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  • Campaigning against societal norms and customs

    by Rumbold
    3rd June, 2011 at 1:57 pm    

    Nesrine Malik has a good piece on the Women2Drive campaign in Saudi Arabia and the difficulties faced by campaigners who are protesting against customs rather than just laws:

    Manal al-Sharif, the woman who attracted global attention to the Saudi Women2Drive campaign when she posted videos of herself driving on YouTube, was released earlier this week from Dammam prison. As a condition of her release she signed a pledge that she will not participate in the Women2Drive initiative and has officially withdrawn from the campaign. In her statement, she expressed “profound gratitude” to the king, who apparently had ordered her release…

    Campaigns of this kind need to be personalised – to have a galvanising figure who can provide a role model and inspire others. But becoming that person in a traditional society can be nothing short of social suicide. Although Sharif is feted in the media and celebrated online, she still has to survive and raise her children among fellow Saudis who might be more disdainful. In an attempt to deflect attention, she said in her statement that she hoped the “Manal al-Sharif file is now closed”.

    Ms. Malik points out that there are no written laws relating to female driving, yet it is banned because a ban in enforced in practice.

                  Post to

    Filed in: Culture,Middle East,Moral police,Sex equality

    19 Comments below   |  

    Reactions: Twitter, blogs
    1. sunny hundal

      Blogged: : Campaigning against societal norms and customs

    1. douglas clark — on 3rd June, 2011 at 7:26 pm  

      Like a super-injunction?

    2. persephone — on 4th June, 2011 at 1:39 am  

      Heres a female campaigner who is against liberalism:

      “But Ms. Yousef is still outraged, and since August has taken on activists at their own game. With 15 other women, she started a campaign, “My Guardian Knows What’s Best for Me.” Within two months, they had collected more than 5,400 signatures on a petition “rejecting the ignorant requests of those inciting liberty” and demanding “punishments for those who call for equality between men and women, mingling between men and women in mixed environments, and other unacceptable behaviors.”

      And another:

      “The liberals’ motives might be good — they might want to make Saudi Arabia competitive with Western societies — but they’re failing to understand the uniqueness of Saudi society,” Ms. Abdulrahman said. “In Saudi culture, women have their integrity and a special life that is separate from men. As a Saudi woman, I demand to have a guardian. My work requires me to go to different regions of Saudi Arabia, and during my business trips I always bring my husband or my brother. They ask nothing in return — they only want to be with me.”

      Full article is here

    3. damon — on 4th June, 2011 at 11:22 am  

      I was watching this documentary about the excellent Foo Fighters last night, and I had the idea that this is the kind of thing that Saudi’s need to get into.
      So they could chill out and stop being so uptight about everything.

      Foo Fighters playing gigs in Riyadh and Mecca?
      It would be cool if the locals could dig it.

    4. AbuF — on 4th June, 2011 at 1:41 pm  


      Knowing a bit about the locals in Jiddah, I can assure you the locals already dig it!

    5. Kismet Hardy — on 4th June, 2011 at 2:42 pm  

      Foo Fatwa

      (brought to you by

    6. damon — on 4th June, 2011 at 3:33 pm  

      Indeed AbuF. I just googled for ‘rock music in Saudi Arabia’, and it seems that there is a small scene.
      Even a heavy metal band called Deathless Anguish.

      Al-Hajjaj said that his concerts usually attract more than 300 people at private functions.

      “Sometimes we’re forced to cancel our concerts by order of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice. This, of course, has a chilling effect on attendance.”

      Until a country can deal with people all getting together - males and females unsegregated - and having a good time at something like a rock concert, then there’s not much hope for it. There doesn’t have to be alcohol around, but if people just having a good time makes authorities nervous, then that’s where the problem lies.

      But I understand why conservative societies would find it threatening. As it can change people’s way of looking at the world.

      The Cult would also have been a great band to play live in a place like the KSA, as it would be music therapy to ease people out of the collective national stupor.

      Can you imagine thousands of young Saudis rocking away to a tune like that at a football stadium in Jeddah? It would be totally subversive.

    7. Kismet Hardy — on 4th June, 2011 at 4:09 pm  

      I’m sure those arab boys in guantanamo are grateful for all that metallica…

      (brought to you by I’

    8. damon — on 4th June, 2011 at 4:39 pm  

      That’s a fair point Kismet. They played that kind of music at them as it was just so different to anything they would have ever encountered.
      It must have blown their minds.

      As would have sitting them down in the Guantanamo cinema to watch Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blonde.

    9. Niels Christensen — on 4th June, 2011 at 5:29 pm  

      The joke is of course that Manal al-Sharif is working at Aramco, at their compounds she is allowed to drive, doesn’t have to wear veil, is allowed to to talk to men.
      The hard core saudi’s never mention this.

    10. Don — on 4th June, 2011 at 6:12 pm  

      I believe that they also had this on loop in Guantanamo. It’s nothing to speak lightly of.

    11. joe90 — on 4th June, 2011 at 8:05 pm  

      post #8

      saudi has more crap americana than you can imagine.

      and more metal music is not what they need.

    12. Rita Banerji — on 5th June, 2011 at 8:05 am  

      It’s funny a few years ago — there was a queen or princess from one of the gulf countries on Oprah Winfrey. And she was dressed in French designer clothes and trying to convince an audience of American women that they were just like them and maybe even better. She said — they go shopping to Paris over the weekend and buy the most fashionable clothes. And Opray rolled her eyes at the audience and said, “wouldn’t we all like that?” And so the princess continued, “We only don’t have voting rights, otherwise we are the same.” The biggest wall to women’s freedom in the arab world, in Asia and other countries is women’s voluntary submission to their own cultural prison. I think that is the brick wall poor Manal is up against!

