk of a first wife,” said Abu Abdul Rahman. “But that was only until my second wife got pregnant, and then the real nightmare began. She wanted to announce our relationship publicly because it put her in bad situations societally — you can’t be single and pregnant. I had to tell my family and my wife, and all hell broke loose. Now both marriages are on the rocks.”

And of course our Policemen friends have to stick their big noses in.

“I’d been married misyarically for almost a year when members of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice paid me a terrible visit accusing me of prostitution,” said a 35-year old divorcee and mother of two who chose to call herself Warda. “They wanted to drag me to the police station even though I kept shoving the marriage contract in their faces. I had to call my brother — with whom I wasn’t on speaking terms. It was terrible.

So, there we are. Frustrated people look for quick and easy solutions for their frustration. Misyar marriages are just that. And there's nothing quick and easy about a proper marriage. I'll leave the final (sensible) words to a marriage official.

“Unfortunately, misyar marriage has made it easier for irresponsible, immature individuals to enter a relationship that is supposed to be based on credibility, reliability and respect,” said Abu Zaid, an elderly marriage official. “This isn’t the case. It’s treated as a temporary solution for lust. That’s not what marriage is all about. In regular polygamy all wives have exactly the same rights over the husband, be it financial, be it regarding time spent together or being public. Women think that misyar marriage is for their benefit when in fact on a long-term basis, they pay the price and not just from their pockets but from their emotions, as well.”

Postscript Wednesday 17th May

More GoogleTrends fun. Thanks to "Ayman" for pointing this out to me. The league table for searches on "Islam" has Saudi Arabia, land of the Two Holy Mosques, down in 9th place, and way below countries like Indonesia in absolute numbers of searches. Do we get so much Islam rammed down our throats every day that we feel no need to go searching for it on the internet?

But that's not all. Search for "Gay Sex", and we Saudis feel very smug because, confirming our prejudices, at the Number 1 spot is the Philippines! So who is second? It's ah...um....

Saudi Arabia!

Yes, Saudi Arabia is the second country in the entire world for searching Google for "Gay Sex"! And, along with the Philippines, way out ahead in absolute numbers. I am amazed!

Or am I? My own observation is that Saudi Arabia is no different from anywhere else in its proportion of gay men, i.e. those who believe themselves to be naturally homosexual. But when heterosexual urges do not find an outlet, are our men turning to perhaps more available alternatives? Is this the ultimate sign of Frustration?

And there's more! My friend from Cerebral Waste has written to point out that you can get very interesting results from the following searches:

Google Trends: shawarma In Ecuador??!?

Google Trends: Usama bin Laden A clue as to his address?

Google Trends: anal sex Uh Oh! Guess who is Numero Uno again! Although the top countries also have large populations of sheep or goats, which is an interesting correlation. But we are up there at Number One! The ultimate sign of Frustration?

Well, perhaps not quite. Please excuse me a few moments of vulgarity, as I recount this little ditty I learnt at school in England.

If wine and women bring no joys,
Try bottled beer and little boys.
If these should still be of no use,
It's lemonade and self abuse.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

There is no War in Cuba 

Many thanks to some Commentors who flattered me by asking whether I was indeed Terry Pratchett, the author. Apparently they felt that our writing styles were similar. I had to confess that I was not. Indeed, if I were, then with all the books I had published, I would be too busy going thru my bank statements to have any time to blog. But they did excite my curiosity, and this weekend I went out and bought "Monstrous Regiment". Why that particular one? Well, the cover, with its Napoleonic-era soldiers, appealed to my interest in military history; also, the title is a quotation from a work by a Scottish religious zealot and misogynist of years gone by. In 1558 John Knox wrote the pamphlet "The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women", in which he said "Nature doth paint them further to be weak, frail, impatient, feeble and foolish; and experience hath declared them to be unconstant, variable, cruel, and lacking the spirit of counsel". Yeah, dream on. History does not record what either Mrs Knox (the second was 16 when he married her) thought about this opinion, although it was primarily directed against Mary Queen of Scots. As a fierce Protestant he did not believe in it, but he is one of the best arguments for Catholic purgatory, where souls are purged of their sins before being admitted to heaven. In his case, a thousand bad-morning-sickness-and-backache pregnancies followed by a thousand painful and prolonged deliveries of strapping ten-pound babies would be appropriate. I'm sure God would agree, wouldn't She?

