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Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia, Washington DC
June 5, 2013 Saudi Clerics Obsession With Women Commentaries and Analy
By: -

CDHR’s Commentary: Raha Moharrak, a 25-year-old Saudi woman, did what no Saudi man has ever done before: she climbed and proudly stood atop Mount Everest. Like millions of resilient Saudi women, Raha defied a multitude of crippling man-made impediments. Despite systemic, institutionalized political, religious, economic, and social taboos, Raha showed the world, her country’s misogynistic ruling elites and her countrymen that a fast-growing number of Saudi women will no longer be forced to be subservient to men and to a repressive system that treats them malevolently.   
At the apex of her formidable journey, she was seen displaying the flag of the Saudi government—the flag of the country that  denies her the right to drive, travel alone, get a job, register in schools, or legally obtain disease-preventing medication without permission from a male relative (male guardian) even if he is a minor or a convicted criminal.
The questions that have been raised by some Saudis and are worth debating: does the flag represent the country, or does it represent the system that denies women full citizenship? Should Raha Moharrak have displayed the flag, or would it have been more fitting to display a map of the country with portraits of resolute women like her. These are legitimate questions that deserve public debate among Saudi men and women. One can argue that the flag does not represent the country, but the autocratic families that rule it. The ruling Saudi dynasties (the Al-Saud and Al-Shaikh) claim ownership of the country as evidenced by making their cult-like brand of Islam, Wahhabism, the state’s religion, and by naming it after themselves, using the possessive form, “Saudi.”
These two families control the state’s armed forces, wealth, land, foreign affairs, and domestic security. They control its educational, religious, and judicial institutions. They control its houses worship, including the grand mosques in Mecca and Medina. All governors of all regions of the country are members of the ruling family. The interpreters of the Quran (the State constitution) and the Shariah (the arbitrary law of the land) are mostly descendants of the founder of the state’s official and only recognized religion, their radical brand of Islam known as Wahhabism. The highest religious authority of the land (the Mufti), the head of the ferocious religious police, and most of the state’s judges are also descendants of the founder of the state’s austere religion, Mohammed Ibn Abdul Wahhab. Given this total control of the state by these two families, how does one distinguish between the country and its rulers/owners?    
Based on this politico-religious structure, one can safely say that there is no distinction between the Saudi state and its rulers. The country is operated like a company owned by a constellation of shareholders and governed by a board of directors—which, in this case, are the same people. The shareholders and the board of directors consist of Saudi royals and descendants of the founder of the state’s religion such as the Mufti, who is the most outspoken opponent of women’s rights.
As evidenced by these facts, it is clear that the Saudi flag that Ms. Raha Moharrak displayed atop Mount Everest represents the country’s absolute rulers and their system, both of which are responsible for denying women their basic human and civil rights. Instead of unfurling the flag of a misogynistic system, it would have been more revealing had Raha displayed a map of the country with a picture of the true reality for Saudi women--women draped in black--with a caption that reads, “We may be covered, but we will no longer be hidden.”  This thought-provoking statement would have dramatically exposed the true nature of the Saudi misogynistic system and its intentional policy of keeping Saudi society divided along gender, ethnic, regional and religious lines. More importantly, the statement would have generated constructive domestic discourse about the Saudi government’s toxic policies against women.
A defiant protest atop Mount Everest against institutionalized discriminatory policies and practices that target half of Saudi society could not simply be written off as a domestic problem by the international community. Due to the Saudi government’s control over 25% of the world’s known oil reserves  and its control over Islam’s two holiest shrines, the international community finds itself in the hypocritical position of supporting a repressive system that many loathe for religious and cultural reasons.
Western democracies are in a particularly embarrassing position. On the one hand they promote and support pro-democracy advocates and fighters in the Arab World; and on the other, they support one of the world’s last absolute monarchies that not only marginalizes women, but openly supports the abolishment of democratic systems.
Because of Saudi oil reserves, it is undeniable that the international community has a stake in Saudi Arabia’s stability and security, but at what cost to the Saudi people? How long can the international community, especially Western democracies, continue to support an absolute system that not only denigrates and mistreats women, but poses doctrinal threats to the cherished democratic values of the Saudi regime’s staunchest supporters and protectors?
