Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Photography Can Be Hazardous ...

I  take many photos in Saudi Arabia, and I publish many of them on both of my blogs - this one and my photo blog which is called Jeddah Daily Photo. Many people, especially women in this country, are very private and come close to freaking out when they see a camera. Women here have been blackmailed by men who may have obtained a photo of a woman whose hair is not properly covered or if she is wearing normal clothing and some of her skin shows. In most normal societies, these innocent photos would not be cause for alarm and certainly not a reason for blackmail. But in a restrictive place like Saudi Arabia, regular photos like these of a woman, if landing in the wrong hands, could bring shame on the woman and her family, and her husband might even divorce her because of it. This cultural phenomenon gives great power to slimy bad guys, many of whom might usually demand sex, or sometimes money, as their blackmail payment.

The methods for how a man might obtain photos of this nature can vary. Modern technology such as camera phones and blue tooth are one way. Some men might deliberately prey on vulnerable women and sweet talk their way into getting the woman into a compromising position. Or perhaps the woman began to trust an individual and she may herself have emailed him a photo of herself. There have been cases where a woman was raped by a disgruntled acquaintance and even a case where it resulted in a woman being killed by her own male family members because of the shame brought upon the family. It is also not unusual for a woman to be sentenced to lashes as well for being guilty of putting herself in the position where photos of her got into the wrong hands.

I'm happy to report that in recent times the Saudi government responded by enacting stiff laws with severe penalties that have been put in place to protect women from blackmailing predators. The thing is, though, that these laws wouldn't be necessary if seeing a woman's hair or skin wasn't considered so taboo in the first place. Islamic law dictates that women must dress modestly. Dressing modestly in KSA is way more restrictive on women than in most other Islamic countries. There are many places where Muslim women do not cover their hair and where they are considered modestly dressed even if skin on their forearms or necks are showing. And what's even worse is that despite the laws that now protect women from blackmailers, many people still place the blame on the woman for allowing a photo of her showing her hair or some skin to get out in the first place. Naivete, foolishness, or a simple mistake can ruin a woman's reputation and possibly her life.

On a different note, it is believed that a blogger/photojournalist from Iran may be in jail. Amir may have been arrested as he took photos of the demonstrations in the streets of Iran that have been going on in protest of the questionable results of the presidential election that took place there on June 12. He has published some incredible photos of the demonstrations on his website called Tehran 24 and access to his blog has been blocked from viewing within Iran. For more photos of what has been going on in Iran, you can also check out this site.

Amir is not the first Iranian blogger to have simply disappeared without a trace. There have been several in recent years, and one even died in custody a few months ago. It is clear that the country of Iran does not have freedom of speech or freedom of the press.

In this part of the world, taking photos or simply having your photo taken can be hazardous to your well being ...


  1. Hi Susie. Your posts are very thought-provoking, so much so that I wrote and re-wrote possible comments. I cannot some up what I want to say and am failing miserably at writing something small! I will just say keep it up and thanks for sharing :0) Feeble I know ....

  2. hey susie, keep up the good posts. as bosnian woman with a muslim background id like to clear up some misunderstandings non muslims might have when it comes to the way women dress. im not a religious person myself, but some members of my family aswell as some of my close friends are religious. the type of veiling you have in saudi arabia, aswell as some other muslim countries, is purely cultural. the niqab or the covering of the face is especially only based only on culture and cannot be found anywhere in the koran or the hadiths.

    most bosnian women wear whatever they want, including miniskirts and bikinis. my muslim grandmother used to go to the beach when she was young, a fact which many non muslims find really surprising. infact, the only member of my family that wore a headscarf was my great grandmother. most bosnians also drink, and every bosnian will date before marriage. however, nobody considers any of these things as something that comes into conflict with their religious beliefs. The wahabbi version of islam praciticed in saudi arabia, and the radical interpretations that have been allowed to thrive in other countries, is totally foreign to me and my culture. unfortuntately, wahabis from various arab countries have set up their own communities in bosnia after the war. they usually take uneducated men and women from villages and indoctrinate them with an islam thats foreign to us. now walking around sarajevo, you can see a few women in a niqab. its still very rare but you see it occassionally. there have been reports of these wahabis harrassing young couples on the streets and teaching hatred against non muslims. all this is very worrying for most bosnians who have grown up with a very secular, and moderate interpretation of islam. we are doing the best we can to rid our country of such twisted beliefs

  3. I'm glad you have the freedom to write about it.

  4. I don't agree with the dress requirements, but I do admit It does make me wonder what kind of babe is hiding under those clothes!

