Monday, March 8, 2010

Open Mouth, Insert Foot

Photo Credit:, of US Pres Obama with King Abdullah

Acouple of weeks ago, one of the religious leaders here in Saudi Arabia declared a fatwa (a religious ruling) which demands the death penalty for people in the Kingdom who condone or promote gender mixing within the country. In particular, Sheikh Abdul-Rahman al-Barrak, 77, denounced men and women working together because it would encourage "sight of what is forbidden, and forbidden talk between men and women." With the opening last fall of KAUST (the innovative King Abdullah University of Sciences and Technology), where the progressive King's vision came to fruition in a place where highly educated men and women work and attend classes together, it appears as though this Sheikh is taking aim at the King himself. Not a very smart thing to do. Especially in view of the fact that last October the King took the action of promptly firing a top Islamic cleric after he spouted off against the mixing of the sexes at KAUST.

The Sheikh's website,, has been blocked from viewing now within the country. But allegedly, using modern technology to his advantage, he merely opened up under another website.

Sheikh Abdulrahman al BarrakThere has been a backlash of objections from many people here who want to see progress and change in this ultra-conservative religious country, with fellow blogger Ahmed al-Omran of SaudiJeans calling the Sheikh a "caveman" and Saudi female blogger Eman al-Nafjan of SaudiWoman condemning Al-Barrak as "the last living member of the traditional, misogynist eighties rat pack of sheikhdom" and aptly branding his type of barbaric thinking as "Gender Apartheid."

However, about thirty other conservative clerics rushed to Al-Barrak's defense by signing a petition upholding their support of his ruling in favor of strict gender segregation.

The greatest fear among these religious scholars is that mixing of the sexes socially here in Saudi Arabia, in the work force, or in education will result in rampant fornication and other immoral behavior. Here are a couple of more quotes from Al-Barrak taken from this Reuters article: "Whoever allows this mixing ... allows forbidden things, and whoever allows them is an infidel, and this means defection from Islam ... Either he retracts or he must be killed ... because he disavows and does not observe the Sharia ... Anyone who accepts that his daughter, sister or wife works with men or attends mixed-gender schooling cares little about his honour, and this is a type of pimping."    Really? This guy is actually calling Saudi men who allow their female relatives to work or attend school side by side with other unrelated men PIMPS!!!

This photo taken in Kuwait, not Saudi ArabiaFor those of you who read my blog regularly, you know that one of the things that I really dislike about living here is the gender segregation. Going to a family function, or a wedding, or some other kind of party where there are only women allowed or where I am separated from my husband and my son upon arrival is not my idea of fun. It's okay once in a while, but time after time after time, it gets really old for me. I admit it - I enjoy being in the company of BOTH men and women! And the fact that people here cannot be trusted on their own to conduct themselves with the utmost of decorum and virtue - despite all the morality that is drilled into them from birth - so much so that there is a need for religious police to enforce strict moral codes and punish those who do not adhere to the rules - is just beyond my comprehension.

Muslims in other parts of the world seem to successfully incorporate living and working amongst the opposite sex without much trouble or fanfare. Why can't it be that simple here in Saudi Arabia? It's more than just religion at play here - it is deeply engrained in the culture, and there is a long way to go to bring this country into the 21st century with regard to its social limitations on both men and women (but mostly on women). The people here have been brainwashed by so many lop-sided images about the decadent and immoral West that there is a mentality of great fear for change or opening up this society to more freedom. My take on the whole situation is that the social restrictions placed on the people here are extremely insulting to the Saudis and make the assumption that the Saudi people simply cannot control their animalistic urges and conduct themselves accordingly. The Saudi people are better than that. All they need is a chance to prove it.


  1. Well said--it will be interesting how long it takes for the people to get a chance.

  2. Well spoken, and I already read Ahmed's post about this last week. I'm looking at the pic at the bottom of the post, in the auditorium, with the woman in the dress. Specifically, the guy 2nd down from the top row, on the seat by the stairs. Notice his glance? I guess he's now deserving of death because of impure thoughts, or is it the woman who would be stoned?

    I have to wonder what it will take for KSA to come into the modern world as far as relationships between men and women are concerned.

