Posts Tagged “saudi arabia”

In this Saturday, March 29, 2014 file photo, Aziza Yousef drives a car on a highway in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, as part of a campaign to defy Saudi Arabia's ban on women driving. Saudi Arabia says it will allow women to drive for the first time in the ultra-conservative kingdom. The kingdom, which announced the change on Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2017, was the only the country in the world to bar women from driving and for years had garnered negative publicity internationally for detaining women who defied the ban. (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali, File)I’ve blogged many times about Saudi Arabia’s obvious misogyny. Among the ways Saudis repress their women is by making it illegal for them to drive. The Kingdom is the only country on earth that has such a restriction.

It’s a ridiculous restriction that Saudi clerics claim is required by Islam, but no other Islamic country has anything like it, which suggests this probably isn’t the case. They say it’s about “respect” for women (?). One of those clerics, a rather high-ranking one, even claimed that driving was physically harmful for women. That, of course, is a fucking lie … but he said it, and I’ll bet a lot of Saudis believe it.

Well, times are changing, even in the incredibly-reactionary Kingdom. As the Associated Press reports via Religion News Service, the Saudi prohibition on women driving, will soon be lifted (Archive.Is cached article):

Saudi Arabia’s surprise decision to grant women the right to drive in the conservative kingdom marks a significant expansion in women’s rights, but activists said Wednesday it is also only the first step in a long list of demands for equality.

Saudi Arabia was the only country in the world to ban women from driving, and nearly three decades ago women first began agitating for the right to drive, at times facing arrest for their protests and for getting behind the wheel.

The lifting of the ban, which comes into effect next summer, is the most dramatic step yet in a campaign by the king’s son, 32-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, to modernize the kingdom. The young royal has been promoting change as needed to boost the country’s economy and ease international criticism, but he risks a backlash from powerful clerics from the ultraconservative Wahhabi interpretation of Islam.

It’s all well and good, I guess, that the monarchy is behind this rule-change, but it’s far from immediate, and it’s sure to be resisted, as the article mentions:

Almost immediately after the news broke, an Arabic hashtag on Twitter was trending that said: “The women of my house won’t drive.”

I can only hope things will continue improving for Saudi women.

Photo credit: AP Photo/Hasan Jamali.

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Minirock (Lack) Photo Model 1We all know that many Muslims don’t think much of women. In Saudi Arabia, they ramp their contempt for women up to another level, for instance by making it against the law for them to drive. A high-ranking Saudi jurist even lied about this, claiming — laughably — this is because driving harms women. But they also don’t think too much of men, either. I say that because one of the (many) burdens imposed on Saudi women is that they must wear elaborate clothing, intended to rob them of anything resembling a feminine shape, because Saudis don’t think men can handle seeing a woman who’s obviously a woman. They think men have no self-control, or something. I guess.

Recently, one Saudi woman tested her country’s misogynistic legal system, as CNN reports, and will very likely pay a high price for it (WebCite cached version):

Police in Saudi Arabia have detained a woman who featured in a social media video wearing a miniskirt and a crop-top as she strolled through a Saudi city, according to a Saudi police statement.

The woman, who has been questioned by Riyadh police, told them that “the viral videos were published by an account attributed to her without her knowledge,” according to the statement. The statement adds that the woman’s case has been referred to the general prosecution department in the Saudi capital of Riyadh.

On Sunday, the spokesperson for the Presidency of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice — also known as the religious police — said the group was monitoring the issue and taking the “necessary steps” to address a viral video depicting a “girl in offensive clothing.”

Here’s the video of that “girl in offensive clothing”:

It’s long past time for Muslims, especially those in Saudi Arabia, to grow the fuck up already, get over their ridiculous hangups about the female body, and act like grown adults who’re capable of controlling themselves around women who actually look like women. It very literally cannot hurt people to see women as women. Fear of the female form is irrational and childish.

By the way, the official name for Saudi Arabia’s religious police, “Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice,” is precious … don’t you think? Almost straight out of 1984, no?