  5. Susie, I know you see this from your own persective, but those of us who don't want out photos taken are not paranoid and hysterical, terrified that someone will blackmail us and we'll be the victim of an honor killing. We choose to cover and so we don't want to be seen uncovered.

    Just like with the hugging of a nephew... it's not like everyone is thinks that you're going to be a sexual predator, or that the 13-year old is sex-crazed around her. It's others who see everything in those terms. I have sons that age, and they have no interest or thoughts about sex or girls, although I've told them that they will when the hormones kick in. They know to stop kissing their uncle's wives as they get older, without even being told, and it's a sign of respect by both parties.

    In response to the anonymous Bosnian, here we go again... if people want to wear miniskirts, eat pork, drink and date, that's up to them (and that's common in Bosnia because they lived under a Communist society that discouraged the practice of all religions).

    Don't call it Islam, though. And many Bosnians aren't like that, including close friends of mine.

  6. Susie--A great post! Your photos on both sites are fabulous, and although I don't comment on Susie of Arabia, I appreciate the opportunity to visualize your corner of the world, and I'm sure those who have never been in a MENA country appreciate it even more.

    "Islamic law dictates that women must dress modestly. Dressing modestly in KSA is way more restrictive on women than in most other Islamic countries."
    I would only add that KSA is currently more restrictive than prior to the 1979 fundamentalist riots and taking of the Grand Mosque, also called "The Saudi Arabian Sectarian Turn".

    Thank you for outlining the reprisals that enforce the hijab, even amongst those who would not cover as fully without them, and especially for raising the case of the disappeared photojournalist Amir--testimony to the power of the photographic image, and the desire to repress it by totalitarian regimes.

    Anonymous/Bosnian--excellent points.

    Anonymous/Chooses to cover--excellent points about boys following the culture. However, as above there are sects within Islam.

  7. Wonderful post Susie! Did you ever make it here? I did not get a call from you. Hope you are doing well my friend.

  8. A Canadian ReaderJun 24, 2009, 8:18:00 PM

    Though I am not Muslim myself, I take offence at Anonymous's comment on Bosnian Muslims not being real Muslims because they do not abide by the draconian strictures of one particular Muslim sect, the Wahhabis.

    Choice is fine, but emprisonning half the population of a country is not religion, it's misogyny.

  9. Dont you know that Muslims are not really Muslims unless they are Arab Muslims...because any other nationality is considerd Muslim even though Arabs practice quite alot in the way of unIslamic actions...they are still considered Muslims...but let another nationality do it and they are not really Muslim.

    That commentor might like to visit Bahrain and see the bridge linking Saudi with Bahrain on Thursday nights....backed up traffic for miles with Saudi men (sometimes with families) hightailing it for Bahrain that allows alcohol, has a lively prostitution business...and to visit the secret (or not so secret as he would hope) other wife. Are those men still Muslims...of course if that is what they call themselves...we should all be able to call ourselves Muslim if that is what we believe ourselves to be...for nobody is without sin...if sin by itself cast you out from the folds of Islam...I dare say it would have a drastically reduced following.

  10. coolred38 ..

    No, I don't know!

    I wonder, where do you get these ideas from?!

    I'm from Saudi Arabia, and I've never read or heard anyone saying that you are a better Muslim because/if you are an Arab!

    There's no difference between an Arab or a Non-Arab in the scale of Islam, and that's mentioned CLEARLY in the Islamic sources and it isn't even debatable.


    "Some Muslims drink and wear bikinis" .. true

    "Some Islamic views thinks it's allowed in Islam" .. i don't even expect Non-Muslims to believe that!

