Monday, September 29, 2014

Sexualizing Children in Saudi Society

Jenna Al Shammary (photo credit: Saudi Gazette)

Jenna Al-Shammary,  a young Saudi school girl, excitedly dons bright red lipstick for her singing debut performing a Saudi National Day song in a theater play in the conservative city of Hail, Saudi Arabia.  She normally doesn't wear lipstick, but this is a special occasion and she will be on stage in front of an audience of mature adult grown men, many with young daughters of their own.  Her loosely draped long shiny emerald green satin robe is emblazoned with gold Palm trees and the crossed swords of the Saudi flag.  Her long dark hair flows loosely down to her waist, like many of her young Saudi schoolmates.

She is nervous but confident.  Jenna has practiced singing this song over and over again, but the butterflies in her stomach make her anxious that she will flub up the words of the song.

Eleven year old Jenna nails her performance.

But to her family's horror, within days of her performance, all hell seems to break loose and it's all negatively focused on Jenna.  No mention is made of her voice, her singing, her patriotism, her stage presence.  All attention is placed on her physical appearance.  Social media websites criticize her appearance as "immodest," calling her unimaginable names, faulting her parents for allowing such "indecency." After all, she wore red lipstick on stage and did not cover her hair from the men in the audience.  Such shame!

Really?  Is this what Saudi's culture and religion supports and truly believes?  Sexualizing a child?  Publicly criticizing a child?  Calling a child names that would incite a man to want to commit murder if he ever heard those names spoken about his own mother or sister or daughter?

Leave it to the perverted minds in Saudi Arabia to turn a child's innocent song of pride for her country into a tawdry sexualized scandal.   All these idiotic men could focus on was Jenna's sexuality.  This is the sign of a real sickness in this society.  It is truly perverse and unhealthy.  They see women and children merely as sexual objects.  

There is never a valid reason to attack a child in this manner.  An 11 year old should not be made to feel ashamed about her appearance or be made to feel like she is a sex object for men.  After all, it's not like she was dressed up on stage like Lady Gaga or Madonna or even some contestant on Toddlers and Tiaras.  What she wore and how she presented herself was perfectly acceptable in any normal society in this world.   

What's NOT normal is the sick reaction and criticism from a few twisted deranged men in this audience and the perpetual sexualization of women and children in this society.  THAT's what needs to be criticized, not an innocent 11 year old girl.  

READ MORE:

Saudi Gazette article, "Twitter users slam girl, 11, for ‘immodest’ National Day show"



Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Powerful Words about Saudi National Day

I try to focus on the positives about living here in Saudi Arabia.  Admittedly there are many things I must suck up, overlook, or ignore - otherwise it would drive me crazy.  September 23rd is Saudi National Day here in Saudi Arabia - the day when in 1932 the country officially became a unified kingdom under King Abdulaziz. In the seven years I have lived here in Jeddah, we have never partaken in any facet of the joyful celebrations, which have grown by leaps and bounds every year.

http://www.skyscrapercity.com/showthread.php?t=1445301&page=5

Surprisingly enough, this holiday was not really even celebrated here until just a few short years ago.   The reason why lies in the question of whether or not such celebrations are forbidden by Islam.  This question was an ongoing debate amongst religious scholars until the current king and his government voiced their support of the holiday.  With each passing year since then, the nation's birthday celebrations have gotten bigger and better, with fireworks, speeches and ceremonies, impromptu street parades, face painting, special events, shouting in the streets, special shopping sales, and a general sense of happiness and pride.

http://images.frompo.com/45ffe44efd29b838b370a0e89f5cfd01

After being bombarded lately with images of proud citizens hanging out of their car windows waving Saudi flags and seeing the city awash in a sea of emerald green (the color of the national flag), I felt the need to share an astounding article written by a young Saudi female university professor named Bayan Perazzo entitled "Why I Refuse to Celebrate Saudi National Day."  

http://beliefinunseen.blogspot.com/2012/09/saudi-national-day.html

On her Twitter account, Bayan describes herself as "a liberal feminist and excellent driver stuck in the wrong country."  She is a PhD candidate in International Law and Human Rights, holds a Master's Degree in Middle Eastern Politics and Islamic Law, and a Bachelor's degree in Sociology.  It is because of Saudi women like Bayan that I continue to have hope, as many here in Saudi Arabia do, that one day, among other things, this country will treat its women and foreign workers with the respect they deserve. The sheer gumption and courage this articulate young woman shows by speaking out like she does in a country that does not have freedom of speech and denies women their rights will amaze you.

This article will educate you and wow you.  Do yourself a favor and read it.  Your brain will thank you for it. 
Follow Bayan on Twitter: @BintBattuta87 

CLICK HERE to read "Why I Refuse to Celebrate Saudi National Day."  

To read more thought provoking articles by Bayan, CLICK HERE.  

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Progress Makes Me Happy!



There have been many times living in Saudi Arabia over the past seven years when I have gotten the impression that having fun is forbidden or at least frowned upon, that being happy is not something that people here  aspire to.  While I still get that feeling at times, the past couple of years I have seen a change gently sweeping over the general population of Saudi Arabia. 

A few years ago I couldn't have imagined the excitement I feel now when I see women actually working in the malls and other businesses.  People now seem much more relaxed, much more open.  More Saudi women seem to be dropping their face veils and wearing colorful abayas instead of just drab black.  I see smiles much more frequently than I used to.  Lots of people are into taking selfies - a huge change from the look of paranoia I saw on people's faces when they spied me with my camera in years past.  Even though to outsiders these strides may seem really small, to me I am seeing real social progress.

And it makes me happy!

When I first viewed this video I thought to myself that there is no way this could have happened on a flight in Saudi Arabia just a few years ago.  So in honor of Saudi National Day on September 23rd, enjoy this Saudi version of a flash mob on FlyNas Airlines.  Saudis can be fun-loving people too!





Saturday, September 6, 2014

Humanitarian Relief for Syrian Refugees


PLEASE HELP if you can: Humanitarian Relief for Syrian Refugees

A personal friend of mine here in Jeddah will be taking part in the ongoing humanitarian relief for Syrian Refugees by Rita Zawaideh. She will be joining the Salaam Cultural Museum's Medical Mission taking place September 13-19.   She will leave from Jeddah for Amman on September 12 and needs donations of the items listed below for distribution via SCM to Syrian refugees in Jordan.


Stethoscopes
Otoscope
Ophthalmoscope
Tongue depressors
Blood pressure machine
Blood sugar machine and strips
Non-narcotic medications
Vitamins
Disposable Diapers

In addition, below is the wish list for the Malki/Salaam Children’s Center:
Art Supplies
Easels
Paints
Paper for watercolor
Colored Paper
Music Supplies
Tambourines
Percussion Set
Xylophone
Handbells
Toys
Wooden Blocks
Wooden Puzzles (ages 6-10)
Bubbles
Legos
Play dough
Cutout Stencils


To make donations in Jeddah, please contact Samia Ann El-Moslimany at 055-562-3613 or drop off donations at the Photography by Samia Studio.  CLICK HERE for a map of the drop off location.  

If you cannot donate items or if you live somewhere other than Jeddah, please consider making a monetary donation towards this medical mission or the Malki-SCM Children's Center! CLICK HERE to make a monetary donation.

Thank you for any support your can give!