  3. I am totally against the segregation here- and refer to it as gender apartheid at every opportunity. But it is important to note that in private homes, at family functions, no one will regulate segregation- it is a choice a family makes. Some families get together in much the same way families anywhere else do. However, not in public venues.

  4. Hi Slamdunk - Thanks. I hope it's not too much longer...

    Hi Mr Nighttime - I did see the guy in the photo. What's wrong with appreciating beauty? Men just need to be able to control themselves, that's all - and the answer is not to punish women "in case" for men's shortcomings. If men here were forced to bundle up the way women are, I might not have such a problem with wearing the abaya and hijab. To me it all feels so unfair...

  5. I so agree with you! especially the last two or three sentences. What does your husband think about all this?

    To kill someone? Absurd and (sorry) ignorant.

  6. As you know, I work with many refugees from all over the world. It is of interest to me when Muslim men come to the USA they manage to control their more "primitive" instincts just fine. They have many opportunities to see women's hair, necks and (probably way too much more here), yet they don't turn into sex-crazed maniacs. Well at least not that I am aware of :)So do they learn at a young age in their culture that only rigid external control can help them manage their impulses, when indeed they are quite able to have internal control when in another culture?
    I always find this a fascinating dichotomy!

  7. Is there a strong dived in KSA? Is there a progressive movement to liberate women? Are younger generations more open to ending gender segregation?

  8. Andrea's comment above is the perfect addition to your last sentence "the Saudi people are better than that, all they need is a chance to prove it."

    Can you please explain where the last photo illustrating your topic was taken? The girl to the right seems to have little in common with with the modest attire normally required of women in KSA ?

  9. Hi Sandy - I'm glad I'm not the only one who feels this way. I just don't think it's healthy on any level for men and women not to be comfortable around each other. I don't feel God designed the world to have men and women segregated to the extreme that Saudi Arabia takes it.

    Hi Aalia - Ameen!

    Hi Lori - My husband does not think people should be put to death for mixing genders here. He think it's too extreme.

    Hi Andrea - Yes, isn't it interesting that Saudis are able to control their carnal desires in other countries but cannot be trusted to do in their own country?

  10. Hi JMahoney - Change comes very slowly in this country. There is a divide between the ultra-conservatives and the more progressive thinkers in this society. The reasoning tends to be that the people need time to adjust and accept any changes - which I think is just an excuse to further delay any progress. My feeling is that more and more youth want to see change here, so hopefully the younger generation will be effective in pushing forward an agenda of change.

    Hi Nathalie - I try to include information about the photos if I have it, or try to give photo credit if it's not one of my own. so if you just place your mouse over the photo, you will see that the photo you asked about was taken in Kuwait. I don't have any more information about it other than that. I thought it was an interesting pic to go with the topic at hand.

  11. Saudi Man - CanadaMar 9, 2010, 7:04:00 AM

    I remember in the 60s and 70s from last century we used to work (men and women) together in the farms without the women wearing Abaya or Niqab. Nothing bad happened. When those Islamic extremist groups emerged in our society with the help of the rulers, everything was changed dramatically, of coarse to the worst. I hope that we trust ourselves, go back to the principle of self-censorship, and stop this religious police (Hay'at Al Amr Belmaroof) who is just getting things more complicated.

  12. Susie, I admire your spunk! Have you ever received any flak regarding your opinions stated in your blog?

  13. This old Shikh has no clue how to solve social issues of his people nor can be trusted for the future of Saudi Arabia..He and his followers got their hands on our society for years and what we got: record levels of neglecting women rights . Country almost deprived from real touristic revenues .women got the lowest percentage of employment opportunities . tremendous social problems are predicted to cause outward immigration and economic depression in the foreseeable future . Enlightened people must be given a chance to make changes to this country before it is too late .Luckily the king support this path.I just hope he pushes further .

  14. Andrea's comment is great.
    We all humans THINK before we act.
    If an addict person thinks all the time sex, alcohol etc. that's what rules his/hers life.
    Saudi PIMPS - how cool is that!
    It's FEAR what rules men!
    Men are scared of each others. Men are scared that women could be good or even better than them if they get more freedom to express themselves.
    Oh, men!
    And how they cover their fear? They dominate women.
    Men rape women around the world.
    Men abuse women around the world.
    Oh, men!

