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Saturday, January 21, 2006

The Girls of Riyadh

Twenty-four year old Rajaa Al-Sanie's first book, "The Girls of Riyadh", may not turn out to be worth much as a work of great prose. It may not find a place next to Nawal Al Sadawi's brilliant writings on my bookshelf. Perhaps it won't even sit near Tehmina Durrani's "My Feudal Lord". Since it's not on Amazon's list yet, I'll just have to wait and see what readers say. So far, of course, no review, particularly in the Western Media, seems even remotely interested in its literary merits, preferring to gloat over having discovered, surprise-surprise, double-standards and moral decay in jolly old Soddy Arabia. Oh, dear!

Googling the book title revealed nothing new about the book, but it did unearth a news item in the Arab News (Sunday, 2, October, 2005). Under 4 Arrested for Molesting Girls in Riyadh I found nested in the last paras, the following horror story that really stumped me. :
Last year, a mobile sex clip was widely distributed in the Kingdom and it too horrified many people. The clip showed a black man raping a Saudi girl as she pleaded for help. The governor of Riyadh immediately gave orders to find the offenders and bring them to justice. Two young Saudis were arrested and sentenced by the high court to prison terms and flogging for having planned and filmed a Nigerian driver sexually assaulting a 17-year-old girl. 
The judge sentenced the principal defendant, Barjis ibn Faleh, 27, to 12 years imprisonment and 1,200 lashes; the other Saudi, Abdul Rahman ibn Haif, 22, was sentenced to two years and 200 lashes. The Nigerian, Youssef Abkar Muhammad Abdullah, was sentenced to six years in prison and 600 lashes. [Italics mine.]
That a 'planner' got twice the punishment the rapist received was strange enough. But, the grossness of the crime and such incogruous sentencing in this case aside, what I am really horrified about is that, had this been a consensual act, the couple could have been - under some circumstances - stoned to death (in itself a topic for debate within Islam).
Considering the violence of rape as worthy of a lesser punishment than an act that may occur out of Love, certainly seems a shocking and stupid way of looking at things. But that's male-bonding and chauvinism for you!
Back to Rajaa's book: Literary merits and demerits aside, it is a milestone. If King Abdullah, reported as being sympathetic to the idea of slowly-but-surely including women in all aspects of governance, does not prevent her from appearing on international talk shows (fearing that she will damage the country's image), she will inspire many other young women, everywhere, to expose the hideous pressures that they continue to endure and the dual lives they are often forced to live, even in this century. Good luck, kid!
Truth can be really powerful stuff. You're not expecting it.
Kurt Vonnegut

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Blogger the olive ream said...

I think the real cause for this archaic and male chauvistic thinking in SA is the unending avarice for power and importance. Once you are addicted, you will do anything to subjugate, even contrive interpretations of Islam that suit your need.

It is ironic that these men 'supposedly' follow the teachings of a Prophet who accepted the marriage proposal of someone who was not only older than him but was a business woman as well. I wonder how many these guys would admit to this fact...

ZAK your commentary never ceases to amaze me. Brilliant post!

21 January, 2006 15:04

Anonymous Anonymous said...

its a very thought prvoking commentary ZAK!!!
although i fail to totally grasp the context of the book with out having read it, i am assuming its about victimisation and consequential reaction of women in arab world ofcourse!
i am also familier with the rape video story..and i always think that some day we ll have cases like that on open media's as well god forbid... and i hold those responsible in the same context of undue repression of both men and women and lack of ANY consensus on ANY doubtful matters of islam (which could very easily have been dicoursed through among various sects) or/as well as equlity in religious matters in the muslim world!

22 January, 2006 18:02


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