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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A PNG image of Pikachu, arguably the most recognisable Pokémon.This is another of those times I’d never expected to blog about a topic, but find it necessary to do so. Most of you have heard, by now, of the suddenly-wildly-popular mobile game Pokemon GO (why it’s “GO” and not simply “Go,” I have no idea, but that’s how marketing works, I guess). What you probably haven’t heard is that Pokemon is un-Islamic. Yep, Saudi Arabia’s Islamic police decided that, many years ago. As Reuters reports, the popularity of Pokemon GO inspired them to re-issue their fatwa against it (WebCite cached article):

Saudi Arabia’s top clerical body has renewed a 15-year-old edict that the Pokemon game franchise is un-Islamic, Saudi media said on Wednesday, although the fatwa made no mention of the successful new Pokemon GO mobile game.

Nintendo’s augmented reality app, in which players walk around real-life neighborhoods to hunt and catch virtual cartoon characters on their smartphone screens, has become an instant hit around the world.

The General Secretariat of the Council of Senior Religious Scholars said it had revived a 2001 decree against a Pokemon card game in response to queries from believers.

The Council argued that the mutations of the creatures in the game, who are given specific powers, amounted to blasphemy by promoting the theory of natural evolution.

“It is shocking that the word ‘evolution’ has been much on the tongues of children,” the fatwa read.

It also said the game contained other elements prohibited by Islamic law, including “polytheism against God by multiplying the number of deities, and gambling, which God has forbidden in the Quran and likened to wine and idols”.

The reissuance declaration even accused Pokemon of promoting “global Zionism” — whatever the hell that might be. A lot of people accuse parochial outfits like the Council of Senior Religious Scholars of being out-of-touch. That, clearly, is not the case here. These guys definitely are in touch with what’s going on in the world. It can’t be mere coincidence that — at the very time Pokemon GO has gone viral to the point where it’s making headlines — they reissued their anti-Pokemon fatwa. They’re much more clued into the world than would otherwise seem to be the case.

Back in the day, I used to laugh at evangelicals who condemned Dungeons & Dragons as “Satanic” and claimed that players conjured up demons (cached). This kind of bullshit pronouncement is really no different, other than the religion that made it. It’s every bit as irrational and asinine.

Photo credit: Ken Sugimori/Nintendo, via Wikipedia.

Hat tip: Rational Wiki.

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Shams ud-Din Tabriz 1502-1504 BNF ParisI bet you had no idea the game of chess … you know, the ancient game played with special pieces on a checkerboard … was profane in the eyes of the Almighty. Yeah, I know, it was news to me too. It took an Islamic scholar to figure that out. As the New York Times explains, that scholar is no less than Saudi Arabia’s highest-ranking cleric (WebCite cached article):

Saudi Arabia’s top cleric has declared the playing of chess “forbidden,” calling it a waste of time and money that creates hatred between players.

In a fatwa, or religious decree, issued in response to a question from a caller to a Saudi television show, Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al-Sheikh said that the game was “the work of Satan,” like alcohol and gambling, despite its long history in the Middle East. Chess is played across the Arab world.…

In his statement on the show, the grand mufti equated chess with gambling, which is forbidden in Islam.

“It makes the rich man poor, and makes the poor man rich,” he said. “It causes hostility and wastes time where it should not be spent.”

I suppose people can bet on chess matches, but as a game, chess doesn’t involve any gambling. So I’m not sure what Al-Shiekh’s beef is really about. It seems nonsensical.

Ironically, it was Arabs’ embrace of chess — which had originated in India, then moved on into Persia — which carried the game to the western world. As the Times reports, it remains popular in the Arab world, and this fatwa isn’t likely to accomplish much of anything, since people will continue playing chess in spite of it.

The lesson here is that religionism leads to all sorts of adsurdity. It grants undeserved authority and influence to dolts and clowns with the power to promulgate rulings and doctrines based on ignorance and idiocy.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Hat tip: Rational Wiki.