Anyway, I've just started on the book, and Terry Pratchett does indeed have a style that I find familiar. However, he can sustain it for 500 pages, not two or three. And I don't think the world could stand 500 pages of King Abdullah and Prince Nayif doing their "Beavis and Butthead" routine. So that's where any similarity between us probably ends.

I had just finished a 600-page epic, a biography of William Randolph Hearst, the publisher. My interest in him was stimulated by a visit some years ago to his extravagant "Castle" at San Simeon on the California coast. This, presumably, was where our Saudi Princes got the inspiration for their equally tasteful and understated dwellings. Also I have always enjoyed the film based on his life, "Citizen Kane", and the DVD sits proudly near the top of my special collection of "The 30 best movies ever". My favorite scene, based upon W R Hearst's desire to see the Spanish kicked out of Cuba, is this exchange with his editor, having just received a cable from his reporter out there.

Charles Foster Kane: Read the cable.

Bernstein: "Girls delightful in Cuba. Stop. Could send you prose poems about scenery, but don't feel right spending your money. Stop. There is no war in Cuba, signed Wheeler." Any answer?

Charles Foster Kane: Yes. "Dear Wheeler: you provide the prose poems. I'll provide the war."

And that's precisely what happened. Thru his papers, Hearst "did a number" on the Spanish in Cuba. Tales of atrocities, mistreatment of women prisoners, blame for the explosion on board the USS Maine. The whole works. The US public were outraged, and Hearst was instrumental in getting the US to invade Cuba. On the 10th June, 1898, US forces landed on an unknown and remote Cuban bay called Guantanamo. That signalled the end of Spanish rule.

This all came back to mind when I read today's "Saudi Gazette", because that paper is also "doing a number", Hearst-style. Not, this time, an orchestrated government campaign as we had with the Danish cartoons. On that occasion, all the Saudi papers were involved. No, this time, it's just the "Saudi Gazette" doing their own thing. Five articles, all on the same topic. And the target of their campaign? By one of those strange coincidences, that very same Cuban bay.

Here are the various articles. I've missed one out for the moment, we'll get to that later, it's the most horrifying.

Court Suspends Saudi’s Trial

A US judge Friday suspended the Guantanamo war crimes tribunal of a Saudi prisoner until after the US Supreme Court rules next month on the tribunals’ legality.

‘He Wants To Get Married and Settle Down’

ABDULSALAM Al-Shihri was only 16 years old when he was captured by American forces in Afghanistan. In 2001, he was sent to Guantanamo Bay prison making him the youngest Saudi detainee.

Letters Are the Only Link

THIKRA, 22-year-old wife of Fahd Al-Fouzan, patiently waits for her husband’s return. She has neither seen nor talked to her husband for over five years, but thinks about him every hour of the day.

‘I Want to Go to Cuba’

FOUR-year-old Ethar talks to her father every night before she goes to bed. She tells him she loves him and then tells him what she did during the day. But unlike most children, she has never seen her father in real life.
Ethar’s father is 23-year-old Fahd Al-Fouzan one of the 132 Saudi detainees held at Guantanamo Bay.

All heart-rending stuff. Young wives, young children, telling the pain of their separation from beloved husbands, fathers, relatives, who are imprisoned without due process, without trial, without apparent hope of freedom. And, you may say, very cynical, coming from a government-controlled newspaper in a country where people also disappear into a legal system without due process, without trial, without apparent hope of freedom.

And I would agree. Except, sadly, in this particular case, I would also say "A plague on both your houses. In this instance, you are each as bad as the other".