    Mu - Riyadh

  11. Living like that would be very hard. I hope women get more rights and freedoms. That is surreal in todays world that women are treated as slaves and have so few rights. I do not understand the veil thing and all those hot long dresses. Can the men not control themselves or something. It is bad reflection on them, that a woman can not be comfortable in her own clothes and try new fashions. I can not imagine what they go through.

  12. My schedule required an extended break from blogging (and reading blogs). I truly missed it, and yours one of the most. What you do is so valuable. In the U.S., we just cannot even imagine this kind of life. It is so important that people know about it. I sometimes worry about your own safety for your blunt honesty here.

  13. Of course, I never said that anyone was "not a real Muslim". I did say that miniskirts, drinking and dating are not Islam. Are some of you - well, besides the Bosnian commenter - actually arguing that that IS Islam?

    I also never said anything about having to be Arab to be Muslim. That would be an absurd thing for me to say, since I'm not Arab and I have many good, religious friends who are not Arabs, as well as others who are Arabs. In fact, I mentioned Bosnian friends who were not the way the commenter described.

    I've been on the causeway to Bahrain many times, coolred. Yes, many people go there to drink, and then many others go there and don't drink. Drinking is not Islam, either, but of course that doesn't mean that a Muslim who drinks is not a Muslim, before someone puts more words in my (virtual) mouth. He's a Muslim who is sinning and deficient in that area (as we all are in some areas). But none of that changes the fact that drinking alcohol is prohibited.

    Another Anonymous

  14. Canadian Reader:"Though I am not Muslim myself, I take offence at Anonymous's comment on Bosnian Muslims not being real Muslims because they do not abide by the draconian strictures of one particular Muslim sect, the Wahhabis."

    Are you referring to my post? If so, could someone please point out this phrase you're seeing where I said Bosnians weren't real Muslims?

    Another Anonymous

  15. Coolred: "Are those men still Muslims...of course if that is what they call themselves"

    You probably know that there are two different situations: If someone denies something that's known to be part of Islam (let's use prayer as an example), this takes him or her out of Islam. If someone acknowledges that it's required, but doesn't do it, then he or she is considered a Muslim who's committing a sin. Again, these are basic and well-known principles that one learns from studying the deen.

    Another Anonymous

  16. To all the Anonymous/signed:

    I would like to make a suggestion, to help those of us who want to read your comments with some intelligence and ability to follow the discussion.

    On this blog, when commenting, under "Choose an identity" if you click "Name/URL" you can choose to put your name only (URL is optional, no email required) eg. you could put "Another Anonymous" and your comment would read "Another Anonymous said..." or "Mu-Riyadh" would result in "Mu-Riyadh said..." (just to cite the 2 examples here).

    Perhaps you knew this already, but it certainly would help the rest of us, help keep you straight from each other, be sure when you are commenting as "Anonymous", or forgot your signature, and sort you from others who click Anonymous (maybe they could concoct a name too, just to help the discussion).

    Susie--you do set excellent posts that invoke alot of ideas, and it is nice to follow the dialogues, which I think your commenting identity options really facilitate--besides the only time my comments are eaten here is when I have done something to offend the computer LOL :) .

  17. Thank you for the link to the photos in Iran. I was lucky enough to visit Isfahan back on the late 70's, it was a beautiful country. It is so sad to see any country torn up by war and protest.
    As always, I enjoy your posts and take on the Saudi experience from an American perspective.
    Kay DH78

  18. Honor killing over some perceived slight to the family? What kind of culture or religion allows the menfolk to murder their women? It's barbaric!

    Sorry Suzie, but I'm shaking my head in disgust. Doesn't anyone there realize how ignorant such thinking is?

  19. Always in the Kitchen--honour killings are tribal, and pre-Islamic.

    They have different punishment in Islamic jurisprudence than premeditated murder, as in Western countries "crimes of passion" do, or manslaughter (as opposed to premeditated murder), and sentencing which includes "extenuating circumstances".

  20. Hi Susie,

    I found your blog recently and have read through all your old posts- I feel like I've learned so much about a culture I knew nothing about!

    In reference to the Iranian journalists, I'd really like to know: How closely are people in KSA following the situation in Iran? Are Saudis supportive of the protesters?