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Smoke rises as Iranian protesters set fire to the Saudi embassy in Tehran, Sunday, Jan. 3, 2016. Protesters upset over the execution of a Shiite cleric in Saudi Arabia set fires to the Saudi embassy in Tehran. (Mohammadreza Nadimi/ISNA via AP) / via Washington PostChristianity’s history is dotted with controversies, rifts and schisms. They range in severity from differences over heresy (with each side calling the other “heretical”) in which different Christian congregations existed side-by-side for a time, such as the Donatist schism, to conflicts over doctrines and dogma that occasionally erupted in violence (either in the short term, e.g. the Nestorian heresy, or longer term, e.g. as the Iconoclast controversies), as well as schisms that ended up creating entirely-separate churches (e.g. the Great Eastern Schism or the Reformation).

The result of this long history is that Christianity isn’t a single entity, but rather, a collection of many different institutions whose only point in common is that they revere the figure known as Jesus Christ and ostensibly follow his putative teachings. (As it turns out, going all the way back to its origins, Christianity has always been a collection of varied movements. At no point in its history was it ever a single group following a single set of doctrines.) When Westerners think of religious schisms and conflicts, this history is what they tend to think of.

Even so, Christianity isn’t unique in this regard. All major religions have had their rifts, conflicts, “heresies,” and variant teachings.

Perhaps the most famous of these outside of Christianity is the Islamic schism; dividing that religion into Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims (with around 85% of the world’s Muslims belonging to the former sect).

This schism has its origins with the aftermath of the prophet Mohammad’s death in 632 CE. The two men who were his most likely successors as leaders of Islam were his first male convert, Abu Bakr, and his son-in-law Ali. Abu Bakr ended up being chosen, over the protests of Ali and his followers (the Shi’atu Ali or “partisans of Ali,” hence the name of their sect). The degree to which Ali himself conceded this choice isn’t entirely clear; aside from hard feelings over it, not much happened during Abu Bakr’s rule (which only lasted a couple of years), and Ali acted as an advisor to Abu Bakr’s successor Umar, so there was some comity at that point, although resentments undoubtedly lingered. Ali finally was named caliph, or leader of Islam, only in 656 (almost 25 years after Mohammad’s death) during the chaos that erupted after Umar’s successor Uthman was killed by rioters.

That Ali wouldn’t order the execution of those rioters caused the low simmering resentments between Uthman’s and Ali’s supporters to break out in the open, launching a civil war within Islam now called “the First Fitna.” Ali was assassinated and his son succeeded him, but within months abdicated in favor of Muawiyah, a leader of Uthman’s faction, thus ending the Fitna.

The conflict erupted anew in 680 when Muawiyah died and Husayn, another son of Ali, refused to accept Yazid, Muawiyah’s son, as the next caliph. Husayn was killed during the Battle of Karbala that very year.

This turned out to be the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back; at several points during the preceding decades, both sects had at least tried to get along, and the one war that had broken out in full fury had been settled; but Husayn’s death at Karbala proved to be too much for the Shi’ites to take. There would never again be any meaningful attempted accord. What’s more, there were rifts within each side; Ali’s assassin had belonged to a group within his own faction who’d rebelled against Ali’s efforts to negotiate an end to the First Fitna. And Yazid and his immediate successors ended up dealing with rebels that broke away from their original faction, as well.

In other words, the whole thing ended up being one monstrous clusterfuck.

The tensions and differences opened up by these 7th century conflicts — which at that time could have been ameliorated, had cooler heads prevailed back in 680 — still reverberate today. An example of this was made evident this weekend in Teheran, where — as the Washington Post reports — the Sunni state of Saudi Arabia’s execution of a famous Shi’ite triggered massive protests (WebCite cached article):

Iran’s Supreme Leader warned on Sunday that there would be divine retribution for Saudi Arabia’s rulers after the execution of a renowned Shiite cleric, sustaining the soaring regional tensions that erupted in the wake of the killing.

The warning came hours after crowds of protesters stormed and torched the Saudi embassy in Tehran to vent their anger at the execution of Nimr Baqr al-Nimr, who was among 47 people put to death in the kingdom on Saturday.

