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Saudi Rules

Reader comment on item: The Veil Unveiled: The Hijab in Modern Culture

Submitted by Irfan Khawaja (United States), Oct 10, 2003 at 23:52

Zahra B. has gone out on a limb to defend the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the name of Islam. Let me explain what she is defending.

In January 1996, I accompanied my mother to Saudi Arabia on umra. I had to accompany her because as a woman she was not allowed to perform umra alone. I was not interested in performing umra; she was. She is much more pious than I am.

But according to the rules of Saudi Arabia, piety does not matter when it comes to granting visas for umra. Masculinity does. A man who drinks, eats pork, and fornicates every night can wash his sins away as often as he wants in Mecca and Medina. But Hazrat Khadija herself would be denied a visa by the Saudi authorities if she were alive today--and likewise Hazrat Aisha and all the rest. However pious they were, they were after all mere women. Never mind, though: Khadija would be able to perform umra if she went to Mecca sharif with the alcoholic, pork-eating fornicating man I just mentioned. Those are the rules.

One day, we were at a mall in Jidda. My mother stepped out of the car; the wind blew, and her hijab slipped off by a few inches. This caused an uproar among the pious, wonderful, respectful and law-abiding Saudi men nearby. One of them revved his car and drove it straight at my mother in a clear attempt to kill her. At the last minute, he swerved away from her, leaving her nearly in collapse from fright. Her crime? The sexual wantonness caused by a gust of wind--by an act of God. My mother, I should add, is hardly a spring chicken, and the men who were so offended by her hair were all in their 20s or 30s. Why do you suppose that is?

The whole time we were in SA, we had to hire a (male) driver. Why? Because even though my aunt has lived there for 20 years, she is not allowed to drive a car. Why? Because she is a woman. What makes women incapable of driving cars? What does the Quran or the sunna say about women driving cars? Where is the hadith that forbids women to drive cars? I know I will not hear any answers to these questions, because I have been asking them for 20 years and hearing nothing but stupidity and silence.

This, Sister Zahra B., is the wonderful world you are defending. A world where women are nothing, and men push them around at will. A world where--as in apartheid South Africa--people walk around with ID cards in their hand because they know that the religious police can stop them or beat them for any reason.

Why don't you try to get a visa, Sister Zahra, and go to Saudi Arabia yourself? Find out what you're defending. But you can't get a visa, pious sister. You're a woman. Find a man to take you, then. As the prophet said: "Seek wisdom, even unto China." Let me amend that: Seek wisdom, even unto Saudi Arabia. You won't find any wisdom in that pathetic pit of hell, but with some luck, you may take some back.

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