  21. I'd be jubilant the day this blog owner is shipped off, exiled to spend the rest of her days in a country like Iran. I love the notion of that; Perhaps then we'll find more respectable and more informative posts to read on this blogspot.
    No offence - that's my opinion I have the right to express.

  22. Chiara- I thank my lucky stars then that I'm not part of that tribe!
    One honor killing for whatever reason is one too many.

  23. I don't really recall a case of what's called "honor killing" in Saudi Arabia. Of course it might happen here (like anywhere else), but that certainly doesn't make it a part of the culture.

    "A girl was killed by her boyfriend after he thought that she was cheating on him"

    I guess it's not that weird to hear a couple of similar scenarios in the west, do you agree with me?. Yet, no one calls the west "barbaric" because of that, or say that these things are a part of the western culture.

    I hope that we all be more accurate, do some research and be fair in our judgments regarding other cultures .. and everything else.

    Mu - Riyadh

  24. It's amazing the power of the written word, isn't it? The combination of social networks and blogs, with technology like cell phone cameras certainly have helped make this even more of a 'global village', and it's scaring some governments. I am in solidarity with the Iranian people.

    'Anonymous' (the one shortly before this post) - you have the right to express your opinion, agreed. You also have the right to not have to read this blog if you don't like it...

  25. Susie, your insight regarding the SA culture provides an inside look that most of us will never see. It sounds horrendous to my way of thinking. Yet, I haven't lived it or been raised by generations of it either. I really enjoy your posts, and that they provoke such incredible global communications.

    Just be safe please.

  26. Good for you, Susie for bringing all this out in the open for the world to see. Perhaps if light is shed on what is going on, people can step out of the darkness.

  27. I would agree with Mu-Riyadh. Honor killing is not a part of the culture here in Saudi.

    As to the vicious and intorerant "anonoymous" above- I find this blog "respectable" and "informative" and if you do not, suggest you don't read it. Why do you think you have the right to your opinions- but think this blogger should be punished for hers?

  28. I've just discovered your Blog. Very interesting! I can hardly understand how can a woman feel free in a world like the one you describe here. I live in Europe.
    I obviously work, I have male friends, I can drive and laugh and touch without any risk to be arrested or banned from my family, and I really cannot imagine how hard is life for women there. This makes me so angry, it's unfair, isn'it?

  29. Mu--Thanks for using the Name option!

    Honour killings are more culturally ingrained in Pakistan, parts of Northern India, certain Arab tribes including in Jordan, and Iraq, Palestine (Gaza, West Bank, Israel, Jordan), and in Turkey.

    Honour killings also apply in some cultures to brides without an intact hymen, and homosexuals.

    Honour killings are more common, but honour suicides also exist, especially in Turkey, where women feel they have dishonoured their family by being raped, or having a relationship, or becoming pregnant.

    Neither honour killings nor suicides are a part of Islam,and occur among all faiths of the cultures in which they occur (Abrahamic, Sikh, and Hindu).

    The more patriarchal the culture, the more rigid and traditional that patriarchy is, the more these acts are tolerated by the culture, even where illegal (eg. Pakistan, where they are more frequent than in the rest of the world). An exception is Jordon which is liberal, but hasn't been able to change its laws allowing honour killers to have much reduced penalties, in the face of more conservative elements, but has impressive prevention and social support programs for those who survive and attempt.

    Immigrants from these cultures import their practices with them to wherever they go, although they come under the new country's laws.

    Countries have different legal codes to deal with them. Some, especially in the West, prosecute them as murder. Some (including in the West) allow for "crimes of passion" by giving a reduced sentence for premeditated or unpremeditated murder of any female family member, or the wife only, caught in flagrante delicto in any dishonoring acts, or adultery only.

    A UN Special Rapporteur did an interesting study on this in 2002, and Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch report honour killings, wherever they occur.

  30. Always--agreed!

    Mu-Riyadh--there was a Saudi honour killing of a granddaughter using Facebook, and of course the famous Princess Masha'al case. They don't make it an acceptable part of the culture, but they have occurred.