    I posted today:
    bringing up tomorrow's fathers...
    How to bring up children in this world today?
    What kind of role models kids have today?

    we have a LOT of work to do! :)


  15. Saudi Man-Canada--thanks for making that point which I was about to do, except you have more experiential knowledge than I do of Saudi. I share only your experiential knowledge of Canada :). However, it is clear from personal testimony and history books that Saudi Arabian society became dramatically more conservative and restrictive following on the model of the Iranian ayatollahs and in particular after the siege of the Mosque in 1979. Thanks again.

  16. I don't agree in gender segregation in Saudi Arabia, or in any society for that matter.People should be free to do whatever they want.

    And if the people of Saudi Arabia are, truly following what the Koran says and that they are really good Muslims, then let's put it to the test. Gender mixing (or being normal) can be a great way to test and polish their faith.

    I think that it's up for the individual if he/she wants to be a good person or not. Nobody can tell me to be a good person if I don't want to, right?

  17. Oh God! I HATE such men. It is humiliating to even call them men.

  18. Hello Susie
    Thank you for informing us in live of those situations there. I'll come back and explore all your pages. I arrived to your blog through Nathalie's (Avignon in Photos: ).
    Have another cool air breath with a visit of my blog:
    Best regards Huberaime

  19. Hi Susie, the mouse over thing doesn't work for me, perhaps because I'm using Mozilla fox as a browser rather than internet explorer?
    So thanks for the explanation.

  20. And Susie there's a link to your blog on mine today. I believe more people should read you !

  21. Thanks to Saudi man - Canada for his words of common sense.

  22. One wonders why these men are so afraid of a society in which women are free to move unobstructed and without black tents over their bodies.

    The true wealth of Saudi Arabia is its people not its oil. As long as they keep half of the population under wraps they will not be able to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

  23. حسبنا الله ونعم الوكيل
    I can only say that what you wrote here hurts me deeply, I'm a Saudi girl and what you wrote is only your perspective and the people who have the same principles you have, you are an American women who came to Saudi and judges its people what right do you have to speak like that? are you even a Muslim to discuss our religion? Doesn't the Saudi have anything to say for themselves? you think that you are right on what you said then what is the proof obviously in USA you have lots of troubles for mixing genders together , you even criticizes the Shaikh as if you are qualified or have a bit of his knowledge in Islam. If you are a Muslim then get to know your religion if you are not then its not even your business.
    I assume the living here doesn't match your standards and you are not willing to get along then why not get back to America and save as the effort and the nerve to deal with such unpleasant person like you.
    When will you people STOP putting your noses into our issues YOU DON'T HAVE THE RIGHT so stop pretending that you care.

  24. Hey everybody, thanks Susie to talke about this hot issue sence i was in elementry school yes elementry school and i think it gettenig worse. It seems they become more immune against democrasy and free life. Any ways i hope thinks change im my country n i am more optimestic cuz i see lots of open minded ppl (men and women) talke against what restrict peoples rights. On the other hand, i feel so sad cuz nothing changed and i saw so many ppls dessapointed about this situation cuz they dont know what to do and how to start do anything? I beleive that the change start from people once people more confedent doesnt matter if they are Sunni Shiet we are stronge enough to start, they need to fegure out another way to say no thats enough.

  25. Hi SaudiMan-Canada - Thanks for your input. I think self-control and self-censorship work very well for most people.

    Hi Billie - Yes, I have gotten flak. Not everyone agrees with me.

    Hi FreeSpirit - Putting a strangle-hold on people will only backfire in the long run. I too hope it's not too late. I always appreciate your comments.

    Hi BLOGitse - I see a lot of people who live in fear here... but there are good men like FreeSpirit who support women's rights and would like to see change come. If only there were more men here like him...

    Hi Pepe - You are absolutely right - what are they afraid of? That's why I say that the Saudis are better than they are given credit for and only need to be given the chance to prove themselves instead of being kept in line by religious police.

    Hi Huberaime - Welcome and thanks!

    Hi Nathalie - Thanks so much!

