Monday, May 4, 2009

A Saudi Woman's Voice Is Heard: "I'm Not Oppressed!"

I received a comment on the post I recently wrote entitled "Saudi Arabia Wastes Biggest Untapped Natural Resource: WOMEN." It was written by a modern working Saudi woman. She is a rare breed, since only 300,000 Saudi women actually work in the entire country. When you consider that the whole Saudi population is almost 26 million, she represents only 1% of all Saudis and just 2% of all Saudi women. However, I felt her response should be brought to the forefront, instead of buried deep in the comments section because she made valid points and expressed herself so articulately. I'm sure that many more Saudi women, working or not, agree with her. Her viewpoint may surprise you. I would like to give her the opportunity to let her voice be heard...

I   haven't read all these comments but I do have serious reservations with your post.

"Saudi women are either kept hidden at home or hidden in public beneath loose fitting black cloth, cloaking them from head to toe. They are invisible. They are unapproachable. They are inaccessible. And this is exactly the way the men here want it to be."

I am a woman. I cover. I veil. I have a respectable IT job. I am educated, and while I agree that life would be much better if I were allowed to drive, I fail to see how being beneath loose fitting black cloth can be equated as being invisible, unapproachable, and so on and so forth.

Where I work, we ARE segregated, but I am still one of the most important people in the IT department. I've been given all the facilities required for required communication, so I'm not "cut off" from the good old boys. My dad works at a government hospital. He too has female co-workers, architects and engineers.

It is beyond me why people assume that being "cloaked" is some kind of "oppression." I do it out of choice, not because any "men" wanted me to do it. I do it and I feel liberated, because when I progress, I am respected for my brains and personality. When your women make it to the top, how many of them have to fight the stereotypes that they didn't just make it through by their looks? They still struggle to be respected purely for their SKILLS. Look up the statistics yourself: the good-looking people get more jobs and higher salaries.

But when *I* get something, I get what I deserve. No judgment calls. No men to doubt how I got there.

And while some things in Saudi Arabia are indeed cultural and not Islamic, a lot of the veiling business IS Islamic, and again, that doesn't mean oppression. That Saudi Arabia only just appointed a female is a cultural thing. Otherwise Islam granted women the human rights that any useful citizen deserves. Way back, CENTURIES ago, before your white women could so much as dream of casting votes, Muslim women were running for government positions, and their voices were so powerful they directly influenced state decisions without even being part of it.

*** I must point out that nowadays Saudi women are forbidden from running for or holding any public office, and do not have the right to vote.

And as for why can't Saudi men stop looking at women as sex-objects... while I agree they should get some sense in their perverted heads and stop being the way they are, it's not as if women aren't considered sex objects anyway. Around 70% (if I remember correctly) of rapes in the world don't happen by random strangers - they're usually among people who've already known each other. And... (I think it was) 60% of people in the same office have been involved in extra-marital affairs. Where does this happen? Oh yes, of course - where the workplaces aren't segregated...

And just because a woman cannot be seen in the media doesn't mean she can't do anything worthwhile. I write. And when I do that, my objective is to get my opinions across, to have my ideas heard and valued. My objective is not that you see how I look while I do it. I'm not in the least hindered by a cloak, or by segregation. In fact - actual statistics again - girls who grow up in single-sex colleges are known to be more successful and more confident than girls who study at co-ed institutions.

Women being unseen, protected, loved and respected for their true selves, is not oppression. Women being judged everywhere they go, sized up and down and checked out and treated as objects, plastered on billboards for as long as they're young and beautiful and then forgotten like trash, being judged for superficial factors that don't even last and only respected by a very select few people for what they REALLY are, THAT is oppression of the worst kind.

If you want to talk about certain other legal rights in this country, like female business ownership... yeah, that might be a REAL issue you could cover.

*** Again I refer you to a recent article in the Arab News pertaining to the frustrating status of women business owners in Saudi Arabia.

I want to thank this working Saudi woman for speaking out and explaining her points of view on some issues that many Westerners perceive differently. While not all Saudi women may agree with her and may indeed feel oppressed, we must understand both sides of the coin and realize that not all issues here are clearly black or white.


  1. enjoyed reading this response to your post.

  2. we always meet ourself at the door we say.So glad all is not black and white (in the colors meaning)

  3. Thanks for sharing her comment. I really enjoyed reading her perspective on this.

  4. I'm really glad you shared her comment. We people in the west tend to see situations like this only in terms of black and white, when there are so many diverse views to consider. Thanks to this woman.

  5. A very thoughtful response. It could be that this woman's belief are an example of cognitive dissonance or it could be that her life experience and support has led her to a hart felt belief that the abaya makes her more free. Many of us raised in the west are unwilling to yield to will of others, especially men. But many western women are controlled by the men in their lives even thought are laws give them "freedom".
    For this women the system in Saudi Arabia seems to work. For many others it does not.

  6. I guess this just goes to show that we don't know another's life unless we walk in their shoes. As a Western woman, it is impossible for me not to think of the abaya as being suppressive but then again I wasn't raised in their culture. I lived in Saudi but as an expat in a Western compound which is a totally different experience.

  7. This opinion sounds like the Saudi women I have come to meet & befriend :-D

  8. well her response was definately Saudi, sorry I don't mean to be rude in any way, it's just that it was biased and incorrect for her to assume things about how western women are treated in the work place. I'm guessing she's never been outside of Saudi so she can only put forth her work experiences not a western womans.

  9. Linda D.
    Wow, I have to totally agree that it is so wrong to put so much emphasis on a woman's looks. I've always said that. It's a crying shame how so many women are judged by their looks to the exclusion of everything else. (It sounds like men are the problem in both countries)

    However, I don't think having women cover up is the answer. I would rather that society (men) grown up a bit. It's sad that you seem to feel covering up is the only way for a woman's opinions and ideas to be heard. It's not true. But I respect your choice to cover up if you would like.

    You speak as if every single woman in the USA is a slave to her looks. That's overstating it just a bit, don't you think?

    I myself do not feel judged, sized up and down, and checked out everywhere I go...

    ...when I go out by myself, in my own car, anytime I want to.

  10. This is one of the many reasons you are so awesome, Susie!! The fact that you made her comment a post speaks volumes.

  11. Lind D.

    It's sad but it seems that women, no matter where they are, face some oppression to some degree.

  12. While one must assume that many women in Saudi Arabia would cover themselves, there is no choice in Saudi Arabia so the issue is moot.

    Spouting statistics that aren't backed up with references is truly pointless: ". And... (I think it was) 60% of people in the same office have been involved in extra-marital affairs. Where does this happen? Oh yes, of course - where the workplaces aren't segregated..."

    Claiming that 7th century Arabia treated women better than the contemporary West is also pointless. Few of us have any way to compare and whatever advantage was lost sometime ago.

  13. "struggling" u mention that she is wrong to assume about western women but isnt that what we are doing about the women who cover here, we are assuming they are oppressed. thankfully having lived here for nearly 20 years I can honestly say that there are alot of women who arent, but on the flip side there is just as many who are.Like any culture and any country there is good and bad,

  14. Thanks to the Anonymous poster who shared her views, and thank you Susie for bringing them to the forefront. Myself, I don't think that the veil, abaya, and headcovering are all that oppressive. I've known quite a few Muslim ladies around here who definitely didn't seem all that oppressed. I feel, however, that the oppression comes via restrictions on dress - if I want to cover up, it should be my choice to do so in order to honour God (seems more authentic to me than somebody who is forced to wear it by human-headed governments). As a young woman myself, however, I totally get what you mean about covering up and people seeming to value you more for your brains. We need to smack Western tabloid culture around a bit and fix this.

    As for segregation, this does seem to punish the victim for what the perpetrators have done or potentially may do. Wouldn't it be better to try and change men's attitudes instead? Segregation could potentially just drive things like rape and sexual assault further underground. These things still happen in Saudi Arabia, even with segregation.

  15. I was just wondering - is this woman married and does her husband approve of her working outside the home? This topic is very interesting.

  16. As they say, there are always two sides. Thank you for sharing her views too.

  17. Salaam
    As a Muslim woman Raised in the West and a proud Hijabi i feel that people from the "free" west either fail to understand things clearly or totally blind themselves to it
    when we muslim women cover we cover as we beleive it is an order and a part of our beloved faith
    If susie would care to make a post about WHY it is required in islam to cover our responses would be of a totally different nature
    Whereas when you post about opression and lack of personal freedom which i do sadly beleive excists in many muslim countries i think it is wrong disrespectfull insulting and totally inapropriate to point to the hijab, niqaab or wteva
    as it is a totally different topic
    what is part of our religion is part of our religion we are satisfied and happy i live in the UK i am free to wear a mini skirt yeah i don the hijab i go to a mixed college and i study
    i wish to be a doctor like my HIJABI mother
    i am not sad opressed or in tears i am free happy and proud
    i love hijabis and niqaabis and im totally proud of my sisters worldwide
    im just a typical muslimah
    look BEYOND the veil
    see things the way they are not the way that creates a perfect sad "opression" story for you guys to go "ooh" and "aah" at amidst drinking your cup of tea

  18. You have to admit the lady has a point..... I don't think I would like to live in such a segregated place,but then if that was all I had ever known I guess my perspective would be different?

  19. Thank you to Everyone for all for your comments.

    To Nancy - I honestly don't know, but as far as I understand, if she is married, her husband would have to approve of her working. If she is not married, her father would, or whoever her mahram (guardian) is.

  20. trea- Anyone who assumes something and just makes sterotypical accusations is in the wrong. It's just as wrong for her to do it as it would be for a westerner to do it. I lived in the middle east for a bit and heard a lot of iggnorant incorrect comments about Canada (and the rest of north america), it's just due to people believing everything they hear.

  21. "My objective is not that you see how I look while I do it. I'm not in the least hindered by a cloak, or by segregation. In fact - actual statistics again - girls who grow up in single-sex colleges are known to be more successful and more confident than girls who study at co-ed institutions."

    Yes, yes yes!! She hit the nail on the head.
    Ya know...I am pretty curt with men who are not my husband due to my experience living in the Gulf for a year. People have called me a snob and a B&%$h. Whatever. I will do what feels comfortable. I am not married to a Muslim man but when I approach Muslims in my job (a theme park) I approach the woman first. One Jordanian told me he gained alot of respect for me when I did that.

  22. Hey susie what do you call those western models who walk around naked? They are called SEX objects. Why do you like putting Saudi women down? You have lived there for a short while but you assume that you know each and everyone's case. You are a Devil!!!.

    I am a Canadian revert to Islam who is proud of wearing niqab. Nobody is forcing me but out of respect for my religion. If you have problems with Saudi Arabia then why are you there?

  23. To Anonymous - I think you are WAY off base. I have NEVER put Saudi women down on my blog. I have never said that you or any other woman shouldn't have the right to wear your hijab or niqab. However, I AM pro-choice. I believe that women should be able to make their own decisions and not be forced into or restricted from doing things they don't CHOOSE to do. Is there something wrong with that?
    Now, not that it's any of your business, but I am here because my family is here. Is Saudi Arabia my #1 choice of where I want to live in the world? No. But I love my husband and this is where he wants to be, so I am here. Do you have a problem with me keeping my family together as well?
    Try actually reading my blog next time before you fly off the handle calling me a Devil.