    13. damon — on 6th June, 2011 at 2:34 pm  

      saudi has more crap americana than you can imagine.

      and more metal music is not what they need.

      It’s not ‘metal music’ they need joe90, but a wider variety of music and the understanding of the cultures that go with that music. The same as it’s good if people in the west can appreciate music from other cultures. Which many do. ”World Music” has a large following and has events like the Womad festival.
      I only have to play Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan on youtube to ”get it” somewhat, even if I don’t really understand it. But I know I like it when I hear it. It’s not any particular type of music the uptight Saudis need, they just need to open themselves up more. They could start by watching the 1981 Simon and Garfunkel concert in Central Park, and see if they could get it. Can they get New York in the 80s?
      Can they understand Woody Allen films?
      Some Bob Dylan too. I’m not talking about cultural imperialism, but Saudi Arabia and many of those Gulf countries are just screwed up culturally.
      In Thailand they get western music and culture to a degree. 50 Cent played to tens of thousands of fans in Bangkok in 2006. They just enjoyed the show in their own way. They might not have got the whole ‘gangsta’ thing, but were still able to go and jump around and have fun. Guys and girls together.
      Which they can’t in Saudi I think. Not in such a public way I’m pretty sure.

      I don’t think there’s much point bothering with a country like Saudi Arabia until they open up a bit more. I’d love to visit, but they don’t even allow tourists. I’ve seen the coast of Saudi from the Israeli town of Eilat - and that’s as close as I’ll probably ever be allowed to get.

    14. Niels Christensen — on 6th June, 2011 at 3:17 pm  


      The saudi’s do get a lot of our culture, if they understand it, no one knows yet.
      The numbers of diabetes patients is more than on par with us; the divorce rate in the cities is sky rocking; the number of unmarried singles is also growing fast; the crime rate is going fast up; the lack of a civil law, creates a lot of problems; there is a huge unemployment.
      You could add items from every part of society, but there isn’t a civil society where this can be discussed.Thats the problem.

    15. damon — on 6th June, 2011 at 4:42 pm  

      Yes Niels Christensen, it’s the lack of civil society.

      One thing I have noticed about being in Arab countries, and south east Asia too, is that the western films they show in the cinemas are always the blandest rubbish. Lots of action nonsense, with any hint of sex of course being removed.
      Boring action films and kids films are about all you can find.
      Though I do remember going to see ”To Sir, with Love” once in India in the 1980s, and I thought it was pretty cool that they showed such a film there then.

    16. Iqbal — on 6th June, 2011 at 4:48 pm  

      “One thing I have noticed about being in Arab countries, and south east Asia too, is that the western films they show in the cinemas are always the blandest rubbish. Lots of action nonsense, with any hint of sex of course being removed.
      Boring action films and kids films are about all you can find.”

      Whereas westerners get a full and accurate view of the Muslim world through their cinema and media.

    17. damon — on 7th June, 2011 at 4:51 pm  

      No need to be defensive Iqbal. This site is meant to be about generating debate, not avoiding it.
      Do you think Saudi Arabia gets a bad press in the west?
      Personally I can’t think of one redeeming feature the country has. But I’ve never been there as they don’t allow tourists in. I know an Indian nurse who worked there though, and she had her bible and rosary beads confiscated on arrival in the country, and it never got any better in the couple of years she worked there. It sounds like a truly dreadful country without civil society.
      So can we not just be honest about it without getting fed up with someone saying such a thing?
      Harriet Harman was on the Andrew Marr show on sunday, and she mentioned that 74% of Egyptian girls still have to endure FGM.
      Which is an appalling figure. What’s wrong with them?—060611

      Much of the muslim world is in a total mess. The best place I’ve seen so far is Malaysia. But they still hang drug dealers and flog people there.
      So it’s not surprising that muslim countries don’t get get seen in a good light often.

    18. ecks why — on 3rd July, 2011 at 3:42 am  

      allah approved misogyny is one of many severe problems with islam which is dangerous no matter how it is packaged…

      the twin fogs of political correctness & ignorance must be dispersed before western society better understands this menace. even a brief review of islamic theology & history quickly exposes the deadly roots of this evil ideology.

      see the links in the pdf version below for more accurate info about islam

      islam is a horrible ideology for human rights

      5 key things about islam

      1. mythical beliefs - all religions have these (faith) because its part of being a religion: having beliefs without proof until after the believer dies. the problem is people will believe almost anything.

      2. totalitarianism - islam has no seperation of church and state: sharia law governs all. there is no free will in islam: only submission to the will of allah as conveniently determined by the imams who spew vapors to feather their own nests. there are no moderate muslims: they all support sharia law.

      3. violence - islam leads the pack of all religions in violent tenets for their ideology & history: having eternal canonical imperatives for supremacy at all costs and calling for violence & intimidation as basic tools to achieve these goals.

      4. dishonesty - only islam has dishonesty as a fundamental tenet: this stems from allah speaking to mohamhead & abrogation in the koran which is used to explain how mo’s peaceful early life was superseded by his warlord role later.

      5. misogyny - present day islam is still rooted in 8th century social ethics: treating females as property of men good only for children, severely limiting their activities, dressing them in shower curtains and worse.

      conclusions ??

      there really are NO redeeming qualities for this muddled pile of propaganda.

      islam is just another fascist totalitarian ideology used by power hungry fanatics on yet another quest for worldwide domination and includes all the usual human rights abuses & suppression of freedoms.

      graphics version

      1 page pdf version - do file/download 6kb viewer doesn’t show fonts well, has better fonts header footer links, great for emailing printing etc

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