    Hi Jerry - I'm afraid what you say is true. KSA needs to let women play a more active role in this society - its future depends on it.

  26. To Anon/سبنا الله ونعم الوكيل
    Of course what I wrote is MY perspective - this is MY blog! But it is also the perspective of many other Saudis as well - several of whom have commented here on this post. Contrary to what you might think, one doesn't have to be Saudi or Muslim to have an opinion. I think that calling for someone's death for supporting men and women working together is perverse, extreme and barbaric - and if you don't, then that is YOUR opinion. But I would then have to say that I think you are brainwashed - and that again is MY opinion. I don't need knowledge of Islam to know that I totally disagree with what this man said. I make my own decisions and I don't need someone like him trying to tell me what is right or wrong - I will decide that on my own.
    My nose is here in this country whether you like it or not - so that makes issues like this post my business because I am living here. I DO have the right to speak my opinion even though you think I don't. I published your comment even though I could have rejected it - but you will notice that yours is the only comment in support of this crazy sheikh, so not too many people agree with you OR him. I will continue to speak my mind about things I do not agree with and if you don't like what I have to say, I would suggest you just stay away from my blog. If you look hard enough, you'll be able to find other backward thinkers like you out there, or maybe you should just write your own blog.

  27. Hi Daughter of Arabia - I'd like to thank you and the other Saudis who have commented here on this post for speaking up and letting the world know that not all Saudis think like this Sheikh or just blindly approve of what someone says just because he is a sheikh. I can totally empathize with what you are saying about where do we start and how can we do something about it. I felt that way the 8yrs that Bush was the president of the US.

  28. WOW! Great blog! Would you be interested in writing a guest post on my site for women travelers, about your experience in Saudi Arabia? Feel free to email me at

  29. Fatwas...are you kidding me? Does anyone in the KSA really believe this has anything to do with a faith based life?

    The Sheikh's reduced following means he is losing power and in the end his brand of religion (as opposed to faith) is on the way out and good riddance. This nonsense extremist position has nothing to do with faith but with POWER or the lack of it and the politics of fear. Teach hate and intolerance and if you can't control it, kill it. Does that sound like something you want as a standard in your life?

    To these men, and I use the term loosely, women are an easy target. But that is changing. Freedom from oppression does not mean dissent punishable by death. The world is watching...and intolerant.

    King Abdullah sounds like a man who knows that fossil fuel usage will diminish as global warming takes center stage and the KSA will have to compete in a different arena. Education is the key to that. It's the key to everything.

    And Susie, I couldn't agree more about Bush. I always wished he would just shut up, rather than try to put together a cohesive sentence and humiliate us all. Of course, that's a story for another day.

  30. I'm from Singapore. My husband is an Australian revert to Islam and we're moving to Saudi Arabia somewhere in September for his studies. We want to live in a purely Islamic environment.I have been destroyed by my westernised upbringing and hate the way Islam is practiced in Singapore.I don't think the west has any RIGHTS to condemn our sheikh. This solution to immorality may be seen as 'extreme'is the best way to solve problems facing the world today. USA, UK & Canada as we know are the most morally corrupted nations in the world. If you have no solutions to your own problems then keep your mouth shut.What are you trying to encourage immorality in the land of the muslims? It's not that we don't trust muslim men or women to behave. We don't trust the devils,lucifer whatever you call them. Prophet Muhammad SAW said,'When a woman and man are alone,there is a third party and he is the devil who will lead them to sins. Starting from smiling, flirting,dating,kissing and then pre-marital sex,HIV/AIDS.I have been there,raised in a mixed schools.Corrupting people, not only through their physical actions but also actions of their hearts and minds, longing for something that is forbidden. People in the west they are miserable because they have become a godless nation and slaves to MONEY.

  31. Hey there Light,

    that's a whole lot of people you're making generalizations about, regarding the U.K., Canada, and the U.S. Obviously, not *everybody* is like that. Besides, the "west" wasn't condemning the sheik. What's the "west," exactly? Don't you find those generalizations problematic?