  24. Linda D.
    To Anonymous:
    Have you ever even read Susie's blog? Because, I can't understand where you've come up with your idea that she puts Saudi women down. If anything,she's an advocate for Saudi women.

    Frankly you sound quite hysterical.

  25. to Anonymous (canadian revert)
    You as a Muslim should know better than that. Your attitude is horendous and what you said makes reverts everywhere look like fanatical psychos! I am a revert too (just happen to be Canadian as well) and I can tell you this is not an Islamic attitude, Islam does not encourage this type of abusive behaviour. Susie's blog has done nothing but show ALL sides, it's got to be the most unbiased blog I have ever read and if one day I could see both sides of the coin the way she does, then I will be a better person for it. You can hide behind "anonymous" all you want, but you really owe her an appology

  26. doesn't sound like she lives the normal life of a Saudi woman... good you shared her perspective with us...I think she is a minority though...

  27. Hey Anonymous - Please read Susie's blogs before you flame her with accusations. If she didn't like Saudi Arabia even a bit, she probably wouldn't have all these wonderful photos or educational pieces on things like rose water.

    Susie does not have a problem with the people, she has a problem with the establishment. You say you are a Canadian revert who chooses to wear a niqab....

    Congratulations! Wear it with pride!

    I am a Canadian myself, and I applaud that you are exercising your right to wear niqab as your religion sees fit. I am currently exercising my right to wear jeans and a t-shirt. This brings me to the point that Susie is making - she is not against Saudi ladies wearing these things, but she feels that they should have a choice instead of it being forced on them. Is it better for ladies to honour God by wearing the niqab because they choose to do so, or is it better that they are forced to wear these things by a human government or else even though they may not feel that wearing the full abaya-hijab-niqab is entirely necessary based on their interpretation of hadiths?

    Perhaps we're spending too much time arguing over attire; I doubt you have issues with things like women driving. This and other rules in Saudi Arabia, like women not being able to vote, I think many can agree are oppressive.

  28. Sounds like she is as ignorant and biased of the west as she thinks we are of her. If she's so great, she should have realized that two wrongs don't make a right, and not tried to throw back false accusations.

    Let's face it, men are attracted to women everywhere whether covered or uncovered. Back when Westerners covered everything, men would get off just seeing a woman's ankle! So trust me, they don't need much to get going, and a truly professional woman can be ugly or can be beautiful, but if she is smart and savvy, she will make her way anywhere in the world.

  29. The idea that our 'true' self doesn't involve our sexuality is odd. We are biological beings and being male or female is an important part of it. The way Islam regards sexuality is absurd. Seing an attractive man or woman isn't a sin, crime or whatever. Take your bags off and live (if your family doesn't murder you for honor).

  30. I hate that there is no middle ground. I lived in KSA until quite recently. We westerners seem to think that all Saudi women are oppressed and miserable. In KSA they think that all western women are sluts and easy. Not all Saudi women are oppressed and miserable, clearly. But in defence of western women, most of us are not easy sluts. Most of us are family women who dress modestly and don't have affairs. We expect to get recognised in our non-segregated workplaces for our performance, not our short skirts. We don't all sleep with the boss to get ahead. Most of us love our husbands and our families and just want to live decent lives. Not all of our husbands look at semi-dressed young women (and yes, I agree, they should all wear more clothes!) and wish to got to bed with them. Yes, we get divorced and have affairs, but so do Saudis, who divorce at an alarming rate and have weird interpretations of marriage so they can have extra marital sex but within 'marriage'. And by the way, the only times I have ever been propositioned inappropriately were in KSA by Saudi men. And yes, I was wearing my abaya. Must have been the blonde hair! We should understand more about Saudi women, but they should stop assuming they know eveything about us too.

  31. A very interesting and enlightening response. I would like to add the view of someone as being unapproachable is a matter of perception. I am in my seventh year in the region; five of which have been in the UAE. In all those years of experience I almost always perceived women in niqab as being unapproachable. The reason is quite simple and has basis in my own cultural expectations about human interaction. I was raised to use facial expressions to gauge a great deal about one's mood, general friendliness, and one's approachability. Someone smiles at me in the checkout line at the supermarket and I respond in like. Taking a walk around the neighbourhood, a fellow walker smiles, nods his/her head, and perhaps even greets me. I read very basic things from these actions. I come from a city where people are all about small-talk. All that small talk begins with the idea that one seems physically open to the idea of communication with a stranger. So imagine having that cultural context and moving to a place where one never has the opportunity to read another's facial expressions. Naturally, that other person seems unapproachable. It was not until this year that I took a job working with young Emirati women that I was able to see them in a different light. The first day of class I entered to shaylas resting on shoulders and smiling friendly faces. At the end of the class, the niqabs were fixed, and it was back to business. Naturally now, after being given the opportunity to interact with my students on a daily basis, I don't read them or other Emirati women in niqab in an unapproachable manner. However, if I had never been given that up close and personal opportunity, my views would remain unchanged.

    Sorry for the long post, but I would second Kathryn's comment about western women not making assumptions about Saudi women, and Saudi women doing the same in return. An EXTREMELY valid point.

  32. Susie,

    Thanks for sharing her comment. Interesting perspective, even if I disagree with certain points.

    I think you'll find this story both amusing and awesome. It's about a young Qatari woman and how she caught her husband cheating:

  33. I stopped at the word that "invisible". Saudi lady infact is invisible to the contrary what the Saudi IT lady thinks.Saudi lady is until this moment still in the hide .You don't see her.You don't know her . She is all covered .Her identity is hidden. what more you want to express the word ( hide)!!..You might be able to see her products but you have no right to see who did this beautiful product .Total invisibility .What a pity.I am ashamed of the situation my Saudi sisters are experiencing .
    A Saudi Engineer

  34. Her response was good. Yet I would also question her statement that it is her choice to cover, not the choice of some man. If it were not the choice of men to keep women covered, more women would be walking uncovered in Saudi. Put it to the test: Saudi women go outside in Jeans and a t-shirt. Saudi women plan a trip and travel without a mans consent. Saudi women in cities where you can’t drive, attempt to get your drivers licence. It’s easy to say something is your choice….but is it really?

    I am happy for her that she has a good job, there are far more females that never leave the house or are living under the whim of their fathers or husbands. Someone needs to speak for these women. She needs to remember, not every woman in Saudi wants to cover, they do it because they have to. There are also many men that don’t agree with covering.

    While women in Islam had rights long before other women,(this point is drilled into every converts head) that is not the case in real life. The Quran does give women rights. But man has corrupted those rights and perverted them to what he wants. Women are no better in this regard, they need to stand up for themselves or nothing will ever change. While some Saudi women can’t understand western women , western women can’t understand Saudi women .

    Today’s Islam is not the Islam that our dear Prophet peace be upon him, brought to us from Allah/God. People need to understand that Allah/God or whatever you call him didn’t appoint man to speak for him once the prophets had left the earth. All the religious leaders of the world that are leading their flocks astray will have to answer to Allah/God one day. I would not want to be in their shoes.

  35. I truly thank the Saudi women fr her comment.I totally agree with her.and i thank u Susie for posting it!
    A women in ISLAM has the right to chose,vote,study,work,drive,inherit,own and trade,even if men disapprove,it is her right.
    as u might now the Prophet Mohammed(peace be upon him)'s wife Kadija(may Allh be pleased with her)was a business women,with her own money and in her name. of course not all Saudi men now would like that,that is why issues like female business ownership is still a problem.Men do control the law in this country,but Islam gives us the right and freedom a man cant take away from us no matter how ignorant HE wants women to be.

    i just hate it when i apply for a job that wants me to take off my hijab!! or another job that want me to cover more than i already am.that is oppression!!

  36. I've just read the comment of the saudi woman and one word stuck me PROTECTED....why a woman needs to be protected? do the men consider women like children who needs to be surpervised (eg need husband/father permission to work/study/go abroad)? I reckon in western world many women are judged on their look (in music/holliwood) but you can find many more women that are judged and value on what they could name a few Rice, Clinton, Thatcher amd many more.

    In western world women were always part of the productive work Florence they were part of some guilts, they worked alongside men (ok with the husband consent) they didn't have to cover up them self.

    As a western I'm used to speak face to face with the person I'm speaking with..

    One last thing she told it's her choice...sorry but I don't think so it's Saudi oppressive law that made her choice...she has no alternatives in Saudi.

  37. Jerry M, the last bit in your comment sounds just as radical as the Haya who FORCE women to cover.

    You're like "take your 'bags' off!" as if anyone of us who CHOOSE to cover would listen to a silly thing like that.

    And to Anonymous who called Susie a 'devil' -- Sister I am also Canadian revert (alhamdulillah) and I wish there was some way I could personally give uu this nasiha... it is not adaab to outright call someone this, we should strive to have better akhlaq insha'Allah :-)


    Susie, big ups to uu for bringing the "other side" of the story to your readers' attention!!

  38. Very interesting response to your blog and I'm happy the lady is so comfortable with herself and her life. I can't imagine living it but it's hard to imagine something not experienced. I am looking forward to my visit to Saudi so I can at least get a small look at it from the 'inside' with family!

  39. Hmm. Interesting.

    And Susie a Devil?? People never cease to amaze me!

  40. I think if a Saudi woman lives anywhere but Saudi...and then chooses to wear niqab etc...then she can truly say she chose that option...but its not really a choice in Saudi when your family...your neighbors...your culture...the govt ...the muttawa etc...all EXPECT you to wear it...or your reputation and maybe even your person are abused for "choosing" not to.

    There is no true choice for Saudi long as your reputation or safety is at stake.

  41. btw for the anon that posted that nasty message to seems that neither being a native of Canada...nor a representitive of Islam has taught you any manners. So you shamed your country and your religious tenets with a few short words...nice work.

    Must be kind of hard to talk with your oversized foot in your mouth.

  42. Countrygirl...
    Your a real piece of work! You like going on all the Saudi blogs and running your uneducated mouth about the Muslim world. Ethnocentricity is not welcome especially by the likes of you...

  43. Aalia, You are too hilarious! Can you make one comment without throwing in 5 Arabic words? hehehe, your friends and family must be bowled over by you :-)

  44. Wow. Thank you Susie for showing that there are always two sides to a story. I never really thought about Saudi women in that point of view before.

    I'm a first time reader and I must say that this blog has really opened my eyes. I have only been taught one side while growing up in Canada. It's refreshing to know that even with such a strict regimen these women are able to have their pride and dignity kept intact. Honestly, I never really thought of the men being the ones who have to be restrained from women. It's such an odd thing to see things in a completely reversed way.

    Thanks again!

  45. I like coolred38 upper comments when she pointed out that the Saudi woman has no choice but to cover or face abuse.. that's true. We Saudis continue tolive this rough experience up until now .Even if the Saudi woman had the whole encouragement from wife anf brothers not to cover ,she still has to battle the streets.What an ailment !!! .I admire those Saudi women who challenge the system and seek change . You get to find some who do. Thank God for that .

  46. I enjoy your post. Thanks for visiting my blog. That's interesting that your from Arizona because you look so familiar...maybe our paths have crossed? ;)

  47. @anthro you call me uneducated and then you offend me...I was simply pointing out what in my opinion was wrong in the post of the saudi woman...if you think I'm uneducated i can tell you taht i don't give a damm of you opinion. I don't think i offended anyone, you aren't the one to tell me to go away....I think you riled up by my sentence

    "In western world women were always part of the productive work Florence they were part of some guilts, they worked alongside men (ok with the husband consent) they didn't have to cover up them self."

