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No ‘Utopia’

OUR communities are ‘religious by nature’ or at least this is how we prefer to portray them. At some point during the era of what we call ‘awareness’ or ‘slumber’, several fatwas were issued without authority from Almighty Allah. These fatwas as described by our colleague Aminah Kheiri in the Al-Hayat daily ban women from working, exposing or revealing their faces, hands, noses and even their very existence and are considered as inherent centers of lust, a sheer source of temptation, vessels of pleasure, means of reproduction, etc.

At some point in time these fatwas were enforced in Kuwait by law when the legislative authority was in the hands of uncivilized individuals who were silently supported by MPs — MPs who were afraid to speak up for the fear of losing their seats in Parliament through loss of votes — this was when one person could elect more than one candidate — and yet such people got government support for their silly attitudes and shenanigans. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is the best example of how these men have succeeded in putting pressure and keeping a lid on these restrictions by preventing women from being treated on par with them. All this is done in the name of protecting women from temptations and protecting men from being captives of women. This is the part of culture, traditions and values of the Saudi society.

In Saudi Arabia, women do not drive cars; women do not travel if they are not accompanied by an unmarriageable person or by approval from their guardians. Women do not step out of their homes if they are not covered from head to toe. In fact, there are even restaurants exclusively for women only. Hundreds of restrictions are placed on women — exaggerated and misleading restrictions which have been enforced by the most dreaded ‘Committee for the Propagation of Virtues and Prohibition of Vices’ whose main objective is to monitor women or those accompanying them.

It is enough to go back in time and remember how several female teenagers died of smoke inhalation when their school in one of the Saudi towns caught fire. They died because members of this committee forbid the students and their teachers from rushing out of the ‘burning inferno’ without covering their bodies.

The question is: Have these strict so-called protective restrictions succeeded in achieving the objectives?
The answer is a big ‘NO’! The Saudi Shura Council has issued a law or something similar to that which imposes an unprecedented heavy penalty for sexual harassment — a five-year prison term and half a million Saudi riyals in fine which is equivalent to KD 40,000. This means the restrictions that have been imposed in this regard have not succeeded.

The law to impose heavy punishment was enacted after incidents of sexual molestation in the Saudi society increased and were meant to stop them from happening. However, all these restrictive measures seem to have failed and instead of putting an end to this phenomenon (sexual harassment) such incidents have increased. The Shura Council had no alternatives but to enact a law to punish the violators of the law although hundreds of restrictions have been imposed on women. In short, the ‘forbidden fruit is sweet’; moderation and proper temperament should be the order of the day instead of oppressive measures. There has never been (since the days of our forefather Adam) and there will never be until the end of time — a utopian era.

E-mail: ali-albaghli@hotmail.com

By Ali Ahmed Al-Baghli
Former Minister of Oil


By: Ali Ahmed Al-Baghli

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