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SAUDI ARABIA: Elderly woman to be lashed for mingling with men


Last week, a 75-year-old Saudi woman was sentenced to 40 lashes and four months in prison for receiving two unrelated men in her home.

It didn't matter that they were only delivering bread, or that she is elderly and practically raised one of the men as her her son. In Saudi Arabia, the law strictly bans a woman from mixing with men unrelated to her by blood or marriage.

The verdict has not yet been carried out. The news created an outcry among intellectuals in the ultraconservative kingdom, where a religiously minded police and judiciary have a wide authority to implement the strict Wahabi vision of Islam.

The Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice can stop women for not wearing the Islamic veil or raid parties where men and women are suspected to be mixing or consuming alcohol.

Hope has been pinned on some members of the forward-thinking Saudi leadership to advance the condition of women, who are prohibited from driving cars and are not allowed to travel without the permission of their husbands, fathers or brothers.

The kingdom boasts women-only banks, hotels and shopping centers.

In a surprising move, King Abdullah appointed last month the first woman to a ministerial post. Norah al-Fayez was elevated to the new post of deputy minister of women's education.

The reform might look insignificant in a region where women have already reached top governmental positions.

But many observers say that the royal family has so far been unable to push social reforms because it needs to win the favor of the ultraconservative religious police to protect its rule amid continuing threats from Al Qaeda.

Still, King Abdullah is bidding to undermine Islamic hard-liners.

He recently dismissed a leading fundamentalist cleric and the head of the kingdom's religious police, Sheik Ibrahim Ghaith.

The monarch also removed Sheik Saleh Lihedan as chief of the country's highest religious tribunal. The man issued a fatwa in September saying it was permissible to kill TV executives for broadcasting "evil" and immoral programs.

The previous conviction of Khamisa Sawadi, who is Syrian but was married to a Saudi, for seeing men who were not her immediate relatives proved for many the backwardness of the religious judiciary.

One of the two men was Sawadi’s late husband’s nephew and the other one was his friend. The religious police arrested the three based on “citizen information.” 

“Because she said she doesn’t have a husband and because she is not a Saudi, conviction of the defendants of illegal mingling has been confirmed,” the court verdict read.

Saudi journalists criticized the decision. One columnist, Laila Ahmed al-Ahdab in the local daily Al Watan, accused religious authorities of “misusing religion to serve their own interests.”

-- Raed Rafei in Beirut

Photo: Saudi women attend the "Spring Al Riyadh" festival in Riyadh last year. In a country where strict Islamic doctrine demands segregation and prevents women from driving or working and traveling freely, a handful of changes in the past two months suggests an increase of freedoms for women, activists say. Credit: Hassan Ammar / AFP / Getty Images

P.S. Get news from the Middle East in your mailbox every day. The Los Angeles Times distributes a free daily newsletter with the latest headlines from the Middle East, including the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. You can subscribe by logging in at the website here, clicking on the box for "L.A. Times updates" and then clicking on the "World: Mideast" box.

Comments () | Archives (15)

The United States should keep their nose out of things that they do not understands. We do not know anything about their culture or their way of life. You can not really believe anything the media says about the religion of Islam or what they say about the people of Islam for that matter.

And those who launch a charge against chaste women, and produce not four witnesses (to support their allegations),- flog them with eighty stripes; and reject their evidence ever after: for such men are wicked transgressors;- Unless they repent thereafter and mend (their conduct); for Allah is Oft- Forgiving, Most Merciful. [24:4-5]

Let me also say, we get distracted when we mistakenly blame Islam for human rights violations. Its time to focus on strengthening a universal pact that would protect the rights of all people whether in Saudi Arabia or South America or Darfur or the United States of America. This problem is everywhere and most people do nothing more than point a finger when we need everyone to seriously work for change.

It takes some nerve for a country that recently committed mass murder (killing over 1 million Arabs) in Iraq to pass judgement on Saudi Arabia for the way it treats one woman.

I don't know by what logic that would justify an invasion of that country, but according to that line of thinking the US should first invade Israel for operating one of the biggest sex slave rings in the world, involving thousands of young women.

This kind of treatment is extremely unjust. I hope that the country becomes more liberal and more just to its people at a faster pace.

But, Saudi Arabia is a sovereign state and the US has no jurisdiction over their laws (particularly when you consider the war crimes and murders the US has committed under the Bush years).

This is similar to how Europe views the USA. Europe does not have the death penalty and views the USA as backwards and barbarous for using it. The Europeans considered putting pressure on the US to end the death penalty, but decided not to because the US is a sovereign nation.

But at least Saudi Arabia does not bring thousands of women to their country as prostitutes and sex slaves. No, its Israel that does that. Israelis organized a major prostitution ring by sending people to many of the former Soviet Republics, promised young women jobs as waitresses and such and when they brought them to Israel, forced them into prostitution as sex slaves.

But will the LA Times put this article in its paper?

A sameple of what the Saudi new generation think of such a verdict. A very strong column that did't appear in the national newspaper where the writer has a weekly column. Guess why........?

There is no excuse for treating women in any way other than with utmost respect, unfortunately these harsh treatments have to do with ultra orthodox Semite culture rather than any particular religion, in Saudi these ultra orthodoxy norms are part of governmental laws, in others they're not, but never the less exist in orthodox communities and becomes part of their religious beliefs unjustly.

Coming to a Pakistan near you.

The Koran specifies no age-limit for the prohibition on meeting with non-family members of the opposite sex.

The Koran also sets no minimum age for marriage. The Koran implicitly sanctions marriage of pre-adolescent females when it provides a procedure for divorcing pre-pubescent girls.

The lashing of this 75-year old woman is only a small part of the suppression of women in Islam which is based on this verse from the Koran:

-- Men have authority over women because God has made the one superior to the other... Good women are obedient. As for those from whom you fear disobedience, admonish them, forsake them in beds apart, and beat them.” (4:34)

And this one:

-- Women are your fields: go, then, into your fields whence you please. (2:223)

Don't forget that this is Allah speaking!

I would be in support of an invasion by US / EU forces to stop this insanity. Kick the old king and all of his male advisors to the curb and throw shoes at them. Then put a woman on the throne... or better yet cancel the monarchy and found a republic... With Saudi women in all the posts with any power.

And yet they(the Muslim world), still cry for respect and tolerance when they have none of it for their own citizens?
It's a backwards and barbaric culture and lifestyle, stuck in the medieval ages , who's male population gets to live off the fat of the land of progress while still keeping the boot of their heel on the necks of their women(the ones they don't decapitate).
They disgust me.

this is a crazy situation don't understand god bless all of us

this country is BARBARIC--i will never go there and spend my money-shame on them-a 75 year old woman?!

I can just imagine the concerned neighbor's call to the local Saudi Morals Police:

"Arrest her! she's trading sex for bread!"

What a farce.

"'Islam' means submission--it is a religion of peace."
"'Jihad' means internal spiritual struggle."
"Muslim women have even more equality than Western women."

How many more times are we going to hear these excuses in the next few days, I wonder? Enough, already.


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