In a posting on his website, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned that the execution “will cause serious troubles for the politicians of this [Saudi] regime in a very short time….The hands of divine vengeance will surely snatch — by their necks — those cruel individuals who took his life.”

The execution of Nimr, an outspoken critic of the Saudi royal family, has ignited sectarian tensions across the already inflamed region and jeopardized U.S. diplomacy aimed at tamping down conflicts in the Middle East.…

The Saudi consulate in the Iranian city of Mashad was also set on fire during the protests that erupted after Nimr’s execution was announced.

As WaPo explains, the Saudi executions were hardly some kind of Shi’ite purge:

Most of the 47 executed on Saturday were Sunnis accused of participating in Al Qaeda attacks.

As a side note, it looks as though Iranians have some kind of obsession with attacking embassies.

This outburst of violence isn’t actually the worst of the Sunni-vs-Shia conflict going on in the world. The Syrian Civil War has been, among other things, a proxy war between the (Sunni) Saudis and the (Shi’ite) Iranians, both making use of their own partisans in the region (such as Hezbollah, which is patronized by Teheran). Compared to the carnage there, setting an embassy ablaze might seem like small potatoes. But such are the tensions between Islam’s two main sects that violence can break out over virtually anything at all, almost anywhere there are Muslims.

And the worst part of it is, there’s no stopping it. No Sunni-Shia accord is on the horizon and there’s no chance of any reconciliation. It’s not going to happen. Just goes to show what can result from people obsessing over metaphysics — i.e. nothing good.

Photo credit: Mohammadreza Nadimi/ISNA, via AP, via Washington Post.

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Saudi Sheikh Saleh al-Luhaydan said driving 'could have a reverse physiological impact' on women. (Al Arabiya)Saudi Arabia remains the only country in the world where women are forbidden to drive. Even other Islamic countries, which repress women remorselessly, don’t have this sort of prohibition. Because this policy is unique, it gets a lot of attention. Recently, as al-Arabiya reported, a Saudi judicial official declared the ban is necessary because — get this! — driving injures women (WebCite cached article):

Saudi women seeking to challenge a de facto ban on driving should realize that this could affect their ovaries and pelvises, Sheikh Saleh bin Saad al-Luhaydan, a judicial and psychological consultant to the Gulf Psychological Association, told Saudi news website sabq.org.

Driving “could have a reverse physiological impact. Physiological science and functional medicine studied this side [and found] that it automatically affects ovaries and rolls up the pelvis. This is why we find for women who continuously drive cars their children are born with clinical disorders of varying degrees,” Sheikh al-Luhaydan said.

Yes, you read that right. This moron seriously thinks that driving injures women! (Yes, even though riding in a car with a man driving doesn’t harm them. I guess. Somehow. I have no idea how that works, but what could a cold-hearted cynical godless agnostic heathen like myself possibly know about such things?)

I haven’t been able to locate these studies cited by al-Luhaydan, nor could anyone else (that I know of, yet). There are no medical findings — again, that I could discover — which demonstrate that any child’s disorder was definitively attributed to his/her mother driving. He offered no documentation or support of any kind for what he said. I can only conclude, therefore, that he fabricated this “scientific” claim, and is therefore a liar.

While al-Arabiya characterizes al-Luhaydan as merely “a judicial and psychological consultant to the Gulf Psychological Association,” that diminishes his authority and significance. The truth is that he’s much more powerful and influential than just being a “consultant.” He is, first of all, an Islamic cleric by profession, and in Saudi Arabia, that matters a great deal, all by itself. Moreover, he also is a member of the Ulema Commission (cached), and had been head of Saudi Arabia’s Supreme Judicial Council. So he’s not merely a “consultant”: He is, in truth, an influential part of the Saudi judiciary. So, as much as some would like us to think so, it’s not possible just to dismiss this statement as being merely one man’s idiotic opinion. Al-Luhaydan carries weight in the Saudi government.

In any event, this misogynist cretin’s lie forces me to create a new “lying liars for al-Lah” club, and make him its inaugural member. I’m sure he’ll be joined by others of his ilk, who will approve of his vile hatred, howling barbarism, and outright lies.