    In Canada, those (South Asians only, thus far, killing wives, daughters, sisters and the men with them) who have committed honour killings are tried as murderers under the Criminal Code.

    In the West in general anyone not having a cultural reason for doing this (ie not a recent or traditional South Asian immigrant) would be considered a psychiatric case until proven otherwise (though still prosecuted).

  31. Hi Chiara ..

    I didn't deny that such thing could happen, or happened. I said that i didn't recall a case, and my aim was to make it clear that this thing isn't a part of the culture or even an expected behavior here.

    Though it's not our subject, but i would like to say that i think that the 2 incidents you've mentioned aren't that clear. There's no enough details on the first one, and the second one is still controversial whether the case was "honor killing" or classifies under the Islamic punishment of the adultery (extramarital).

    Mu - Riyadh

  32. Mu-Riyadh--I think we are in agreement, that honour killing may have happened in Saudi, but it is not a cultural norm, and certainly not Islamic.

    I don't know enough about the "Facebook" killing, but the second one seems clearly to have been an extrajudicial killing (since not ordered by the courts), and if I am not mistaken she committed fornication (punishable by lashes) rather that adultery. There is an excellent website on this, but I believe it is blocked in Saudi (for obvious reasons):

    and of course Wiki (probably this entry is also blocked):'il_bint_Fahd_al_Saud

  33. Hi Susie. This reminded me of a situation in Syria where a young girl dropped a beautiful photo of herself in hijab and it landed in a gutter.

    A nasty, creepy young man found it, and started telling everyone in town that she was ging to be his wife and was his girlfriend.

    So what did the young girl's brother do? Well he honor killed his sister of course. How dare she be in love with the creepy guy who found her photo.

    I hope tha laws in KSA can prevent some of this, since photography can become such a shame. So sad. Love you very dearly.

  34. "In response to the anonymous Bosnian, here we go again... if people want to wear miniskirts, eat pork, drink and date, that's up to them (and that's common in Bosnia because they lived under a Communist society that discouraged the practice of all religions).

    Don't call it Islam, though. And many Bosnians aren't like that, including close friends of mine."

    I didn't say every single bosnian did, i just said many..which is true. No one has a claim on a religion, and people interpret it in different ways. Thats what makes us human. My point was exactly that. I wasnt trying to say drinking etc was "islamic." My point was that muslim bosnians, and they are certainly in the majority, do those things (apart from eat pork) and see nothing wrong with it. I was just trying to dispel some stereotypes, because most people in the west think that all muslims dress/think the same or interpret the religion in the exact same way. Noone is better or worse, just different.

  35. Anonymous Bosnian
    Good points! It seems you already have your nickname if you want to use Susie's wonderful commenting option of Name/URL-optional [no URL, no email required]. You could be "Anonymous Bosnian" or something else, "Bosnian x" or "x Bosnian", or whatever you like, and then we could follow your interesting comments more easily. :)

  36. I am a young Muslim women ..from the United Arab Emirates…I cover my face and wear the black Abaya, even when I travel abroad to France…UK…

    Nobody is holding a “pistol” over my head telling me to wear it, I am wearing it out of my “own” free will…

    Likewise many women out of their own free will walk around in bikinis…*shrugs*…

    The funny thing is, in this day and age the latter are the ones who are socially acceptable …

    However the true definition of “Islamic Wear” for women is “Clothing that covers the entire body -only the hands and face may remain visible” to Non-Muslims think of it as a similar dress code to that of nuns…

    This all came to mind when I read your blog Susie, because I understand how your struggling so much with a “strong culture” that has woven itself around Islam and has given birth to something not many westerners might understand… to disintegrate both from each other would be a task that falls on your shoulders Susie :D I seriously hope that you do make readers understand which part of it is culture and which is religion, because in my opinion Islam is too appealing to be viewed as anything but “Completely Beautiful“…

  37. Actually I have found that generally Muslims are the hardest on judging what people wear compared to non-Muslims. I wore hijab for years and true, some people made comments in the west-but generally it wasn't a big deal. Try wearing a bikini in Saudi and you'll see how socially unacceptable it is. They are completely obsessed with what women are wearing.