Like Raha Moharrak, there are millions of educated and intelligent Saudi women who deserve recognition as full citizens by their government, the respect of their countrymen, and support from the international community, especially freedom-loving men and women.  Many Saudi women are currently striving peacefully toward their full rights, but they need the international community’s support before they conclude that violence is the only option available to them to achieve their legitimate goals—a phenomenon we have already witnessed throughout the Arab World.  
The Mufti’s Obsession with Women
CDHR’s Commentary: One of the Saudi state’s highest religious authority, the Mufti, is his obsession with women. He adamantly opposed to women’s right to work, drive or mingle with men. Despite the fact that there is nothing in Islam or tradition that says women cannot work, drive or mingle with men, the Mufti insists otherwise. He feels that even ‘Employing women in shops selling female accessories {to other women} is a crime and disrespectful. 
One of the Mufti’s relentless attacks on women and unflinching insistence that they are incompetent and helpless was aired in a recent interview on Al-Majd, a religious zealot TV channel that airs in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and around the world. The Mufti reflects the wishes of his royal partners who shield him from public scrutiny and criticism. Criticizing or distorting the Mufti’s reputation is against the law. Violators can face long term imprisonment and heavy fines.
Despite the Mufti’s declared objective, protecting women from harm and maintaining society’s Islamic character, his overall agenda as defined by the king and his senior brothers, is much broader. The Mufti, his royal partners and their forefathers have used religion as a tool of segregation, intimidation, expropriation and divisiveness since the formation of their alliance in the middle of the 18 century.
Preventing women from driving, working and be the authors of their destiny are designed to keep the society divided, unproductive and dependent on the Saudi system for food, justice and security. There is nothing in Muslim religious text books or tradition to justify or substantiate the Mufti’s intense campaign against women’s self-reliance.
Even though the royals are the real power wielders, the Mufti and his religious cohorts play major role in the Saudi people’s lives. Prominent among the Mufti’s roles in perpetuating the absolute Saudi system is his faux and unmeritorious argument that women accepting that women are full citizens and capable human beings will destroy the morals and values of society. For the Mufti, women must remain like these and confined to their homes.
 Like his royal handlers, the Mufti may not be aware that educated Saudi women and men know that his agenda real concern is not the well-being of women and society, but fear of social and political cohesiveness among all segments and factions of society regardless of gender, ethnic or religious orientations. People know that he Mufti is only echoing some of the most powerful princes including the late Prince Naif who saw no more noble responsibility for women than staying home and producing “good men.”
Misogynistic Saudi Clerics
CDHR’s Commentary: One issue that Saudi clerics seem to cherish is their hate for women, fear of their empowerment and obsession with their sexuality. The clerics don’t want women to work, drive or mingle with men because they consider these human activities unnatural and a threat to Islamic teachings, society’s security, stability and moral purity. Now anyone who rejects violence against women is considered immoral.
In April 2013 two Saudi citizens, a man and a woman, started a “White Ribbon” movement, a version of the globally adopted Canadian Movement formed in 1991 and whose “primary objective is to challenge men to accept their role and responsibility in working to end violence against women and girls.” The movement was established in response to a massacre of 14 Canadian women by a man who blamed feminism for his inability to secure a job.
More Saudi women and men are becoming alarmed by increasing reportage of violence against women mostly by their husbands, fathers and brothers. The upsurge in violence lead to the establishment of the White Ribbon Movement which is generating scathing assaults by prominent religious clerics led by Shaikh Nasser Al Omar, an extremist hooligan who considers women subservient to men and anyone who rejects violence against women is immoral.  
As denigrating, divisive and threatening to Saudi society, its unity and security as these relentless attacks on Saudi women by the state’s religious clerics are, they are exposing them for who they are and have always been, anti-women, anti-freedom of choice, anti-respect for basic human rights and anti-basic common sense.
 Vendetta Masks Poses Threats to Saudi Stability? 