    Sorry but this the truth and I wrote to reply to the following sentence

    "Islam granted women the human rights that any useful citizen deserves. Way back, CENTURIES ago, before your white women could so much as dream of casting votes"

    I've got the impression that if someon doesn't fall in you line of thought you accuse him/her of being ethnocentrist.

  48. Singamaraja reading and visit your blogs

  49. Dear Susie,

    I started reading your blog a month or so ago and have been transfixed. I really admire your capacity to tell a story and continually acknowledge that it is your own perspective. All throughout your web page, you capture the diverse views of a range of people. Well done!

    Speaking from the perspective of an Australian who has traveled very widely, (but unfortunately, not yet in predominantly Muslim countries), it is fascinating to hear such detailed and interesting writing about Saudi Arabia. I think Susie has managed to convey many aspects of life there, both confronting to some of us and lovely.

    The Saudi Arabian lady who wrote the blog about working in KSA has given us all a valuable insight into the opinion of an individual educated woman who does not feel hampered by covering. I would be interested to hear more from her about day to day life.

    I respect a devout Muslim who embraces the decision to wear her Hijab. I think that it is important not to draw conclusions about the contribution a person can make to the community, based on what she is wearing. Equally, the sometimes degrading advertising and portrayal of women in certain Western media should not lead to a conclusion that all Westerners lack a moral compass.

    I think it is vital to try to learn more about each other before we make judgments regarding how we all live.

    I'd like to venture to say that societies in general have biases about other cultures. It is a pity when prejudices hinder our ability to make friends. That is where blogs like Susie's can make a fantastic difference - enabling us to find out more about the world and reach out to one another. (Sorry, this message has gotten terribly long!)

    Regards Susie! All the best to you in Saudi Arabia!


  50. This comment has been removed by the author.

  51. First of all thank you Susie for giving a chance for a Saudi woman to point her view and say what is on her mind.. you are an angel :)

    I'm a Saudi woman living in Saudi Arabia too.. I can proudly say that I am a veiled woman but I do it by choice and I'm not oppressed.. and yes I am married and have had 2 jobs before, but choose to stay at home after I had my last child until I find a better job.. hopefully something computer related so I could put my degree to use again! My husband had no problem with my job and is encouraging me to find a suitable job and not just accept anything.. and no he does not take my money, never has.. because some will say maybe he wants her to work to take her money.. he is a well paid physician and does not need my money :)

    To say all or most women are oppressed is a generalization.. most women are happy, if some feel that way I'm sorry that they do and it might be because of the men in their lives giving them a hard time.

    I have lived in the USA for about 11 years so i do know how it is there.. and no I don't think Western women are easy and sluts.. I have many Western girlfriends who I admire, some are Muslims and most are not!

    I believe every country has the good, the bad and the ugly.. it has nothing to do with nationality, religion or race.

    As of only 300,000 women in KSA are working women, I don't really think that is accurate.. I believe the number should be higher.. As of the population .. the 26 million you mentioned is mostly consisted of forigners since we account for them in the census. I know it what the Arab News says 2 years ago but I don't think it's accurate..

    Anyways..Sorry for the long post, but just an opinion that I wanted to share..

    Thanks again Susie.. I really admire you and love your blog :)

  52. To me it is not about the issue of covering or one woman's story of oppression or vice versa. The society itself because of the law of the country is oppressive. When an adult woman needs permission from the men of her family for right of education, work, marriage, medical treatment for her children, then i consider that to be oppressive.

  53. oooh!love it...i wanna meet her lol.
    Us a South American women i nevr in my life felt more free than when i choosed my hijab and my abayah. And i live in a country without any restriction to the ladies, us a muslim i choseed to cover myself..and i'd never be more respected in my life.
    In my work we are almost segregated and we have no problems about relationship envolving workers mates.
    But i also have to say i aprecciate your point of view as well.

  54. Interesting to see/read the "other side", too. Thanks for posting that, Susie! And thanks for speaking out on that topic, dear Saudi woman!

    (However, I stick to my opinion. ;) )

  55. I'm an American woman. I just got back from a trip where I spent 3 days in Qatar. I've been to Egypt before (decades again) so I do not pretend to understand Arab culture.

    I found it an odd and interesting experience. I had wondered if I needed to wear a head scarf but found that Qatar women were in burkas, some other Muslim women wore varying headscarves and many others wore no head covering and dressed in a Western manner. I was at a mall (first thing in the door - Starbucks)and no one seemed to be concerned with what anyone else wore.

    But, I did feel like I was looked through like a ghost. It was useless to nod or smile at anyone in a burka or kandoura - no response or acknowledgment. This happened as well when I took a long walk along the water and to a playground. I also saw that the burka did inhibit many moms from playing with their children at the playground.

    I note that a Emirati man has written a children's book on why Arab men dress as they do. He says:

    "They are white and loose because they keep us cool in the hot climate here. Also, they are a part of our identity."

    I noted that as well in Qatar. Head to toe black and faces covered for women and loose white gowns with faces uncovered for men. It's a big difference.

    I guess my question is the burka for modesty or because men are considered animals around a female form or both? I ask with no disrespect, it's just not clear.

    I absolutely believe many Western women dress in immodest ways. My son is in high school and I wish they enforced the dress code with the girls. They don't. But with this freedom to dress as we please also comes the freedom to play with our children easily, to take care of our bodies by exercising, to become athletes and just to conduct our daily lives unhindered. I have to believe it gets hot when your head, face or body are always covered.

    At the end of the day, I support my Arab sisters (and I like to believe that all women are sisters) in what they want to wear. I just hope for all of them to be a true part of their society; meaning, educated, with freedom to move around as they please and the ability to vote and run for office. I believe women have the same brain power as men and should be allowed to exercise it.

  56. Hi Anon/Linda D - Thanks for your support. I appreciate it...

    Hi Struggling - Thank you for your kind words and coming to my defense.

    Hi Deb - Yes, she is definitely a minority here as a working Saudi woman, but I'm glad she spoke up and presented her side of the story which we don't get to hear very often.

    Hi Mel - I really appreciate what you said - thank you. And you are right that there are many more oppressive issues we can discuss without even mentioning attire.

    Hi Tanya - That's why I think it's important for us to realize that many Muslime women here choose to dress the way they do, even though the West sees it as oppressive. There are too many assumptions made on both sides and it's important to hear her view just as she needs to not generalize about all Western women. Thanks so much for your comment.

    Hi Jerry - You reminded me of the Unknown Comic from the Gong Show and the character Pat from SNL - remember them?

    Hi Kathryn - I think this type of discussion can only serve to dispel the generalizations and inaccurate assumptions we all make about one another where different cultures are concerned. Yes, we have our differences, but we are all more alike than any of us realize. Thanks for commenting.

    Hi AbuDhabi/UAE DP - It is a very rare occurrence when a woman in niqaab ever speaks to me out in public, therefore I still see the veil as a wall between us. A classroom setting is a totally different atmosphere and they obviously felt relaxed with you. How about in a store - how many women in niqab have you been able to speak to? I find the niqab a difficult door to open, even just for small talk. But, thanks for your explanation!

    Hi SomeGirl - Thanks for the link - I really did enjoy the story. That's quite a smart woman!

  57. Hi FreeSpirit - Thanks for your contribution to the discussion. Your views unfortunately seem to be in the minority among Saudi men - I wish you could have a long talk with my husband!!!

    Hi CrazyMuslim - You're absolutely right. It is hard to tell if it truly is her choice to cover, since there is no choice in the first place. I have a hard time understanding the women who veil here but then outside the country, they whip it off. That's why I feel it's more cultural than religious - if it were really religious, they should cover no matter what continent they are on, right? Thanks for adding your viewpoints on the subject.

    Hi UmAzoz - It seems that the men here use and twist Islam to take away the rights that Islam clearly grants women - very confusing indeed. Thanks for commenting.

    Hi CountryGirl - The word "protection," which is used so often by Saudi men to justify why women are treated like children, is just an excuse for them to be able to control women. Women have proven how strong they really are throughout the world, but they are not given the chance here in KSA. Thanks for your input.

    Hi Aalia - Thank you for what you said. I thought about removing her (Anon's) comment, but I'm glad I left it now because you guys are making me feel really good!

    Hi Anon - Appreciate you stopping by and commenting...

    Hi Suroor - I thought so too!!! I've never been called that in my life - always a first time, I guess!

    Hi CoolRed - I always love your comments!

    Hi Anthrogeek - I really don't think CountryGirl's comment was disrespectful or insulting of the Saudi culture. I think maybe you misinterpreted what she was saying...

    Hi Anon - Ok, I like the :-) at the end.

    Hi Sara - So glad you stopped by and commented. I think we can all learn something here - not to make assumptions about others.

    Hi FreeSpirit - And hopefully more and more Saudi women will be able to find their voice in the future...

    Hi Postcards - It's possible we have crossed paths although I'm always told that I have a familiar face!

    Hi CountryGirl - I thought your comments earlier were fine. Maybe Anthrogeek was having a bad day...

    Hi Singamaraja - Thanks!

    Hi Kristina - I'm so glad you took the time to comment and welcome to my blog. I really appreciate your views and feedback. Glad to hear you think its worthwhile!

    Hi DesertRose - Wow - called a devil by one commenter first, and now an angel by you - that made me feel better!!!
    I have to agree with you that almost all of the Saudi women I have had the pleasure of meeting are truly happy with their lives and do not feel oppressed. I do think, however, that if choices were an option here, I think they would be even happier!
    And those were the only stats I could find - they are hard to come by!!!

    Hi Anon - I totally agree with you - thanks for commenting.

    Hi Hiyabi - Thank you for your contribution!

    Hi Bö - We are all entitled to our own opinions, but it's good to know that not all Saudi women feel oppressed. Thanks for your comment.

    Hi Melissa - Wow - it's great to hear from you! If I saw women here in KSA dressing like you saw women in Qatar, in a variety of dress, I think I would feel so much more comfortable. In answer to your question, Muslim women are instructed to dress modestly, which is quite vague when you think about it, so as not to reveal the female form. Clearly it doesn't say that they must wear black abayas or burkas. For some reason, men in Islamic countries seem to think that if a woman isn't covered from head to toe that she is asking for it, but rape still occurs here, probably not as frequently as in the West, although statistics here are hard to come by and I would doubt the accuracy anyway. They are in denial that Muslim men behave badly and prefer to ignore problems like that, as well as continuing to punish the woman for it.
    Thanks for your comment!

  58. Being a convert Muslim, a mixed heritage mutt, and married to a Yemeni; having lived in Yemen, living now in the US with hubby and kids- I can say that The Niqab is one of those things that can make or break any impression and can alter lives- for good or bad.

    In Yemen years ago my MIL tells me women did not use niqab and abaya- until the recent few decades when the men came back from Saudi Arabia (her opinion, not mine)- and I know for a fact (if you visit Dar Al Hajjar one day) that she is right women didn't veil- there is a portrait to prove it.

    I believe in some ways its the younger set that started the "fad" and its the younger set again that is reversing the "fad" in Yemen... But then again, I have said it before Yemeni have a habit of staring at people- so I willingly don the niqab because it will get to me and my Spanish side will come flying in on a broom stick!