    I do. I'm a U.S. citizen living in TR, which is generally considered a "Muslim country." What does that mean, exactly? There are so many understandings of Islam here... so I can't really say. What I can say is that people generally treat each other pretty well, as far as I can see. I've encountered a lot of fear back home about what it means to live where I live, and I try to dispel the stereotypes every chance I get....

    Sounds like you and Susie have a bit in common -- you're both in a sort of transition from one place to another, and you're both quite passionate. I wonder if you can find some common ground for conversation?

  32. The Light of Islam--congratulations on your upcoming wedding, marriage, and move to Saudi Arabia. Since you are moving to Australia first perhaps you will share your impressions of that country on your blog and here. I think Australia would fit normally in the same very broad category as the USA, UK, and Canada, especially Canada as 2 former colonies now Commonwealth Nations. Our Prime Minister even cribbed the "let's go to war" speech of the Australian one, and just barely changed the name of the country and a few historical details. The US, as you probably know, is somewhat different historically and culturally in part due to being a republic not a constitutional monarchy, in part due to its current world dominance, and in part due to being more free enterprise, market driven capitalism in all things including health and education.
    I would say morally that Canada and Australia are on par, though due to their superior weather they are more often in summer clothes. (And seem to have a great deal of difficulty foregoing dress shorts in professional settings in Canada except in the dead of winter). You have a very exciting upcoming 6 months, enjoy!

  33. PS during my brief stay in Singapore I really liked its cleanliness, orderliness and the friendliness of the people. The orchid garden is truly splendid, the zoo admirable, and the sea world interesting. I hope I will have the occasion to spend more time there.

  34. Enjoyed your post and the comments. I enjoy being able to interact with both men and women. The constant segregation would annoy me after a while also.

  35. As a Muslim and a resident of Saudi Arabia I totally condemn what this Sheikh said. Like many, MANY other Muslims and people who live here, and am very glad he has no official position of authority at all.

    I have lived in the US and in Saudi Arabia. In my opinion the US is far more Islamic that Saudi Arabia with is basically tribal/patriarchal. Tribal/Patriarchal is the lense through with these bully "scholars" -and I use that term loosely- make stuff up to control people, rather than bring them closer to Allah.

  36. Hi Rachel - Thanks! I have emailed you.

    Hi Linda - Thanks for commenting. Extremism either way is never a good thing...

    Hi LightOfIslam - I wish you all the best and much happiness living here in KSA. Once you realize how many rights and freedoms you lose here just because you are a woman and that have no basis in Islam, maybe you will feel differently. I grew up in the West and lived there all of my adult life until 2yrs ago. There are many kind, good, happy, and religious people there. You are in for a rude awakening if you don't think you will find everything you abhor about the West here in KSA. From all of your bad experiences and presumptions, it sounds like you haven't made very good choices about your friends or places you frequent. I find it ignorant and insulting when people make sweeping generalizations about an entire group of people like you did. Who are you to judge the entire West by your limited knowledge?

  37. You are not muslim or saudi ,why do you always think that what you think or say is what we want???
    It's very annoying to have people like you come here and want to change us, and if we don't agree ,you say we are brainwashed, is your husband brainwashed too???


    I am a Saudi ..We have generations in Saudi who are not able to get married because they SEE no females to get married to.Many Marriages end up in divorce in Saudi because you tend to get married to the girl who has been chosen by your mother and you know nothing about her.(( AS simple as this))..They have better chance to get married in Singapore than in Saudi,,so don't raise your son here ,he will suffer tremendously(( I advice you)).SAY NO TO SEVERE SEGREGATIONS .THIS SHEIK HAS NO CLUE.He must be enjoying his 4 old wives and not thinking about you .

  39. To Anon/Arah - I have talked to enough Saudis to know that not all of them agree with you and neither do I. No one forced you to come and read my blog, but I am forced into gender segregation here, and I don't like it, so I am speaking up about it.
    I think that ANYone who thinks it is okay to kill people because they think it's okay to work in a mixed gender setting is brainwashed. God did not put us all on this earth to behave in this way.

  40. First of all, what the Shaikh have said has nothing to do with Islam, just like many many others who can't differentiate between Religion & Unsound customs or traditions.. and in my opinion, they are responsible for the immoral issues of the society they pretend to be fixing, which is actually caused by their extremism and ignorance...