    Of course in the west Bikinis are more socially acceptable because it is a part of our culture. But the other is not a big deal (exception being France in some circumstances)

    I disagree with your description of Islamic wear. Muslims should be modest- and cover their cleavage. The rest is cultural interpretation.- and the hadith you are paraphrasing has a broken chain.

    I have no problem with people wearing what they want. But I don't like it when it is used to look down or judge on others which is how many hijabis view their non-hijabi sisters.

    Amazing- another thread gone the way of a hijab discussion.

  38. Blackmailing girls for pictures it's not probleme only in Saudi Arabia.Here in Spain many guys have been caught for that. Last month police jailed 1 who was blackmailing teenagers. he picked girls from chats ,pretending to be a girl too.He hacked girls Pc's , if he found there any little sexy pic in the girls files ,he started threatening them if they don't send him naked pictures of them he'll send those sexy photos to all their messenger contacs, so the poor girls send him naked photos.Next step was oblige the girls to masturbate with cam .He made those girls lives miserable ,many of them where thinking of suicide as he never stopped asking more and more.He was blackmailing over 200 girls and he also distributed those photos in net.And here have been several cases like that.

  39. By the way I'm Scandinavian muslim revert and I wear hijab andd I cover myself for the love of Allah.

  40. Well, it's too bad so many perverts are good at using modern technology.

    I'm not quite sure-but once in the states I thought I saw a guy use his phone to take a photo up a ladies skirt. It was hard to be sure because he was squatted down looking at luggage. I watched him for awhile after that- was ready to yell.

    Anyway- I UNcovered for the love of Allah. I didn't want to be misrepresenting his words and intent.

  41. I will never tire of learning something from you Susie, I am glad you are able to share with us all.

  42. Ive had a computer for many years and have never felt the desire to put sexy pics in it...either of myself or anyone else. Why do people do that if they dont want somone else to see them eventually on the net?

    When that guy started "blackmailing" them...they had many options...undressing and masturbating for him was not their only choice left. The guy was on the other end of a computer...not a gun.

    Seriously girls...keep your clothes on in front of cameras at ALL times if you do not want that pic to ever fall in the wrong hands...and apparently they always fall into the wrong hands.

    To obtain the love of God does not require that I wear hijab but follow the basic priniciples of humanity...dont kill...dont steal etc...if uncovering my hair leads to no love from God...well hell...I might as well go steal that beautiful watch Ive had my eye on for awhile now...same result either way.

  43. Just for the record, the hijab issue keeps getting brought up by the people who don't want to wear it - so who's obsessed with it?

    I hope that readers who aren't Muslim will do their own research on Islam and not accept what they keep seeing here.

    And I hope that the Muslims who take their religion lightly - and joke about the reckoning - will someday be motivated to learn and apply the principles, starting with the Quran, of course.

    "And it has already come down to you in the Book that when you hear the verses of Allah [recited], they are denied [by them] and ridiculed; so do not sit with them until they enter into another conversation. Indeed, you would then be like them." [4:140]

    "And if you ask them, they will surely say, "We were only conversing and playing." Say, "Is it Allah and His verses and His Messenger that you were mocking?" * Make no excuse; you have disbelieved after your belief"

    I should have followed this hadith long ago, but I couldn't help saying something when people were being misled:

    Abu Umamah narrated that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: "I guarantee a house in the surroundings of Paradise for a man who avoids arguing even if he was in the right, a house in the middle of Paradise for a man who avoids lying even if he was joking, and a house in the upper part of Paradise for a man who made his character good."

    Another Anonymous

  44. Another Anonymous--since you are most readily identified here as "Another Anonymous" you might want to take advantage of Susie's wonderful commenting option Name/URL(optional)that requires name only (no URL, no email), using "Another Anonymous" as your name, and making it easier for the rest of us to follow your comments.

  45. For the record- it gets brought up by people who wear it, and we are expected to just be silent.

    So now you we are taking Islam lightly and being mocking? Glad your soooo qualified to judge us so. You could have just said we see it differently. But always a judgement.