    Yet for all the niqab wearing or not; Yemeni women can still vote; drive; go to mixed class institutes and colleges; and work in a variety of areas Saudi Women can't. They still need permission in some cases, in others its a family necessity...

    So maybe there needs to be more talk about middle grounds- they can be found- mind you Yemen is by far the least of the best by most counts, it has more problems than solutions. But the Saudi influence is what most people I have talked to fear most- because they say then they will never regain what they have lost.

    And yes, the converts/reverts do get the Saudi indoctrination - those who are fortunate enough to shake it lead normal Muslim lives without insulting either side- because they live both sides at the same time...that alone is hard to let's hopefully not tilt the scales too far in either direction- we won't be able to talk to each other.

    "Susie sorry for the long post"

  59. Inal--my understanding is that Saudi become markedly more conservative in recent decades only. Carmin bin Laden (Ossama's ex-sister-in-law) is clear on this in her book, which describes well the transition to the current state, from when she initially moved there.

  60. Inal and Susie--that anonymous was me--itchy submit button LOL :D

  61. I'm with you, Susie. Women in niqab almost never make eye contact with me here in public places. I guess that's the whole point. The only way I have been able to see Emirati women beyond the niqab is, well, by them removing it. The average visitor or resident to the country never gets the opportunity. Hence, why many find women in niqab unapproachable.

  62. Thanks for that great interview, it¡s very interesting.

    But I can't really understand than in a country where a woman is obliged to cover and veil, doing it is a choice. Contradictory. I think that woman have heard so many times that veil dignifies you, protects you, makes you a respected woman, etc.. they really believe it, that's why answers are so frank.

    I disagree when she says that feels liberated because when she progresses, she's respected only for her brains and personality.

    Does that mean that when I do is for my pretty face or nice body, not for my brains or personality? That what I got may be in doubt for that? You know, it's been a long and hard way to be the sole in-company lawyer of an international cement company, and I feel very respected for my skills.

    In fact I can say I'm good looking. But... business are business, if you're pretty but not intelligent or effective enough, you don't last, not in this almost exlusive men world (cement), nor even 5 minutes.

    In my country what statistics show is that men are still paid 20% more for the same job, hours and results.

  63. Susie,

    I found your blog last night and stayed up until 4 AM reading from the beginning!!! I absolutely LOVE it! Your ideas, thoughts, and observations are so in line with mine, that it kind of freaked me out, LOL!

    Around the time you moved to Saudi Arabia in the summer of 2007, I had graduated college and spent 4 months traveling the Gulf (Oman, UAE, Qatar) and Jordan and Egypt on my own. I am interested in Arab culture and Islamic culture and I am trying my best to learn Arabic too (very hard!). I tried applying for a scholarship to study women studies and Islamic culture in a master's program in the UK, but I didn't get it :-( My hopes in learning more in school are postponed so I bide my time learning Arabic, and reading your awesome blog along with others that deal with the Middle East (I found American Bedu's blog months ago and I enjoy hers as well!)

    I tried really hard to get a visa to visit Saudi Arabia (Still trying!) and even looking into finding work there (I have many friends from there). I enjoyed living in Saudi Arabia vicariously through your writings because that's the best I can do at the moment, LOL. I was thinking a long time ago of creating a blog and write about my travel experiences from the Gulf, but was thinking it wouldn't be interesting enough. Your blog has REALLY inspired me!

    Keep up the great work, I love the photography too! Your son is adorable! Live, love, laugh and enjoy life to the fullest no matter the situation!


  64. Hey Puca (sorry, I don't know how to put the accent on the c :)) - I think the best litmus test here is if she went somewhere outside of Saudi (let's say, Canada). If she is still wearing everything, I would certainly think she is wearing it by choice, and the Saudi law is therefore redundant. You're right though - if one is told enough times that something must be worn or done a certain way to be accepted by society, is it really a choice? This is hardly restricted to Saudi Arabia, however. Even so-called 'free' countries have their own respective societal norms, where going against them may not be in your best interest, negating the idea of 'choice'. Saudi Arabia just amps things up, however, with their religious police.

    Hey Eastern Reflections - as somebody who yearns to escape the west side of North America, I would LOVE to read a blog about your travel experiences, no matter how 'mundane' you may think it might be!!

  65. @ Mel

    I agree, with you. If she/them still wear it once having been let's say 2 years after arriving to a western country, I'd accept is her choice.

    Probably you won't find de ç in your PC, as you won't find ñ either.

    ç is commonly used by french, portuguese, turkish and catalan language (one of my 2 mother tongues), and maybe some others.

    ñ...100% spanish (my other mother tongue).

  66. Chiara, yes I have read her book; and there is also a Book called "In Search of Fatima" about a young Palestinian woman searching her memories and in actuality for the woman who used to work in her home before the State of Israel was created- she has pictures showing the Palestinian women of her childhood- hijabless as well. The same can be said of Iran- but then there I am never sure what is what- even after reading a couple of books like "Lipstick Jihad", Persepolis, and even the Lolita of Tehran book...

    True all became more conservative in their own ways recently if you consider history's time-line (a blink of an eye).

    Y es verdad Puca- tanto repetir que te lo crees.- so much repetition of something and you believe it is "your choice" to follow what is being said to be accepted, to be respectable, whatever other rationalization you may have to do so.

    My issue is when those who had other lives, other lifestyles; suddenly upon conversion believe their original culture(s), language(s) loose all validity. I am mixed, but I still live almost as close to my culture(s) and use the languages I was taught; with the only exception that now I wear hijab and am Muslim (and in both cases the choice was mine- not because of my sharing part of my genetic makeup with an Arab that found his religion later in life to his advantage).

    There is good and bad in everything- but a balance is what every human seeks to walk upright.

  67. Susie, you devil you! Getting creative here posting other people's well crafted comments. Ilse.

  68. Susie,

    While i can appreciate the Saudi woman's view that she is not oppressed and am glad that she doesn't feel that way, I can state with certainty that anyone who does not have freedom to truly choose for themselves is, in fact, oppressed.

    In Saudi, all women, including expats, must wear an abaya in public... one cannot choose to go out, even if it is 40 degrees and 100 percent humidity, in jeans and a loose, modest shirt. Which, BTW, would be much more practical in the heat.

    Saudi woman needs to examine the statistics a bit more regarding job opportunities in the west. What studies actually show is that, while looks may help some obtain a job, they will not keep it without the skills and abilities necessary to actually perform the work.

    Nobody in the US can make it on looks alone: the competition is fierce and expectations are high. Women are expected to look professional, be sharp and work hard. As the saying goes, a woman has to work twice as hard to be considered half a good as a man.

    Plus, some of Saudi woman's generalizations about western women are just downright silly. Does she really think only young beautiful women are loved, employed, successful and that everyone else is forgotten like trash? Several of my successful, popular, bright, happily married, middle-aged friends would be very amused by this statement.

    And just look at female politicians in the UK and the US. Would anyone assume that Margaret Thatcher was PM because she was hot? (no offense to Margaret).
    Or that Hillary Clinton was a Senator then a presidental candidate because she was young and beautiful? Or that they were thrown out like trash?

    What about western actresses? Meryl Streep, Helen Mirren, Emma Thompson, Judy Dench, to name a few, all successful and popular, and all over 50.

    And can Saudi woman really think that working with men is the reason women are raped? This assumption is just wrong, period. The psychology of rape is well documented and easily researched and is not based on working with the opposite sex.

    And while it is true that western women did not always have the rights we enjoy today, we do now because strong, brave women got out, worked hard and fought for change. These women wanted and successfully obtained equal rights in order to protect and respect themselves.


  69. I wonder when these 'western' people stop talking and interfering with others issues and others customs and cultures.

    we, dont interfere with US and other western countries social problems (may be you see there are no such problems in west)

    so mind your own business. pleeeese

  70. @ ismail

    If we'd miss us!!


    I do not agree that you don't interfere with US or other western countries. In a globalized society, we are all condemned to understan each other. There's no shells anymore as we can not hide problems, differences, anything...

  71. if there are 'real' problems talk abt it, to make it correct, not just to criticize or to prove that
    'we' are better and civilized than 'them' who are living is deserts.

    and for a better understanding between cultures first you have to admit the differences, and dont act as superior ones.

    and I have seen many blogs of westeners who live in Middle east , and most of them just simply criticize everey thing related to arabs/muslims

    and for note : Iam not an arab. Iam Maldivian.

  72. "If there are 'real' problems talk abt it, to make it correct, not just to criticize or to prove that
    'we' are better and civilized than 'them' who are living is deserts."

    Susie and others here ARE talking about it. It's not just criticism and using it to claim "superiority". As for correcting it....well, me thinks you would then claim "westerners trying to stick their noses where it's none of their business"'s not others who should be making the corrections, it's up for people WITHIN a country and culture to make changes....and if you have read arab news lately and other sources, women ARE fighting to make changes. Ever heard of Wajeha Al-Huwaider?

    And yes there are westerners that do act like they are superior....that's a reflection of them as a person and not the culture in entirety. I've been in the mid-east, I met plenty of people also very critical of the west (its culture and everything else). Critics and their self-absorbed opinions come from everywhere.

    And no where in Susie's blog has she acted "superior" when comparing the two cultures. She's a woman TRYING to understand Saudi and Islamic culture, and if you think that is her being "superior" or "hypocritical"...then you don't know what "constructive criticism" is.

  73. shadjar..Nice remarks about the infuence of Saudis on Yemenis ..It is so true ..I just can't understand why Egyptians, Yemenis and Syriyan change drastically how they wears when they come to Saudi and how their ladies put on more clothes to cover up .,I can't understand it and i don't see it is a healthy sign .

  74. To understand this whole "why the big change in covering up", y'all need to read about the history in Middle Eastern affairs/politics.

    Countries like Iran, Iraq, Egypt etc had very Western values; you would see women with 60's bobs and shirt dresses walking around...

    Even my mother-in-law has pictures of herself wearing shirt skirts and a fancy up-do at a mixed social!!

    But then the Islamic Revival came about from the 70's, the Shah's government fell into Khomeini influence, the Arab Gulf states got their independence from Britain etc. etc.

    (I'm being very brief just to make a quick point!)

    For me, this is an interesting topic to read about :-)

  75. @Free Spirit- thanks, and yes Saudi influence on Yemen is strong- and maybe my MIL is correct when she points to the men returning from Saudi want to emulate what they saw in KSA- a form of "belonging" to the group- humans are social beings, and always or most of the time look to be a part of "something"- in these case in the ME its about the forms of religiosity found in them. And there are people who want to be a part of it- ant to be accepted and therefore join in on that particular groups ways- even if they run counter to their own culture and way of life... others prefer to remain as they once were and fight to remain the way they did things- which is why I see Yemen as embossing their culture like they do in art- parts of what they see in Saudi (whom many see as the Cradle of their religion- even if not practiced as originally conceived)-hence the women in niqab driving; going to school (when allowed); working and making certain decision like voting not allowed in KSA.