I say "sadly" because that's exactly how I feel. I have long admired the US for its record of democracy, human rights, the rule of law, as has most of the civilized world. The USA was the country that first took the European Enlightenment ideals and based an entire constitution on them. One of my favorite places in the entire globe is the Jefferson Monument in Washington. It's near a busy road, but somehow the interior provides a peaceful, calm and reflective atmosphere in which to contemplate and be uplifted by the various inscriptions. Will I ever live to see one like this in Saudi Arabia?

Almighty God hath created the mind free…All attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burthens…are a departure from the plan of the Holy Author of our religion…No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship or ministry or shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief, but all men shall be free to profess and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion.

And this could have been written specially for the Wahhabis....

We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.

This one always gives me a special tingle, I would happily go to the barricades to fight for it.

We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, that to secure these rights governments are instituted among men.

And my favorite, in Jefferson's own words, around the top of the wall....

I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.

Thomas Jefferson, whenever I see that, I am tempted to walk seven times round your Monument in a counter-clockwise direction, and I don't care if it is idolatry.

So that is why it saddens me that this nation, the great upholder and protector of freedom and liberty, is in this instance letting everyone down. Remonstrate with the Saudis or Chinese or North Koreans or Burmese or all the other squalid despot regimes about their non-existent legal systems, and they can just turn round and say "Sure, we have imprisonment without trial, just like you do in Gitmo".

I can understand how it started. It was right to invade Afghanistan, to go after the terrorist camps, and in the process get rid of their protectors, the Taliban regime. In doing so a lot of people got scooped up and they needed to be checked out, interrogated, classified, graded as dangerous or innocent or just plain-stupid-went-to-Afghanistan-because-it-was-like-summer-camp-for-religious-wackos. So a prison at the end of nowhere was as good a place as any to do that. But that was four and a half years ago. Time and enough to interrogate and check out and classify and grade. And it's long past "put up or shut up" time. Now is the time to either try them for their crimes, or release them. It's supposed to be only the squalid regimes like Saudi Arabia, where you get locked up for four and a half years without trial. And don't give me that "They are not subject to US law" routine, because that's a cheap and lazy cop-out that merely says "We started this but we don't have a clue how to finish it". Same with the "Enemy combatants" routine - you can't release them at the end of the war because the "War on Terror" will have no defined end. Are you expecting to sit down with Bin Laden in a railway carriage in the French countryside, while he signs an armistice document?

I desperately want the US to stand on the moral high ground and beat countries like Saudi Arabia over the head until they do something about Human Rights and the Rule of Law. But right now, it's not standing on anything, it's standing in something, and it smells real bad. And if world public opinion means anything to it, it should check out what everyone else is saying these days. Even the Government Lawyer of its most faithful ally Tony Blair, the "Poodle's poodle" himself, is now saying....

Close Guantanamo, says Blair's law chief

The US detention centre at Guantanamo Bay is a symbol of injustice and should close, Lord Goldsmith, the Attorney General said last night...."Not only would it, in my personal opinion, be right to close Guantanamo as a matter of principle, I believe it would also help to remove what has become a symbol to many - right or wrong - of injustice."

Encouraged by all this, the "Saudi Gazette" senses an opportunity to poke the US in the eye and milk the outraged innocent victim routine for all it is worth, and on this occasion, until it does something about it, the US has no credible response.

But I'll finish on a note that is pure Hearst. His papers were notorious for making something out of nothing, concocting outrageous incidents out of thin air, especially during the Cuba business. And what Saudi citizen will not be outraged by this last story? Especially my own tribe!

Decapitated at Guantanamo

ABDULLAH Al-Anizi, 30, was captured by American forces in Afghanistan five years ago. He was decapitated after being sent to the infamous US prison in Cuba.

“We do not know why he was decapitated; .... we just don’t know,” said Miteb Al-Anizi, Abdullah’s older brother. “But we do know that he was decapitated in Guantanamo.”

What would Hearst have done with that story? Imagine the outrage!

The truth is very sad, but fortunately not as sad as the "Saudi Gazette" makes out. Go to the article to find out, a simple mouse-over of his photo will reveal the real story. Unless the paper realizes its mistake and corrects it before you get there.

I understand they have a vacancy for an Arabic-English translator.

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