    Sorry if i sound rude, but i have to comment on theses quotes, considering that I am a Saudi Citizen:

    - You said "I find it ignorant and insulting when people make sweeping generalizations about an entire group of people like you did. Who are you to judge the entire West by your limited knowledge?"

    Please try to be fair here, cause i think you are doing exactly the same, you are extremely defensive about your country.. maybe you are right it's not her right to make a generalized disparagement about People from other countries, and that's apply to you with all my respect...

    Personally, whenever I go the US or any foreign country, I have to respect it's people and never criticize their way of life cause I'm a guest in that country, and if I feel uncomfortable i leave..

    Please don't misunderstand me, you are more than welcome here, and i wish you all the best from the bottom of my heart..
    "if you feel that my comment it's not appropriate, Plz don't post it i totally understand.. ;-) "

    Best Regards,

  41. Hi Algahtani - Thanks for your comment - I'm happy to publish it. I don't feel that what I am saying is anything at all like what Light or Anon/سبنا الله ونعم الوكيل have said. They are making broad generalizations about the West. I am specifically disagreeing with what this sheikh said - and labeling anyone who agrees with his absurd fatwa as brainwashed. This is not generalizing. I get sick and tired when I hear people here talking about the morally corrupt West, and how all the women are whores, and how everyone is on drugs and having sex in the streets - it's this type of generalization that I think is insulting and ignorant. There are some people everywhere in the world who behave badly, but to label a whole society in these ways when I know good and well that only a small segment of the population behaves that way is just wrong and insulting. I'm always careful to use the words "many" or "most" if I'm describing something pervasive in a society. KSA is my home now. I'm no longer a guest here. There are many wonderful things here in KSA that I have written about, but agreeing with this type of fatwa is dangerous for the entire society and I feel the need to speak up. It's the way I was raised. I will not stand back and be silent when what this sheikh is suggesting is so morally repugnant to me. My hope is that other Saudis will speak out against this as well, and they are. It's what needs to be done. Thanks again for your comment.

  42. Thanks a lot for clearing things up, and i know how frustrating the transition can be, facing lots of contradicting laws caused by those ignorant Shaikhs, like women's right to drive.. it's so ridiculous.. they can become nuclear scientists or surgeons but they can't drive themselves to work !!!... even if u look at it in an extreme Islamic point of view, like this Albaraaks, it's better to be driving your own car rather than setting behind an unrelated male driver..

    Though i consider myself a religious Muslim, we who are born and raised here are so fed up with the politicization of religion, hypocrisy, superficiality, injustice and sometimes stupidity of some of the "Shaikhs" here..

    I wish they stop the nonsense and instead start focusing on what True Islam is all about, by preaching about good manners, work ethics, tolerance, kindness, SELF CONTROL... etc.. That's if they teach themselves first...

    I'm happy to tell you that theres an Aayah in the Holy Qur'an clearly states that whoever takes the life of another human, regardless of the status, religion, race..etc..of the victim, it is as though he has taken the life of all mankind, conversely he who helps save another human is considered to have saved all of mankind.. so Albarrak's Fatwa is not on his favor anyway.. and BTW corrupt Shaikhs who intentionally are misleading people with thier dangerous Fatwas considered worse than anyone else as far as i know...

    I don't know if you mean by "KSA is my home" that u got a Saudi passport or not, if yes congratulation my beduin sister.. :-) just kidding.. either way i wish you a very pleasant stay here... i recommend living in Jeddah city, the weather is HOT & VERY humid but all the facilities are available and the people here are more open minded..

    Thanks again for giving me the opportunity to express myself here....


  43. Sayin all the west is wrong is equally bad as saying all east is wrong .Anyone who says this, he wants to escape the argument because he fails in the argument .You can't solve problems by backlash,This only deepens problems .If our image in the west is deformed by a couple of irresponsible people ,we must work hard to close the gap and talk logic not by blaming one another ..You will never reach to anything this way.Thank you Susie for posting my comment again and again.I find this dialog very interesting ,and I find it frustrating that there are people in this planet who still think that in order to prove your point you need to expose others mistakes . THAT JUST DOESN'T WORK IN PHILOSOPHY ,and very bad habit if you are trying to build bridges between cultures .