    Where it says that women are to be treated; indoctrinated; and "forced" to believe that to be a part of the good you must allow yourself to be seen as a perpetual minor- a child with no thoughts, ideas or control over your own decisions as a woman, I will never truly understand that part of my culture that believes women are weak- or tries to point to women to deflect other issues created by that thinking. A whole half of society in the dark is like living half way in a tunnel- part of you is in sunlight (the men) the other is in the dark tunnel (the women) and the women can't see what those in the light see- they only go by what they are being told the outside sunlit world is like- and act accordingly (hence the belief that one must conform to live in peace in that dark tunnel). Not a healthy sign at all Free Spirit- not at all.

    Ismail- as humans we will always wonder what other people are doing; and we will make opinions based on what we see in other places- so its natural to want to understand- even when in the trying others will say that its being critical- when its not...

    Susie, like many others have tried to put in context the society they live in, that does not make it wrong, they and us want to understand the WHY things are the way they are.

    Again Susie I apologize for such a long post.

  76. Hi Shadjar - That's really interesting about the Saudi influence in Yemen as far as the niqab goes. And it's great to hear that women maintain the right to drive, education, and work in ways that are restrictive to the women of KSA. I'm thankful that my husband does not insist on my wearing niqab - I can't handle it! Thanks so much for your informative comment.

    Hi Anon/Itchy/Chiara! I've also been told that many women here in KSA did not really start wearing the abaya until the boom of the 1970s. I'm guessing it was in an effort to curb Western influence from seeping in, with all the foreign workers here.

    Hi AbuDhabi/UAE DP - I know that women and men are raised here not to make eye contact (Islam instructs them to lower their gaze). This is something that I just haven't been able to grow accustomed to, coming from a world where eye contact is so important in business and interacting normally on a daily basis. It makes it very difficult to have any kind of exchange, much less form any kind of friendship.

    Hi Puca - I have to agree with you. It's hard to truly believe that covering is 100% her choice, when there is no choice to begin with. I think she made some generalizations that were inaccurate for a large part of Western women who work. Your comment also made me wonder about the pay scale for women here in KSA - whether they are paid equally as men in the same position. Thanks!

    Hi EasternReflections - Gee, I didn't mean to keep you up all night! I think the only possibility of your being granted a visa to KSA would be either for work or maybe Omra. Other than that, single women would be denied entry. Already you have some interesting material for a blog - what you have been through is the beginning of a journey and a fascination that seems as though it will last your lifetime. Everybody has her own unique story - do it! I guarantee that people will find it interesting. Thanks, Alexis - your comment made my day - and my son's too!

  77. Hi Mel - I have seen my share of Saudi women who remove their abayas as soon as they are airborn leaving the country. I've also said this before - a country that needs religious police to enforce the rules of the religion casts doubts, for me, on the integrity of the religion. When freedom of religion is taken away and one religion is forced on everyone, what does that say about the religion itself?

    Hi Shadjar - Balance and moderation - always good things!

    Hi Anon/Ilse - Two people calling me a devil in one post! My image is forever tainted... lol

    Hi Anon/Nola - Thanks for your contribution to the discussion. You bring up some excellent and valid points. Her generalizations are stereo-typical and apply to only a small percentage of Western working women. Thanks again.

    Hi Ismail - I admit that at times my blog contains some posts that some might feel are critical, but for the most part, my blog is positive, upbeat and supportive of the culture, religion, and people of KSA. Discussing my feelings and observations is what my blog is all about - and I am trying to understand things, so if I sound critical, I don't mean to. Thanks for your comment.

  78. Hi EasternReflections - Thanks for your support. You get me. Ismail doesn't.

    Hi FreeSpirit & Aalia - thanks for your comments. I think it's a very interesting subject and warrants discussion too.

    Hi Shadjar - No need to apology for the length of your comments - I enjoy reading your input. Thanks!

  79. Susie, not sure about you but if I even look at another man over here in the eye, he assumes I am interested in him.

    It's a sick mindset, especially when I have had men my dad's age (and older) think I wanna hook-up with them, when all I was doing was seeing if there was any free tables to sit at in the food-court!!

    Once, I ordered a pizza and had to wait in the food court and this skinny (and bald) Arab man sits in the table next to me. I was like "whatever" but he caught my eye and when I got my pizza, he followed me!! Then he tried to give me his number and I was sooooo grossed out because this dude is like my Dad's age :/

    The mentality *over here* is a bit less comfortable in situations like these -- back home I can look around and whatever without someone thinking I am "after something".


  80. yeah I know Wajeha Al-Huwaider.And I can say that she is not a good example for majority of saudi or saudi women. and they dont see her as she is their liberator. but may be there are some other academics and writers who want to change with in islamic standards and arab culture.

    peoples and cultures are different, and east is not west. west is not east. they wont be same. so first thing westerners or 'some' western converts have to remember is this.

    so westenrners dont have to bothered by a BLACK ABAYAA or not driving car in saudi.

    as they are not bothered by Amish caz they wear same colour, same design, and they dont ride cars.

  81. Ok, she may not be a good example. What about the other Saudi women who supported her? Not good examples either? Hmmm, let's see....would you say those dozen or so women that protested back in '91 by driving in the streets of Riyadh and were arrested for it weren't good examples of the majority also? How about Zaynab Hifni who's been harrassed repeatedly for her controversial writings about sex and other taboos in Saudi society? Again, not a good example? Ok, how about the Saudi men who were part of the Ansar Al-Mar'ah group that supported full rights for women in Saudi Arabia. They were disbanded after not being able to gain any government approval. But the efforts made by their founder (A Saudi man) and the men AND women part of it.......they aren't good examples? Please tell me what your idea of a good example would be. I'm all ears!

    And I don't quite understand the other stuff you are saying. If you could clarify please.

    Susie: Unfortunately, I've discovered just how hard it is over the past two years. I did manage to finally have a phone conversation with (forgot the person's title exactly) who granted the visas in D.C. and I was basically told I'd have to have a Saudi citizen assign himself as my sponsor and he'd have to fill out and receive approval from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He'd be given approval papers and a serial number that I would have to get and then go to the embassy in D.C.. I was told that they then don't care why I am going there, if they have those certain papers and that serial number, then I'd get a visa. BUT it would require "wasta"....connections. One embassy worker was like, just keep trying. The father of a close Saudi friend even tried to go to the embassy in Riyadh himself thinking maybe his connections with the army would help, but it didn't. I felt so bad b/c his father's pretty old, and he hates going out so much, but I truly appreciate the effort he made in even just going to find out. Hopefully something will work out. Looking forward to more of your posts!

  82. Hi Aalia - Maybe it's because I am old enough to be your mother and you are a cute young thing, but I really don't get bothered by men here, but I'm sure other women do. I think men everywhere in the world probably have that mentality, but maybe it's just more pronounced here because of the way the society is set up? Just guessing...

    Ismael, My Dear Boy - There are Westerners who ARE bothered by the abaya and not being allowed to drive in KSA. There are many Westerners like me who live here. Being denied the right to drive here has severely impaired my quality of life. I'm not lucky enough to have my own driver like many women here.
    You are entirely missing the whole point by bringing up the Amish. The Amish have CHOSEN what they wear and they have CHOSEN not to drive cars. They do have a choice. Women in KSA do not have choices - that is the main point of this discussion.

    For those of you who do not know who Waheja Al-Huwaider is, she is a Saudi feminist. You can read an excellent blog post with some of her writings at Sand Gets in My Eyes blog:

  83. Hi EasternReflections - Many people here who speak out for change have been jailed or worse, so that likely deters many more from speaking out.
    I really think the easiest way for you to come here would be to get a job within the Kingdom. There are many jobs always available, especially in the teaching and medical fields. Good Luck!

  84. I understand her point of view but I am not sure segregating the sexes is the best way to go about this. I for one get tired of defending the fact that I like socializing with men, and I see nothing wrong with this. Women in the west are accessible and are generally not virgins when they get married and none of the men I have ever met cared about this. I suppose there are a few who might care but thats there problem. I think that in America segregating the sexes would just make matters worse if you think about it! I certainly don't condone pornography but I also see nothing wrong with women appearing on billboards, in magazines, in beauty pageants, or whatever. I won't appologize for liking it when a man notices me. Infact it makes me feel good if done tastefully, on a bad day when I'm feeling really ugly lol it makes me feel good. I just don't see whats wrong with this! I really don't. As for older women being judged as not beautiful anymore once they reach a certain age I think this is changing! I really do. You know men are judged too, if you think about it. Maybe thats why hair care products and hair coloring for men are so big in the US. As for extra marital affairs this is between a husband and wife I certainly don't want the government sticking their nose in mine and my husbands business. What we do in our own home is not their business. I think I can make these decisions for myself. I defend my right to invite whomever I want into my home and socialize with my male Iraqi friend who just happens to be my best friend. Scandelous I know!!! I know another guy that I have known since we were both babies I know his whole family, why should I have to stop being friends with him because he is a man. He's not even sexually attractive to me in the least. Men and women can be friends contrary to what people think! My husband has a woman friend he has known since highschool now she's married and we all hangout together. My husband helped her move some furniture when her husband asked him too because he had to work. Scandelous I know! So while I respect her views I also defend mine and I don't apologize at all for the way I feel and the american culture! I wasn't a virgin when I got married and my husband could care less! Call me a slut I don't care and I don't feel bad at all!

  85. Susie, you are wasting your time in this sneaky website. You can't change a whole culture, which has been for more than 1400 years, and society, for your own benefit. My wife, who spook with you,felt shame when she read about everything that you don't like as she said ''its her opinion, but not a facts''.

    We live in the US, and we are bothered by people who walk on streets and partly naked,and scientists call it now ''The Visual Pollution'' one of the several factors of Pollution.

    Here in California people specially kids on streets want us to vote against the proposition 8, which is the state Constitution to restrict the definition of marriage to opposite-sex couples and eliminated same-sex couples' right to marry.

    My question to Susie is: Can you change your nation mentally to think that the same sex marriage is wrong and against humanity and purpose of life?

  86. This is totally unrelated to your post. I just wanted to greet you a Happy Mother's Day!

  87. "My question to Susie is: Can you change your nation mentally to think that the same sex marriage is wrong and against humanity and purpose of life?"

    The answer is: Yes, s/he can.

  88. I'd say if you are bothered by half naked people then go back to your own country. You have a right to believe what you want and I respect that so you should respect the right of Americans to walk around half naked!

  89. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  90. @ Ismail

    I do not know you, so I can not point out your strengths or virtues, but for what I’ve read in your comments, I can tell you what you lack, and that is tolerance.

    Ismail you treat as a whole block and use the term western people with a pejorative meaning as context shows, and you’ve made very clear you don’t respect us; you’re doing the same you criticise about us.

    Susie’s blog is called Susie’s big adventure, an American woman moves to Saudi Arabia.
    Not called Susie’s nightmare, an American woman that hates Saudi Arabia.

    There’s a difference. I think she puts in context KSA society and compares it with what she knows, I think is a positive blog, sometimes she shows us some very interesting and good things and values of the country, and sometimes she shows what shocks her, always in a really positive way, never attacking it whatever it is, in fact she always try to understand and explain why those differences are so we all can learn.

    If you take the time to read it all again, you’ll see comments don’t try to be critics but to be reflections, not judgements but point of views to make us think, It is interesting and enriches your mind exchanging opinions from people all over the world.

    You are the one that thinks we think “'we' are better and civilized than 'them' who are living is deserts.”, I’ve only heard that from you. And you’re the one that says “and for a better understanding between cultures first you have to admit the differences, and don’t act as superior ones”, and still the only one who just does the opposite of what you say we should do. Contradictory no?