CDHR’s Commentary: Despite repetitive claims and hyped assurances by the Saudi royals and their top religious authority and front man, the Mufti, that their autocratically ruled kingdom is stable and prosperous, they live in constant fear of their population rising up against their repressive and anti-democratic system. A recent example of the rulers’ obsessive fear of their population’s retaliation against their inclusive repression is a warning issued by the regime’s Ministry of Religious Affairs, MRA, against potential threats posed by the Vendetta masks which some Saudi youth have been seen wearing mostly in public parks.
Prompted by the warning issued by the MRA, the feared and loathed Ministry of Interior reportedly decided to confiscate the Vendetta mask and ban its importation. This happened despite the authorities’ admission that their few young masks wearers may not be aware of what it represents. They might be right in assuming that. Since gender mingling is not allowed publicly in Saudi Arabia, it’s more likely that the youth wearing the mask in public parks are seeking female attention rather than plotting a revolution.
While the Saudi authorities are alarmed by their youth wearing the Vendetta Mask, popularized by social protesters in other countries, their main apprehension is focused on the letter “V”, the first letter in “Vendetta.” They are concerned because this letter is used as a sign of “victory”, a gesture increasingly flashed by some young Saudis, especially since the start of the Arab Spring in 2010.
It’s the fear of what the “V” sign implies or may lead to that caused the Saudi government’s religious establishment (which the royal family uses to debase women and to control and regulate all citizens’ behavior, movements and dress code) to alert the country’s numerous Imams (Muslim preachers), fathers and youth agencies to be aware of the implanting of revolutionary ideas represented by the mask and V sign.
If the country is secure and stable and if its population is content as the authorities claim why is the government fearful of a few young people wearing Vendetta Masks and shirts with the “V” sign? The answer is simple; the Saudis are among the most oppressed people in the world. Like most Arabs, they are becoming increasingly convinced that the only way they can obtain their freedom is through revolution. The Saudi regime and its supporters know that the Saudi people are becoming increasingly restless and that public uprising is a real probability.
Saudi Tweeters are Preordained for Hell 
CDHR’s Commentary: Sheikh Abdul Latif Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh, the head of the notorious Saudi religious police, predicts that “…anyone using social media sites - and especially Twitter – ‘has lost this world and his afterlife.” This is bad news for the Saudis and all social media users, if his Excellency’s premonition materializes. This supposedly less dogmatic Wahhabi descendant minister may not know this, but most of his extremist agency operatives, the ruling family and prominent Saudi clerics (his intimate colleagues) are Twitter users. In fact, Saudis are among the most frequent users of Twitter, Facebook and YouTube in the world.  
Abdul Latif, the head of the ferocious religious police which many Saudis describe rightfully as a licensed terrorist organization, is a representative of the repressive system for which the Al-Sheikh dynasty is partially architect, legitimizer, perpetuator and beneficiary. Abdul Latif is only echoing his mentor relative, the Grand Mufti, Sheikh Abdul-Aziz al-Sheikh who characterized Saudi social media users as clowns. The reason behind these well-positioned and authoritative men’s rejection of social media and vilification of its users has nothing to do with concern for people’s souls. These and other autocratic Saudi officials’ fear the power of the social media and its liberating impact on Saudi society.
For the first time in their history, the Saudi people can communicate freely with each other and with the rest of the world without the government’s razor-sharp censorship and severe punishment for those who question the regime’s authority. Because of social media and access to uncensored global information, the Saudi people are becoming more informed, less vulnerable to the ruling elites’ indoctrination and to their perverted use of religion as a scare tactic.
The Mufti’s and the religious police chief’s demonization of the social media and denigration of its users are obviously a prelude to the Saudi government’s pending plan to identify social media users and monitor their activities. This ill-conceived proposal is doomed to fail. Trying to control social media and monitor the activities of its users may prove to be impossible. In fact, attempting to control and monitor the voluminous traffic on social media is beyond the reach of the most repressive regimes, as the Chinese and the remaining Arab despots are discovering. This is a war the Saudi regime cannot win. In reality, the system is more likely to provoke public antagonism and hasten the regime’s inevitable demise. 
 
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