  44. Salam
    I must tell the readers first that you are totally wrong, simply because you do not understand and can not understand what the Shekh exactly said and, therefore, You do not have the right to speak in this issue. This is a high level of religious speech I even find my self unable to explain it to you. Also, I must tell the readers once agin that You are making generalization and, as a Saudi, I can say that most of the nation would support him in different degrees. Again, this is a type of a religious speech and, unfortunately, it is far from your comprehension. Finally, I must say that We don not care if somebody likes our way of life or not and You must respect us and do not let some non-muslims here be better than you for their respect and understanding.

    1. you know i'm french and muslim and I totally agree with him too and I know a loooot of muslim women (french also) who agree with him too. like you said it's a religious speech and the majority of muslims (sunni or salafi like they like to call us in the west)agree with him.

  45. Look, Anonymous @5:05PM - You think I am wrong, and I think YOU are wrong. I have read several accounts of what exactly this Sheikh said, so I can form my own opinion about it, thank you very much. You say I don't have the right to speak about it, but I am! Just because I don't agree with what he said, you have a problem with it and say that I don't have the right to express my opinion.
    I worked for many years in various capacities with men and I also attended school with men. So this sheikh is saying that my husband and my father are pimps and that they should be put to death for "condoning" what I did. And I think that is wrong. And I am FAR from the only person who feels the way I do, including many here in KSA.
    Maybe you like having someone telling you how you should think or behave or feel about things, but I don't. If it works for you, then fine. No one will ever be able to convince me that what this sheikh said is justified or right. And if you truly don't care if others don't like some things about the way of life here, then why bother commenting and telling me that I don't have the right to speak out about something I disagree with? Disagreeing with something is not the same as disrespecting. Too many people here just blindly accept and don't question, even though Islam clearly says that you should ask questions - and that's what I do here all the time, yet people have a problem with that. I just don't get it. Thanks for your comment, but I still respectfully disagree with you.

  46. Anonymous wrote...
    "Again, this is a type of a religious speech and, unfortunately, it is far from your comprehension."

    You may agree with what the sheik's fatwa, but that doesn't mean others can't comprehend and yet disagree. I am interested to have you explain the fatwa and how you see this as a positive thing for Saudis.

    "Finally, I must say that We don not care if somebody likes our way of life or not"

    If you didn't care, then you probably wouldn't be writing on this blog. Every culture has things that we embrace and others that don't seem to work well. Do you think it possible that Westerners can see positive attributes of your culture but not agree with other aspects?

    "You must respect us and do not let some non-muslims here be better than you for their respect and understanding."

    I believe that respect is something different from agreement with an issue. There is a large discrepancy in your culture between who has power and those who are vulnerable. While you may be comfortable and enjoy the lifestyle, those who are victimized, feel vulnerable, etc. generally don't have the option of disagreeing, or leaving to go somewhere else. This is not an issue of Muslim vs non-Muslim, it is a human rights issue.

    It is easy to dismiss ideas that differ from our own, but I hope you will at least consider that others might see it differently and honor their beliefs also.

  47. Having just returned from my first visit to Saudi Arabia I can identify with your thoughts about segregation. I was fortunate to go in on a family visit (in-laws) and see things from the 'inside' so to speak. I was as prepared as I could be for this visit and even though I was there for only a month I found the male/female separation was what bothered me the most. The problems that arise from this are many and deep. I have to admire your ability to live as you do now!!! I know I couldn't do it.

  48. To Andrea - Thank you very much.

    To Wendy - I hope you enjoyed your time here aside from the gender segregation. Thanks.