    @ skymooood

    I think history proves your theory might be wrong; a culture which has been for more than 1400 years can be changed, and even disappear.

    About dressing ways… you know that bad taste happens. Whether unveiled or not, we all go covered, in west and east, as we wear clothes. People have the choice to buy and wear what they want, but not everybody is born with sublime taste. It’s up to each one of us to decide our image toward others. Still we decide. Woman in KSA do not have this choice yet.

    Sorry if what written sounds hard, written things sometimes seem harder than meant, I am trying to say what I said in a respectful tone, bust as English is not my mother tongue I’m not really sure sounds relaxed, as I am when writing so.

  91. I wonder when these 'western' people stop talking and interfering with others issues and others customs and cultures......
    Arabs come to the US and do the same thing. There was a case in Florida where a woman did not want to take off her black Abaya for her drivers license picture and after much argument they finally allowed her to keep it on. Why does she feel the need to try and change our laws? Why was there a muslim woman complaining about the clothes the girls were wearing to my sons school and also about the class parties for Christmas and other Christian holidays. When will muslims stop talking bad about our culture and trying to change our laws and culture? There are many many more instances here that I can point out but I won't I think you get the point! Also there are lots of arabs and muslims who talk about american women and call them sluts and easy as well as worse. So don't say that the east doesn't stick it's nose in our business or make assumptions about us. I know because I talk to muslims and arabs in my city. I personally could care less what they say, I love makeup clothes and MEN and I'm not changing nor apologizing and defending!

  92. Susie, this is un-related but can uu please remove that awful website link advertising the "Mohammed t-shirt"?

    Thanks & Happy Mothers Day :-D

    Am sure Adam has something up his sleeve... or maybe not *lol* JK JK!!

  93. One more point and I'll shut up...I think Saudi women love to feel beautiful and sexy too. Why else are they buying all that lingerie and makeup as well as fashionable clothes? I have to ask what in the heck is wrong with a woman wanting to feel beautiful and attractive? Isn't this just a natural thing for women?

  94. Thank you so much for posting both sides of the story. Real food for thought.

  95. @Ismail you said, "peoples and cultures are different, and east is not west. west is not east. they wont be same. so first thing westerners or 'some' western converts have to remember is this."

    Ever been through "Saudi Indoctrination" when you become a Muslim convert? Their point is to take away your culture, your language, and replace it with their's because it is much better; "superior" -to use one of your words/concepts- they demonize everything so much - that many not only lose their identity as an individual, Human Being; but their Faith as well because they can't cope with so much "hell" on earth mentality- should take a walk around a few pyschiatric wards and you will understand.

    The West vs. East is something we need to put aside as it is "combat" mentality- "you against me"- "us other than them"- and understand each other- we are not as dissimilar as you think...I have met non-Muslims whose demeanor is more in tune with what the Prophet SAW said and did, and Muslims whose lives couldn't be further from the Faith that spawned them into life...

    But then again one must remember that if the Prophet SAW could stand up in respect as a funeral procession for a Jew passed in front of his house; and could go to seek out if the person who always poured litter in his front yard was ok- because he hadn't done so in a few days...then why can't we as Muslims do the same...have respect and consideration for others and not stand in a rigid pose- a hard wind and you could get knocked down...

    @Aalia - I get what you mean and young is not an adjective you would use on me; it happened to me while living in Yemen -I was waiting for my husband on the street curb as he crossed with some juices in his hand- one man coming out of a restaurant with two women and nearly broke his neck straining to see something of me as I stood there minding my own business- And I was not only in niqab and abaya, but had dark sunglasses on, black gloves, black socks and black shoes! He couldn't tell anything about me other that this "specter" (my feelings at that particular moment in time) was standing on the sidewalk! My husband nearly fell over laughing because my spanish came out with a "y tu que miras" -A "what are you looking at" statement...

    My husband chuckled later on in response and said the man like so many others in Yemen was staring at another "black wall"- if I'd been a young man disguised as a woman (does happen) the staring man would not have noticed the difference!

    Eeek, Yuck and double WTF! You totally cover, they look at you; you cover modestly (which is what most people do any way", they look at you: you "shway" cover and they look at you; you disappear and they look for you! Sick!

    BTW the Amish are protected by the Law of Religious Freedom in the US to live as they want to live; but that does not mean the rest non-Amish are forced to live as they chose to live.

  96. Hey Skymoood - I understand you find western culture uncivilized and crude, with people "walking naked" all over the place. I would agree there are some yucky parts to this culture (see: the Britney Spears phenomenon). Personally myself, I am not trying to push for exporting this kind of "western culture" to Saudi Arabia (using the definitions of this bandied about by some of the extremists). I think what most of the posters (incl. Susie and myself) here would like to see is more female empowerment in Saudi Arabia. Getting past the attire, this means more freedom for females to pursue their dreams and reach their fullest potentials.

    What if there was an extremely smart and talented woman who has the brains and talent to become a successful surgeon saving lives in Saudi Arabia and has offers of scholarships to study at places like Harvard or McGill or another real nice North American university, but couldn't because her maharem denied her? How about female Saudis who would like to own a business to share a brilliant idea with the world, but can't because of the rules? When Susie mentioned that a majority of Saudi females go to school, but never actually use their degrees - that's a large group of talented people who could potentially help make Saudi Arabia even greater!

    Don't get me wrong, I sigh and roll my eyes whenever some misguided person who calls herself a "feminist" sneers at stay-at-home moms here in the West, saying that they could go become successful lawyers and such. The key point is that these ladies have CHOICE, and are exercising it by staying at home to care for their children.

    Considering how often people are equating this freedom of choice for females with total debauchery and half-naked Paris Hilton-types, I think the mention of Prop 8 and same-sex marriage was oddly appropriate. Canada legalized gay marriage a few years ago, and some people seemed to fear that this would completely destroy society itself and result in people marrying their cats and other weird ideas. I am Canadian, and I would like to report that there hasn't been that kind of hysterics, years later. Besides, as I have observed, there are many straight people who have done a fine job ruining the sanctity of marriage, in the West AND the East, for a very long time.

  97. "Ever been through "Saudi Indoctrination" when you become a Muslim convert? Their point is to take away your culture, your language, and replace it with their's because it is much better"

    And that opens up a whole other can of worms in regards to Islamicisation (sp?) and Arabization (sp again?)....which I have problems with as well.

    Skymood, how is Susie attempting to change this society for HER benefit? Again, nowhere is she doing this. She is asking genuine questions and making honest observations from HER POINT OF VIEW. Is no one allowed to do that these days without being accused of meddling in others' affairs and/or prejudice???????? I am getting SICK of people throwing around the word "evil orientalist!" at any westerner who analyzes and observes other Asian and Middle Eastern cultures either for academia or as an individual. It gets old!

    Susie: Happy Mother's Day to you! I hope Adam does something sweet....if he knows what's good for him! :-p

  98. Susie, I'd like to wish you a happy Mother's Day to you as well!

  99. Hi SanAntCicily - One thing that I do really miss here is socializing with men. I have never and would never screw around on my husband. I have had men friends and I have worked with men all my life. For Muslims to assume that I have jumped into bed with any or all of those men is absurd and insulting. It is totally possible to be friends and work together without it involving sex, but people here don't believe it is possible. So, Cicily, I guess I will stand with you over in the Scandalous section!

    Hi Skymooood - Did you just call my blog "sneaky?" What? I am not so stupid to think that I can change the culture here, nor would I want to - but I would like to try to understand the things that I find confusing and nonsensical. If you can't see that my goal is to try to better understand this culture, then you are totally misunderstanding my intentions. I try to be as fair as possible and that's why I published this post in a working Saudi woman's own words. I'm sure that there are things you and your wife would not like about living in the states too. We are all entitled to our own opinions, and I stand by what I said in my earlier post - that I do still feel that Saudi women are this country's biggest untapped natural resource, and it's a shame.

  100. Hi Skymoood - Honestly, I don't like seeing how some women in the US dress so skimpily in public either, or boys with their pants hanging down so far you can see their underwear - but it is their right to do so. If they want to present themselves as cheap, tacky, and immoral, they can in the US. The rest of us may not like it, but I personally don't want to be told what I can wear, or how I should dress. I want to wear what I WANT - it should be my choice. Here in KSA, I don't have that choice, and yes, it bothers me.
    As far as changing how people feel about same sex marriage, this too is a personal matter/choice which I do not want dictated to me by the government. I actually believe that we are all God's creations. Exactly how is a gay couple's relationship hurting you? It's not for me or you to say that it is wrong or against humanity. And if you want to go there, what Bush did to the world in his 8 yrs running the USA into the ground was WRONG and AGAINST HUMANITY! Puuuh-leaze - let's get our priorities straight here.

    Hi Isladenebz - Thank you so much and same to you!

    To AbuDhabi/UAE DP - Thanks for the link. Very interesting article.

    Hi Puca - Thank you so much for explaining my intentions to Ismail and Skymoood. I hope they get it now! I don't think you sounded hard at all.

    Hi SanAntCicily - Thanks for pointing out that being critical of other societies and peoples works both ways. And you're right, Saudi women do like to feel beautiful and sexy.

    Hi Aalia - I removed that link - I hadn't had a chance to look at it - so thanks! And Happy Mothers Day to you too!

    Hi LadyFi - Yes, I think we can all learn by being open and listening to the other side. Thanks.

  101. Hi Shadjar - It's funny - I have been asked so many times here: which do I like better, the US or KSA? My answer is always that there are good and bad things about both. I am always miffed at the question in the first place. In the states, whenever I talked to someone from another country who was now living in the US, I NEVER asked them a question like that! It's presumptuous of anyone to think that people would spurn their native countries in favor of another. I just don't get that. No matter how long I'm here, I will always be an American in my heart. I don't feel that one country is better than another. These differences are what makes the world so interesting and fascinating, and I would never try to take that away from any culture. I'm surprised when other people don't feel the same way...
    And what is with these men everywhere??? Even all boarded up and they're still sniffin around - geez! Thanks for your input.

    Hi Mel - There are so many good things about Western culture that KSA is missing out on because it thinks that anything Western is tainted and immoral. I think they could pick and choose a bit more widely and still maintain their morality here to their standards - but they don't trust the citizens here to be able to do that. I was interested to hear about how Canada has faired in the years since same sex marriage was legalized.
    Thanks for commenting and Happy Mothers Day to you too.

    Hi EasternReflections - Thank you for explaining to Skymoood. I think he's reading a lot more into what I am saying and doesn't quite get it.
    Thanks and Happy Mothers Day to You. Adam was an angel today - I think I would go crazy here without him...

  102. just wanted to quickly point out that segregation is not about making sure two people who are not married have exactly sex...

    we are told in the Quran not to follow in Satan's footsteps and that can include working close with an un-related man *or* spending time alone with him.

    islamically we are allowed to speak to men/and men are allowed to speak wit women *only for the purpose of school/work/other important reasons like doctor visits etc.* except it appears Saudi has really taken it to the limits...

    while we can be sure of our own selves, like not ever wanting to be unfaithful -- what about joe somebody at work? statistics dont like; the majority of extra-marital affairs do stem from a work-related person...

    anyways to address some of the commentators here:

    SanAntonioSicily said,One more point and I'll shut up...I think Saudi women love to feel beautiful and sexy too. Why else are they buying all that lingerie and makeup as well as fashionable clothes? I have to ask what in the heck is wrong with a woman wanting to feel beautiful and attractive? Isn't this just a natural thing for women?