Any Religious Rightists out there, especially of the Neocrusading sort, who read this and snicker at this kind of medieval thinking on the part of a Muslim scholar, don’t pat yourselves on your backs for being more advanced than he is. People from your own ranks have been known to lie about female physiology in order to promote their own militant religiofascism. Among them are Congressman and Senate candidate Todd Akin, Congressman Joe Walsh, and Congressman Trent Franks, among many others, including supporters who insisted — in spite of the facts — that they were correct. This is no time for you to get on your high horses over a Muslim cleric’s ignorance and lies. There are way too many ignoramuses and liars among your own kind, for you to get away with that!

Photo credit: Al-Arabiya English.

Hat tip: Richard Dawkins, via Twitter.

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Today's issue of the Swedish daily Metro shows images from Swedish and Saudi Arabian IKEA catalogs for next year in which women have been deleted from identical photos. (Photo: Henrik Montgomery, AP, via USA Today)Pity the poor Saudis. The homeland of the prophet Mohammad is populated by (mostly Wahhabist) Muslims who — for some reason that my all-too-rational-mind will never comprehend — can’t handle the fact that women exist. In order to avoid knowing they’re around, they force them to shroud themselves in burqas, and limit their ability to get around (such as preventing them from driving, leaving home without a male, etc.). The desire never to see a woman … ever … leads to all sorts of ridiculous outcomes. One of these, as the Wall Street Journal reports, is the intentional removal of women from photos used in the IKEA catalog there (WebCite cached article):

Representatives for Swedish furniture giant IKEA on Monday said the company regrets removing women from some of the photos in catalogs shipped to Saudi Arabia. The move sparked criticism from government officials in Sweden and raised questions about whether some IKEA franchises can violate values that most company stores abide by. …

A comparison of the Saudi catalog to a standard version of the catalog showed that several women photographed in the standard version are missing from pages of the Saudi version. Otherwise, the photos throughout the catalog appear to be virtually identical.

The discrepancy was first reported by Metro, a free newspaper in Stockholm. A spokeswoman for the IKEA Group—which handles the catalog for the furniture company—said the move is in conflict with company values and IKEA is reviewing its procedures as a result.

Here’s a sample of the difference between the original artwork and its Saudi rendition:

A woman photographed in the standard version of the IKEA catalog, left, is missing from pages of the Saudi version, right / IKEA, via the Wall Street Journal.

A woman photographed in the standard version of the IKEA catalog, left, is missing from pages of the Saudi version, right / IKEA, via the Wall Street Journal.

IKEA’s corporate response was — as one might expect — to express some regrets:

“As a producer of the catalog, we regret the current situation,” Ylva Magnusson, spokeswoman for IKEA Group, which runs 298 of 337 IKEA stores world-wide, said. “We should have reacted and realized that excluding women from the Saudi Arabian version of the catalog is in conflict with the IKEA Group values.”

This response clearly implies they were taken by surprise. And perhaps they were. But while IKEA Group has stated that IKEA stores in Saudi Arabia are run by a franchise, not directly by them, they did produce the catalog for the franchisee … so they really ought not be acting as though they’re caught up in something that’s out of their control. They had control of it … full control. They produced the catalog. They could have refused to cave into rigid Saudi misogyny … but they chose not to.

I can’t help but be reminded that the very same thing having happened in conservative Jewish newspapers from time to time. The idea that God doesn’t want women ever to be seen is not, therefore, a particular problem for Saudis, for Wahhabism, or even Islam. Other religions also seem to have a beef with the fact that women exist. I really don’t get why … I guess it must go over the head of this cynical, godless agnostic heathen. Even so, forcing some one-half of one’s own society to neither be seen nor heard, sure sounds like a fucking ridiculous idea to me. And the fact that someone at IKEA, in a very modern and civilized country like Sweden, would want to go along with this religionistic absurdity, is nearly as incomprehensible and ridiculous.

Photo credit, top: Henrik Montgomery / AP, via USA Today; middle: IKEA, via the Wall Street Journal.

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