  49. Anonymous wrote: most of the nation would support him in different degrees.
    He might be right although it is good to search the statistics of it.But,you never know what will happen tomorrow or next month and how people of Saudi Arabia change their minds about many issues.We live in an unstable period of time . Majority of Saudis are convinced to some degree that there is a need for a change especially women of this country but they are afraid to express themselves that they might be taken wrongly by the government or a tribe .We watch other Gulf countries and how they manage to solve their problems better than we do and that by itself is creating many seeds of a change right now . majority of our nation long to do even better .King Abdullah came with a different leadership that took the country to a new levels of freedom that once was forbidden .His daughter ( Adellah) is speaking nowadays on behalf of women of Saudi Arabia in a new language ( Human rights language ) .Things are changing .I just wish that those people who oppose the change can see the light at end of the tunnel ,that there is a hope for a better tomorrow .That there is really so much to gain by making positive changes .One will be able to live a richer life , a less stressful life .To live a life that no longer one have to worry about who will take his children to school,who will support his family in case man fails,a life where we Saudis no longer have to beg for visas from so many countries .A life where Saudi Arabia can once again raise chin high among all the countries of the world .A life where visitors to Saudi Arabia can enjoy their stay and remember our country as a land of peace, tolerance and rich culture .Thanks Susie for taking me in.

  50. Hi FreeSpirit - You and I definitely share the same vision. Thanks so much for expressing yourself so well and so diplomatically - something I don't always do so well!

  51. While reading this entry, it occurred to me that the cultural practice of segregating men and women and promoting the idea that they cannot mix without sinful behaviors occurring, allows the men in these cultures to behave inappropriately when confronted with a member of the opposite sex...then blame it on the situation/woman. It removes the need for self restraint/discipline. So while they think this is a very macho type of's actually a bit wimpy!!!

  52. Susie and Free Spirit, loved your comments here }:)

  53. All the comments are valid,but of course I do not agree with all of them.In my opinion nobody has the right to take a life for whatever reason;we are all brought up with different beliefs and values and what is true for me is not necessarily true for somebody else.My reason is not more or less valid than yours,just different.And it is within this premise that I cannot accept the death penalty.And we all know that there are countries,east and west that have the death penalty as a deterrent!?How do they justify such laws?Where is the dividing line that allows us to kill or not? Someone is sentenced to death for killing someone, to me that is in itself a contradiction.Of course people who commit horrible crimes should be punished and not live confortable behind bars! To me taking a life is taking a life,the reason behind it does not make it more or less acceptable! And by the way I am from a European country that does not have the death penalty,which makes me very proud.

  54. westerners - get over it. Nobody ever died from gender segregation. Live with it or leave it.

  55. Neutrally speaking, I have read Sheikh Al-Barrak's fetwa in Arabic and conclude that in this blog post his words have been taken out of context (notably the part about pimping); thus, I advise all the concerned parties to review the Arabic text of his fetwa and then come back to the discussion. However, I strongly criticise the reference to "killing" in the fetwa, the implementation of which shall always and solely legitimately remain the monopoly of the Authorities (i.e. those governing the state).

    In my own humble opinion, segregation is the way forward for our human society, for the simple reason that a mixed environment distracts and diverts one's mind from one's sublime objectives, and that refers to both males and females. There does not have to be any luring or salacious activity taking place; the mere presence of unrelated males and females in a single location, according to my own observations, leads to emotional instability. Don't take my word for it; refer back to psychologists who have analysed and studied the psychological and physiological changes that occur within the human body when male-female mingling takes place.

    Let us not be bigoted to ignorance, but rather cling on to those who carry the knowledge... I mean the people who carry both the science and the sincerity

    It's just a thought I liked to share; my humble contribution to the discussion.

  56. Maybe people don't die because of gender segregation, but a lot of worthwhile things do.
    Like mental health.
    Being able to communicate with the other sex. This is always difficult, but segregation only feeds misunderstanding and shallow relationships even between married couples.
    The chance for work is practically nil for women.
    Men cannot deal with women.
    Boys and girls cannot communicate and will find it very difficult to find a partner which is psycologically a good match.
    And, a strange obsession with sex. Everything seems to have a sexual connotation. Everything in KSA seems to be about sex. As if sex is the only thing people can think about when they are segregated. That is of course the result of such an unnatural arrangement.
    Very unhealthy

    I think it's a pity to let people's mental health degenerate because of a wrongful interpretation of a religion.

  57. Hi,

    Really enjoyed the story. Just one criticism however. The story would have worked just as well without the picture of the pimp. I think most people the world over know what a pimp is and I think the picture just furthers stereotypes. Just my two cents.