    Of course Saudis wanna feel beautiful & sexy!! They;re women!! But the make-up & lingerie are for their husbands *only*, and have you ever been to an Arab ladies' only gathering? It's like everyone is wearing their most expensive outfit, jewelery, watches and other stuff; kinda why I don't like going to those things because it's just a big show-off extravaganza... But anyways just because a woman doesn't show off her body and perfectly made-up face in public, doesn't mean she can't rock the look in front of women only or her husband/relatives :-D

    Shadjar OMG since moving to UAE it's def. something I have had to get used to... Unfortunately the majority of the men here do not lower their gazes and will look at anyone that's a woman; covered or not :/

    EasternReflections -- I have been through the "Saudi indoctrine" except I call it "converticitus" -- you can check it out here if ya wanna :-D

    Um, sorry Susie I kinda hijacked your thread but these are the types of comment section convos I like to participate in :-)

    Have a good day!!

  103. Aalia, "converticitus", LOL. I love that word and your post about it.

    I always wondered why so many converts take on Islamic/Arabic names when it's not required, and also take on the different modes of dress. One Saudi friend said people like to take on names that are more "Islamic than Arabic" such as Abdullah "slave of God" or Abdul-Aziz or such names like that, not necessarily emulating Arab names, but trying to honor God (so he tried to explain). That makes a little more sense to me, but still, there are plenty of names in other cultures that pertain to God as well, so again I don't see the point. Also, I asked an Omani friend once and he tried to explain that it's just people wanting to emulate Muhammad more and since Muhammad was Arab, then well..."what's wrong with them wanting to do it?" didn't satisfy my question. I can understand the Prophet Muhammad being the #1 person to emulate as a Muslim...but to transform yourself? In the past, it was offensive to Muslims to be called "Mohammedans" by Western scholars b/c they made it clear that they aren't worshipping Mohammad or considered him divine in any way. Simply a human vessel chosen by God to pass on the message of Islam. Whereas many Christian denominations believe in the divinity of Christ (NOT ALL, mind you, yes, there are some that believe Christ wasn't divine in any way)...thus Christian = Christ-like.

    I don't have any personal experience, but from what I hear, it seems like the Saudis that are promoting Salafism and their ideas are really pushy about the whole idea of "being a Muslim = Being more Arab". I am wondering if it was always this way, Arabization disguised as Islamicization... or more like "it's what comes with the package" type of deal; free abaya with face veil, Arab name, new clothing, and a new identity included upon conversion. Shipping and handling free of charge.

    Susie: I agree too with your sentiments about sexuality. The government needs to stay out of people's lives. And of course the naysayers, all I have to more concerned about your own soul and how God thinks of it rather than what others do with theirs.

  104. @Ester Reflections- I spent sometime- eons ago with a grow of Hispanics that converted to Islam in the 70's! And they all agreed on your description, because that is exactly what they told took them decades to undo the damage of Arabization/Saudization...hard decades; some left to come back milder and softer; others left completely; and a group of them sought Sufism as a means to truly feel Islamized and to bring balance into their lives- and I don't think this the time or place to speak of Sufisim- it is Susie's blog and don't want to hijack, as much as I have already done!

    But it is hard for some...I work in a Hospital with a large prison and psychiatric ward- and on Friday one of the patients blew a casket and asked for a Shaikh or Imam- I called the brothers on my list- since these calls come to me as our Division also handles Chaplaincy- And the report back to me was that the man had hit a "wall" as he saw the "kuffar" everywhere! I have a pretty good idea where that is coming from...the brother who attended him said he would like for me to call a Chaplaincy meeting so I could discuss with the other men (sole woman on the Council-I represent the Administration in this case) our options; because I had previously brought this up but they had never come face to face with the reality... and it has hit them hard, so they want to talk to discuss again my suggestions... a good start to helping what is THE Weakest Link among converts (something no one wants to talk about- like alcoholism and drug abuse among Muslims- US and Foreign- I know I have the staggering numbers from my hospital alone!)
    At the moment that is the best I can do for fellow Muslims, it may not be enough though- Allahu Alim

  105. to Eastern Reflections- apologies- my hand-eye coordination is starting to get impaired by my meds! LOL

  106. Hi Aalia - Your comments are always welcomed and appreciated. I always find your insight very helpful to me in trying to understand things. So, thanks!

    Hi EasternReflections - I do sometimes feel that I am expected to just forget about my former life over here - to disregard birthdays & Mothers Day & other such holidays, for example. I resent this attitude and it makes me long for my home even more. Over here, there is no celebration of other cultures & their customs, which is something I used to love about America and definitely miss. I think that this denial does not help Saudis in understanding or accepting other people. And in my eyes it creates more problems. Thanks for your comments.

    Hi Shadjar - Your job sounds VERY interesting and rewarding. No wonder you have such great insight!

  107. Shadjar, that's a very interesting post. And yes, I agree with susie, that sounds like a very interesting job you have! When I hear the word "kuffar", I get so annoyed. I was discussing with a friend about a SUPPOSED incident that happened in a North African country where a non-Muslim teacher was beaten to death for even touching a Qu'ran. Some people have this idea that non-Muslims touching it is a sacrilege. I can see that being a view in the poorer African countries where other beliefs not having anything to do with Islam are incorporated with it. My friend said that that is a ridiculous belief and has no standing in Islam and said "if you want to convert someone, how can you do it if they aren't even allowed to touch the holy book you are showing them?". That last comment kind of irked me though. Maybe I am nitpicking, but it came across as, well you can touch it if you can convert etc. Can someone who is non-Muslim and no intentions of converting still touch it then if you have that mindset? But you know, a lot of conservative Catholics raised h*&$ when Pope John Paul II was visiting Syria years ago and a picture was taken of him holding a Qu'ran and kissing it. They thought the Pope HIMSELF was disrespecting the Church for paying respects to the Qu'ran!!!! Unbelievable.

    Your mentioning of Sufism reminded me of a friend who once smiled in amusement when I mentioned Sufism and he implied that Sufism isn't REAL Islam and he finds it amusing that many converts turn to Sufism more out of the idea of its "hippiness" or "coolness" than actual spiritual fulfillment. I didn't know how to respond to his comments because I had never heard that before.

    Susie, if it's not too personal, I was wondering how well Adam has adjusted to it as well? Back in the States, I assume he practiced Islam as well since his father is Muslim. But is he into other holidays and such? Has he celebrated his birthday? Also, on a side note, I remember reading an article that birthday celebrations are becoming popular in the mid-east, even in Saudi Arabia. But hard line clerics and the religious groups of course demand that it stop. One Saudi girl interviewed said that for her 18th birthday she just invited a few girlfriends over for some cake and tea, but even that was viewed as too much by others.

    Sorry for the hijacking, susie. I'm a motormouth sometimes, unfortunately.

  108. Susie and Eastern Reflection- it is a very exciting job!!! I have a position where creativity is the name of the game; thinking out of your and everyone else's box! I form part of what my boss likes to call the Think Tank- we are given Patient Safety measures, initiatives, rules and regulations and our job is to make them into Clinical Guidelines, Protocols, Monitoring projects and renovation as well as re-engineering projects...we get a large volume of projects to do, each interconnected to saving and bettering a Patient's life in the leanest, smoothest possible way...Our Division heads the Quality Assurance Department, Social Work, Case Management, Chaplaincy, Research and the whole of Medical Staff. A full circle as you can see. And that I am the only Muslim woman in the complement of the team is all by the Grace and Mercy of Allah, to Him all gratitude; because I truly believe in Patient Safety and the Care they receive at our hands...May Allah grant me as much time as possible to continue to do what He is asking of me...

    I have always wondered when exactly did the practice of lack of celebrations come into least in KSA...because I know they celebrate all sorts of holidays all over the ME, including Mother's Day and Birthday's. A funny thing- in Yemen no one celebrates their birthday because they don't know when they were born and few even have a birth and therefore no marriage certificate (You need both to come before a Judge to certify it- but it makes talaq that much easier, unfortunately!)

    Most people give a "guess" estimate of how old they may be...but when you look at them calendar and physical don't seem to match...And since the Eid's are all they know- when announced-(remembering the illiteracy rate in Yemen) what happens in between is any body's guess. We have been keeping the birth records of the tribe for the past 25 years or so. We have gotten calls in the middle of the night to tell us "fulan" just had a baby boy, or girl (though that last took a bit of doing on our part with the girls) and what the name is so we can record it. Though with one BIL it took a few months to get the name straight for the first born son because everyone had an opinion (my BIL had two different kunyas in that same amount of weeks! LOL)....

    OK, I am the bigger motormouth here Eastern Reflections for sure! LOL :)

  109. @eastern reflections: Sufism as not being "real" Islam...I've heard that one before. It's funny. Most of the converts I know that eventually lean towards Sufism site deeper spirituality that they're not finding.

  110. I don't disagree with your point on modesty Aaila one bit, If you look at my pics you will see that I am always dressed pretty modestly in a pair on nice shorts and a nice shirt or blouse, I just don't believe that it is good for a society when the government starts telling people what they can and can't do. Yes there are people in America who run around half naked in public but thats the part of freedom we just put up with. I would much rather put up with that than having the government start telling us all what we can wear and do and what religion we must practice! About the sagging pants yes it is irritating but this is usually a phase that kids go through and if you come back and look at these kids 10 or 15 years later I guarantee that a lot of them will look like totally different people maybe even have family and children of their own who are also pushing the limits and driving their parents crazy! Sometimes you have to look deeper into a situation to trully understand! As for segregation of the sexes so that affairs don't happen, Sauid men come to the US or go to Dubai and other countries and have affairs all the time behind their wives backs. There is always a way around the rules, one example is temporary marriage! The only difference in Saudi Arabia is that women don't have the chance because they are heavily guarded. They must put up with their mans infidelities and have no choice, except maybe divorce which has some serious consequences for a woman in Saudi Arabia, loss of children etc. There are drawbacks to living in the US and well as KSA but if I have to choose, honestly I choose the US! Hands Down!!!

  111. One more thing...I'm not sure that pushing the limits is always a bad thing!!!

  112. So many great comments and discussions from your post--thanks for your openness Susie!

  113. Hi Susie! I am a Muslim woman living in the US and thank God I have the right to choose. I dont wear the hijab and I cant imagine not having a choice. The govt oppresses saudi women as a whole if they cant drive. Theres no logical reason why women should not be able to drive except that other forces at play want to keep them down. Some people dont want to see it for what it is-oppression.

  114. I'm tired of hearing that women in the US are raped for working with men or dressing like sluts and not modestly! For crying out loud old ladies get raped, are they sexually attractive? Ugly hideous covered up women get raped, read the studies, rape has nothing to do with clothes or working with men, in all the years I worked with men I never got raped or had them make advances on me, sometimes all I worked with were men and I can tell you that we had fun and I was treated respectfully, and they always stood up for me and protected me when necessary. Not all men are perverts who can't work with women, they can control themselves and respect women. This is up to men! I guess some men are just better than others. I say bravo to all the men who treated me with respect, never made advances on me, on bad days made me feel good, and yes Im certain they found me attractive but never treated me disrespectfully because of that. Some of those men were attractive, but its called self controll and respect and friendship!