  46. What I really think it's sad and hard to accept (for me, of course), is the lack of freedom.
    Here in Europe we are FREE to walk in the streets completely covered with a Burqa, as well as wearing a miniskirt, and we respect the burqa one and the mini one.
    I don't think it's the same in many islamic countries, where even if you're not muslim, you must cover and you are not free to be yourself.(Susie's blog teaches...)
    THE LACK OF FREEDOM is for me the only sad thing, because without freedom nobody can be happy.

  47. 'I hope that readers who aren't Muslim will do their own research on Islam and not accept what they keep seeing here.'

    Yet when we DO just that you do not accept it even after years and years of study and research because, well, we 'aren't Muslim so there is no way that we would understand'! LOL

    In regards to your hadith about not arguing, isn't that a perfect way for one to not have to listen to the opinions of others that could possibly corrupt their perfectly brainwashed minds?

  48. For Paola! The lack of freedom is coming to europe too.IN France burqa will be forbidden by law.But it's not forbidden to wear just a little string at the beach.

  49. Another Anonymous--I prefer the Quran surah 109 on this, in short keep to one's own beliefs and allow others theirs. While addressed to the disbelievers of Islam, it would seem good advice to believing in a specific sect within Islam.

    For the benefit of those without sufficient Quranic knowledge:
    YUSUF ALI translation--
    109.001 Say: O ye that reject Faith!
    109.002 I worship not that which ye worship,
    109.003 Nor will ye worship that which I worship.
    109.004 And I will not worship that which ye have been wont to worship,
    109.005 Nor will ye worship that which I worship.
    109.006 To you be your Way, and to me mine.

    Zahra--it is unlikely that Sarkozy's election ploy will actually pass into law. It is being stalled by a review by a National Assembly Commission, and feminist groups are likely to become more vocal in the name of choice, and cultural sensitivity. It is not a part of French laicity, but is a major breach of "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity".

  50. Paola--yes the freedom to choose, and to choose to submit, is the major concern.

  51. Susie,

    I came across your blog on a sleepless Alaskan summer night. I LOVE it. I love your candor, and admire your bravery. It has been a dream of mine to live in Saudi for quite some time. I don't know why. I consider myself a feminist, but feel drawn to spend some time there, maybe to try to understand a culture that is so different than mine. I don't necessarily disagree with the methods, I just don't think they are for me. My hope is to work there as a travel nurse after my son goes to college. ...'till then, I'll be learning about life there through your eyes. Thanks!

  52. Yes Chiara, FREEDOM is the key word for me. I think everyone should live its life as he/she wants, but in freedom for everybody.
    As a woman,I cannot imagine a place where, just because you are a female, have so many limits in your daily life.
    Probably this is not the best place to live, but in my life i am free to work, to drive, to laugh, to walk in the streets, to have male friends and go out for lunch with them, to go to the cinema with my husband, to kiss him in the middle of a street if I want, to travel alone and to expatriate without asking anyone a permission....
    Well, all those obvious and natural things are forbidden in many countries just because I'm a woman. How can be a woman accept all this and be happy? Frankly I do not understand it.

  53. Paola--my idea of freedom is much closer to yours, but I respect the choices of others, sometimes without understanding them (as I'm sure you do). I think some do choose to submit to various constraints, whether as a religious commitments, a continental existential freedom of choice, or in the Anglo-American philosophical sense of second order autonomy (choosing to let someone/something else decide for you).

    BTW kissing on the street it good, but kissing in elevators is the best! The risk of being caught with hubby, at any floor, by oncoming passengers, is a lot of fun (I lead a sheltered life LOL ) LOL :D

  54. I wonder why (some) westerners forget those incidents in west , when nude photo of a girl appear on internet, she faces many problems. remember miss USA recently . when her nude foto leaked on net? remember teachers and professionals who lost their job due to some inocent foto she took in her room.

    in west, 'normal' is untill you show your private part. in islam normal is covering all body excepr hand and face.

  55. Transgressing the social rules of whatever culture always has negative repercussions, and in the West these come long before showing one's private parts publicly.

