Monday, April 21, 2008

Female Muslim Columnist: The Way Women Are Treated In Saudi Arabia Is Our Dirty Little Secret

From Riazat Butt in the Guardian:

Reading about the lives of Saudi
reminded me of the brief but bizarre time I spent in the country,
reporting on the

Performing the pilgrimage is probably the only occasion that Muslims
will visit the kingdom; tourism visas are non-existent and travelling for
business and family reasons requires extensive documentation. I had heard about
Saudi women being stripped of their rights, or having them pared down to the
point of ineffectualness, but wasn't ready for this experience and had a rude
awakening on arriving at the pilgrim's terminal in Jeddah.

I looked for the man who was supposed to meet me, but when he failed to
materialise, airport officials kept me in baggage reclaim for five hours.
Showing them my papers - including a visa, a list of contact names and numbers
and a letter from my employer - made little difference. I asked to leave so I
could get a cab to Mecca, only to be told I would be stopped and turned back at
checkpoints lining the route. The misunderstanding was cleared up, seven hours
after landing, and I was allowed to go to a hotel, staying overnight and
travelling to Mecca with a group the following day.

It became a familiar pattern. The lack of a male shocked some and
surprised many but, as I always explained, I was working and had permission to
be in the country. How else to explain the visa? I was discouraged from walking
on foot - by far the quickest form of transport during the pilgrimage - and was
stuck on buses and coaches for arduous journeys while male journalists were able
to hop off and flag down motorcycles operating as taxis.

Restricted movement was the least of my concerns, however. I was sexually
assaulted three times in Mecca - the least distressing incident took place near
the Ka'aba when a male pilgrim mistook my breasts for a balustrade and used them
to hoist himself up the stairs - and was met with indifference when I
complained. Being sexually assaulted is, I learned, an almost occupational
hazard for the female pilgrim. It will happen to you or someone you know and
incidents go unreported because of apathy from the security guards on

If this is happening in Islam's holiest city, what is happening in the
rest of Saudi Arabia? There was an unsettling dearth of women from the workplace
- on TV, in hotels, restaurants and shops. I also became conditioned to being
ignored by officials when asking questions about anything - whether it was the
pilgrimage or more mundane matters. I shared my concerns with a male Saudi
journalist and he told me I was imagining things.

A female journalist told me how she and her husband were discussing Qatif girl with
some young, educated Saudis. She thought they might be ashamed and embarrassed
by the government's behaviour, but they thought the gang-raped teenager deserved
every moment of the ordeal inflicted on her.

Riazat, it is the world's dirty little secret; we are allowing slavery here in the 21st century.


Damien said...

And feminists in America think they have it bad.

Anonymous said...

Mmmm... it's not a secret, and it's certainly not little when the entire country takes it as a given. So she bitched about the sexism that is well known (no new information there) and left it at that. No suggestions on what to do about it. This is the sort of bullshit that the Guardian peddles. Bah, humbug! Another apologist like Ali Eteraz, and a mediocre one at that.

Damien said...


Hey, at least she's admitting the problem exists, many western feminists won't even do that.

Pastorius said...

You're on to Eteraz, huh?

Anonymous said...

Only American feminist I ever saw denounce Saudi Arabia's treatment of women was Andrea Dworkin, of all people. And of course her point was why didn't WE stop it.

Women in this country will pay more attention to stories of Islamic abuse that impact American, or at least European, women, if they can be publicized. As Pam says, if those two Said girls honor-murdered in Texas had been lynched black men we would still be hearing about it every night on CNN. (Another sickening thing about that case is that the mother and brother are still defending the murdering pig of a father.)

And while they're at it, conservative talk radio hosts need to contribute a bit more to this effort and stop spending so much of their air time trying to prove how macho they are. Both Jay Severin and Michael Graham in Boston were braying about how women can't beat men at any sport -- they're still miffed that there are women racers in the Boston Marathon -- Danica Patrick apparently does not exist in their universe. And both are immune to criticism and thus lose a percentage of female listeners they should be trying to attract.

Treatment of women is an important issue in terms of evaluating Muslim-predominant countries, but it is unlikely to come to the forefront here in the foreseeable future.

WATCHER71 said...

What kills me is that despite knowing the complete barbarity that is Saudi Arabia, still we trade with them. It is issues that should rally liberal thought to the counter Jihad, yet Liberal pundits still conveniently forget this aspect of Islamic thought...

Anonymous said...

Pam is posting extraordinary in-depth coverage of the Said case over at Atlas. They are trying to gt the case in front of the public and raise demand that the mudering pig of a father be found and hauled back here to stand trial. The case should have gotten a level of play similar to that of the Fundamentalist Mormon cult now saturating the media, but was of course downplayed by the MSM which wouldn't touch the 'honor killing' connection with a TFP.

There is no issue of 'sensitivity' to the surviving family here. The mother, Patricia, and her 'best' (her word) child, her daddy-adoring son Islam, are still defending the father. The rest of the American family is seeking justice for the girls.

Epaminondas said...

Hey they have breasts and a vagina, what do you want?

If you leave the house, you are uncovered meat, even if you are covered.

That why I keep my wife chained to the sink and stove, it's for her own protection, you see. It is a mercy. That is real freedom.

Only a man in your family can assault you, uh... protect you if you are out with him.

I have to go now, the noise from american feminists is so overwhelming I have to rape my female property, uh... relatives

Pastorius said...

His son ought to be put in prison for aiding and abetting the murder.

J said...

Hey Pastorius and crew :)

When did you lot get the Ibloga back up and running again?

Can't believe it's been 3 years since we started it up.

Sorry I dissapeared but, ah, long story. Will give a feeble explanation when I get some time in the future.

Does Jonz still post here as well?

Spk to you soon


Pastorius said...

Hi J,
Good to hear from you.

We got IBA back running around May or June, so we were down for about four or five months. I have no idea what happened.

No, Jonz does not post here currently. He's got a good reason. Email me and I'll tell you about it:

Hope you start posting here again.