  115. You know another thing, this is funny I just remembered this but a muslim woman came in to my work and me and the guys had a very discussion about this and they felt that women were oppressed in Islam and they would never make their wives wear that stuff! Now if she wants to fine with me, but I just find our conversation interesting and their point of view. They felt that their wives should be free to do whatever they wanted and wear whatever they want! They were against women covering up! This just proves my point that not all men are out of control and can't control themselves and they have no problem working side by side with women, being friends with women, and feel that women should have all the freedoms men have!

  116. I think she is spot on. I've found Saudi woman to be anything but invisible and unapproachable. We tend to put too much into a few yeards of fabric. And such voices on either extreme do nothing more than perpetuate the idea that covered women are limited. I disagree with both.

  117. I have not read the comments above,nor have a ever read this blog before, so forgive me if i am repeating someone.

    ...However, lets not forget about the rich arab men who quite frequently come to use of prostitution while illegal, but very much common. So much for faith? Or the upper class Saudi kids educated in London, who start respecting their religion only when their family is visiting. I have become quite acquainted with the upper class Arab youth that would do narcotics all night but would request that their faces were blurred if you ever put them in a facebook photo where men and women were in the same room...and they would be best friends with you...but not in front of their sister/brother/uncle...etc..

    "Protected, loved, respected" yes maybe in some cases... but from what i've has appeared so fake...

    probably in their home country they act very differently... but can allah not see you in london or... new york?

  118. to add another quick point... didnt saudi arabia just pass a law that you can slap your women if she spends too much money ....

    respect? and if she works ...the money that she earned herself ? that she is not allowed to spend... not being allowed to make decisions is not respect to me... that is oppression...

    i understand if you dont want to be seen as an object of desire and thats your choice, but how can you defend the point above?

    (and i am not anti islam or anti arabic culture, but i feel there are quite a few confusing statements this woman's comment)

  119. Anonymous....I know a lot of Saudis that studied at my university. There were quite a few that acted "wild", but I saw that as no different from many American students who were going out, getting blazing drunk, smoking everything put in front of them, sleeping around and then were on their BEST BEHAVIOR when their parents came to visit on Parents' Day. Kids are kids, no matter what culture. There were a few Saudis that I am close friends with who didn't follow that lifestyle though. They studied a lot, worked hard, were very pleasant, and it had nothing to do with them being more religiously observant either. It had to do with their character and personality.

    Also, I read about that article. It wasn't a law at all. A prominent cleric said in an interview it was ok to slap the wife in the face. Since that came out a lot of other religious scholars and clerics have attacked him for it though. Unfortunately, since the cleric that said it is a prominent one, many people will take his word for it, even if there is no actual law. But hey, many people accepted Jerry Falwell's statement that 9/11 happened b/c of America's acceptance of know, like homosexuals, pro-choice crowd, pagans, feminists, etc.

    At the same time...not long ago, several clerics said it was acceptable and even laudable for women to fight back physically if their husband beat them. That was only in the news briefly though.

  120. Hi EasternReflections - That's horrible about the teacher who was killed for touching the Koran - that makes no sense whatsoever, since all the Muslims I've met seem like they want everyone in the world to be Muslim! I don't get that incident at all. People need to stop taking offense to every little innocent thing that happens!
    Regarding my son - this move has been much harder on him than me, and for that I feel really badly. He began learning about Islam as a child in the states, but my husband wasn't really consistent about taking him to the mosque for lessons. I have always celebrated the Christian & US holidays and that my husband expects me to just totally disregard that part of my life I feel is unfair. Our first year here, we did nothing for any of the holidays and for Adam and me, it was very depressing. This past year I insisted on recognizing those holidays and it has made a difference for us, even though it's nowhere near what we used to do. For Adam's birthday in January, he invited over a few friemds, and they had pizza and cake and they all had fun. But my mother-in-law who lives right across the hall, wasn't told about it because she would frown on that.

  121. Hi Shadjar - To me, the two "holidays" that are "celebrated" here - well, there is just not much to them at all besides businesses being closed and families getting together. There are not the various traditions of the different holidays like I am used to in the states. I'll probably get into trouble for saying this, but I find the holidays here very boring and nondescript.

    Hi AbuDhabi/UAE DP - I can't contribute to that discussion since I don't know enough about it.

    Hi SanAntCicily - Good points.

    Hi Chiara - Thanks - join in any time!

    Hi Hijabwoes - I totally agree. Thanks for commenting.

    Hi SanAntCicily - You are right. Rape is a violent crime. Children are raped too. Men need to be able to control themselves and stop blaming the women for everything. I have worked with lots of men and was never raped either. It's entirely possible for men and women to be friends, to have professional relationships, and to have respect for one another, without sex being involved. That men in the Middle East cannot behave in a civilized manner around women is a bad reflection on them, but the women here continue to be punished for their bad behavior.

    Hi Nzingha - I find that more often than not, veiled women do not make eye contact, much less speak to me unless absolutely necessary. For these reasons, I see the veil as a wall between us that is, for the most part, impenetrable.

    Hi Anon - Yes, many Arab men live double lives outside the country (and some even on the inside from what I understand!), but so do some men from other countries as well. I think it's more of a "man" thing than an Arab thing, and either way I find it hypocritical.
    And that's not really a law about slapping the wife - it was recently said by a Saudi judge who was a speaker at a conference on - get this - domestic violence!

    Hi EasternReflections - Thanks for explaining. True about college students everywhere.

  122. Susie- I find things the exact opposite with women staring lol. I've had many Saudi vieled women come and talk to me and those I'm with. I can always tell their expressions, smiling, angry, annoyed, ect. Perhaps it is the area we are in?? Jeddah doesn't come off as friendly to me like the EP so that could be a huge factor.

  123. Well, my husband has been in riyadh for almost a year now. we have a 1 year old and a 3 yr old and he married feb 1st a ethiopian nanny who works for a family on the compound and didnt say a word to me about it. We werent upset with each other, he is in the US military and i only found out because when he came home for vacation march 5 he was acting very weird and wasnt calling us as much or talking much or telling us about his days. now he claims this isnt a real marriage and that she arent married by the state but went to some masjid to get it done and get a paper so that she could travel around with him without getting in trouble. he claims that they didnt do anything before they got married and he didnt do it on purpose he just starting talking to her on the compound and they started catching feelings so they did this to technically not be haram. but he is legally married to me here in the states and i think this woman is now pregnant. half my family is out for blood and want me to file charges against him and the older members tell me to not do anything at all and see when he gets home because saudi can make people crazy with lonliness and i just cant wrap my head around it at all. Do i have any recourse for what they have done? is it legal for him to be married by the US laws here and go over to a cracker jack masjid and get another nikka contract and pay for a seal and be done with it?

    See this is why i am with segregated spaces at every level because men are retarded. i dont think its really for woman and it is for men. they are just so weak.

    he comes home in july and i'm thinking about tossing grits on him.

  124. @Hijabisoverrated:That's a very tragic story,and I don't think most people can relate to what you're going through. I would argue that men without self-control are just that: men without self-control. No wall is high enough, no religious police plentiful enough to prevent him from finding a woman. Good luck as you navigate this.

  125. Niels ChristensenJun 1, 2009, 10:59:00 PM

    The saudi arab women has the right to defence her way of living.
    But why does she have to use the standard islamist feministic viewpoins such as : "Otherwise Islam granted women the human rights that any useful citizen deserves. Way back, CENTURIES ago, before your white women could so much as dream of casting votes, Muslim women were running for government positions, and their voices were so powerful they directly influenced state decisions without even being part of it".
    I don't really like the agressive stance ("white women"), and it's not true. Could be she is a fine IT specialist, but her history knowledge is nada."White women's" influence was in early history just like arab women's dependent on their family belonging and mariage and of course their skills.
    Whats bothering me is the agressive way of arguing toward western culture.She forgets that we have our history and our cultural fights to. And if she want us to accept her culture, then she should not throw stones.

  126. I am 43, (reasonably attractive by my societies standards I think) and have always worked, driven a vehicle when I was old enough, eat in places where men and women dine wherever they want. I have never covered 99% of my body. I have always dressed in clothing appropriate for the environment

    I have never been raped. Not once. Neither have any of my sisters, my mother, their mothers, my friends, their friends, my neighbors...

    Why? Because I am a woman who respects herself, does not put herself in dangerous positions and is not afraid to say NO! when need be. Are women raped in my country? I believe so but the percentage so low it is a rarity. And if it DOES happen it is a CRIME. Men are held accountable for what they have done and usually punished justly.

    To live your whole life hidden because you are afraid men cannot control their sexual urges is very, very sad and reflects poorly on the males of SA.

  127. "To live your whole life hidden because you are afraid men cannot control their sexual urges is very, very sad and reflects poorly on the males of SA."

    As a future anthropologist, I find myself stepping back in observation mode when confronted with cultural practices of the Middle East or Central Asia. Unless it appears to be a human rights violation, I tend to be pretty non-judgemental and unemotional about how things are done there.

    That said, I do think that by having extreme separation of the sexes, a message is being given to men and woman alike. Its not so cannot be trusted. In my opinion, many cannot be. Maybe rape is not so common in your part of the world because of deterrants. I do not know alot of about the psycology of rape so this is out of my element. I do know that judging a culture so vastly different than your own just increases the divide between the two cultures.


  128. "Your mentioning of Sufism reminded me of a friend who once smiled in amusement when I mentioned Sufism and he implied that Sufism isn't REAL Islam and he finds it amusing that many converts turn to Sufism more out of the idea of its "hippiness" or "coolness" than actual spiritual fulfillment. I didn't know how to respond to his comments because I had never heard that before."

    I think much of this has to do with the repute of Sufi's. they have a reputation for drinking, dancing (to get closer to God) and singing. They do not all have a high tolerance for other faiths because there has been Sufi "hardliners" in the past.


  129. So Amyinbc, are you saying if women were not covered you would have too many rape cases in Saudia?
    Covering up is a matter of safety for muslim women then, for if they are not covered god knows what their countrymen will do to them.
    Well in my country we dont cover up, we are freeeeeeeeee to dress the way we like, without fear.
    There are rapist and other criminals that you find in any society, Saudia included but then they are what they are CRIMINALS. Dont tell me that all Saudi/muslim men are potential rapists

  130. is very informative. The article is very professionally written. I enjoy reading every day.

  131. A very very interesting post! and the comments are as interesting ... I applaud this young girl for what she has said.. Some way or the other I am like her, and there are so many Saudi women who are like us...
    I was brought up in the States and lived there for a few years..I've also lived for a few months in London...travelled to so many European cities and American States...I didn't wear hijab until i was about 20 and was MY choice and i've been on and off hijab for a while because it was difficult for me...
    I am working woman and I am happily married. my husband has never forced me to stop working or to was my choice...I am happy and content with my life...if there are some women who aren't happy in KSA or anywhere in the world, it's due to their ignorance of handling life's situations...No man on Earth can make a woman happy or miserable; it is the way we let men treat us that makes us miserable... when a woman has her own interests..her own life, she won't be a slave of any man even if she loves him...

    I think i talked too much..
    thanks have proved that you are really objective and fair by posting this topic.

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  133. I am writing my senior thesis inspired by this posting, so thank you- very much.
    It was quite inspiring, and we do apologize for western judgement.