  56. I am not a Muslim and don't live in West Asia or in the West, but have read something of Islam and have also seen parts of the West. First, Susie, much of what you say about photographing Muslim women is correct, thoguh I just checket your Tehran 24 link - Amir has posted a comment there saying he is free and back now.
    Much of what you say about photographing Muslim women is correct as long as they live in a predominantly orthodox Islamic environment. I have interacted with a lot of Iranian women who come to my country to apply for immigration to Canada and keep on staying here as students till they can immigrate. Earlier Iranian Embassy used to keep a watch on them so they always wore the black gown and covered their head in public if they wanted to go back to Iran. Those who don't want to go back to Iran never follow this rule. For sometime Iran was sometimewhat relaxed so they stopped wearing the black gown, only wore a scarf. Now they have gone back to wearing the gown again. Almost all of them are deeply religious and pray 5 times. I have seen them in their houses where no men were around - I found they are more Westernised than the Western women! And they don't mind getting photographed here - with or without full covering.
    I have also mixed with other Muslim women who use full covering. Perhaps you all will find it interesting that they in fact take all important decisions about children's education, money, property, nature of husband's job etc and their husbands just follow them. I have also seen some of them as smart strategists - their kind of manoeuvring I haven't seen the so-called "free" women - including myself capable of!
    Regarding Bosnia, in fact all religions of the world are bound to change with time and place and they have changed - including Islam, which is also different in different parts of the world. So Bosnian version is quite normal. The trouble arises when we begin to judge others by our yardsticks - whether we are Muslims/Arabs or not. I feel we all should practise what we like and not make rules for others - that's where all forms of restrictions are wrong.

  57. Chiara - I must tell you I highly appreciate your knowledge of Islam as well as polity and comparative cultures! You say you are a Canadian, but you write on Islamic issues like a scholar. Yes, honour killing is very much a South Asian phenomenon and not necessarily restricted to Muslims - in the Mediaeval period, Rajput princesses in Rajasthan in India entered into fire alive along with their female attendants before their men went to war with a formidable enemy and if it was certain the enemy would win. This custom was called Jauhar - and is more like honour suicide than killing.

  58. Daisy--Thank you for your kind words. I have been enjoying all your knowledgeable and insightful comments on Susie's blog. I agree with your statements above about Iranian women and about Bosnia. You reminded me that all the Moroccans I know LOVE to be photographed and run into rather than away from a picture taking.

    The history of honour suicide in Rajput is interesting and I'm sure relevent to today's practices, like a woman feeling suicidal or committing suicide when she has been dishonoured or dishonoured her family. Friends have told me of organizing an abortion or a hymen repair for a suicidal woman (eg a friend, or a maid) who had either been misled by a suitor or raped. It is one of the reasons a local plastic surgeon claims to cure suicidality by doing hymen repairs. He is right.

    I'm looking forward to more of your comments here. :)

  59. Hey Susie,

    Love your blog and would like to contact you directly if possible.

    This is my website:

    You might be particularly interested in this post on my blog (which is part of the website):

    I'm also a big supporter of those who struggle for freedom in Iran; see here:

    I have a Facebook page for the site here:

    I would love it if you added my site to your blog role, and, as I said, it would be great to connect directly. I would like to profile you on AWR.

    My email address is (coincidentally, we share the same name lol)

    My skype address is amazingwomenrockme

    Hope to hear from you soon.

    Susan :)

  60. I still can't get my brain around not being allowed to drive. I would go insane if I couldn't drive. Or at least ride a bicycle. Are women in the Kingdom allowed to ride bicycles?

    As far as honor killings, we have that here in the states...we don't call it 'honor killing', but estranged husbands kill their ex wives on a disturbingly regular basis...enough that you hear about it at least twice a year...some poor woman gunned down in her workplace by estranged husband or boyfriend etc etc..
    At least here it is recognized as a mental/emotional deficiency and not accepted.

    I think the restrictions set out by such strict interpretations of islam are hurtful to people; Of any religion actually. Why can't people of all religions accept that there was a reason God, the Creator, gave people free will? The Ten Commandments (and every religion has a variant of these)should be sufficient for people to be taught to guard their own behavior.


  61. To D - Women are forbidden from riding bikes here in the Kingdom because it would reveal the shape of her behind - plus it would be awfully difficult to ride one while wearing the abaya.