why your sexy eyes are now a sin before allah
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is generally known for four things to the outside world. It’s home to vast natural reservoirs of oil. It’s territory hosts the historic birthplace of Islam in Medina and Mecca. Its sheiks enjoy huge profits and spend them on lavish parties, hired help, and exotic cars and vacations around the world. And on paper, the kingdom goes by an extremely strict, fundamentalist interpretation of Islam called Wahhabbism, a legacy of a pact with the Saud family as the nation’s current lands were being conquered. Under this peculiar brand of religious belief, Saudi women have been getting a very raw deal for many decades, banned from all sorts of activities we in the West consider routine for both sexes. They can’t go out alone, they can’t drive, they can’t shop in the same stores as men, and your couch probably has a much more favorable legal standing in any legal household dispute than The Kingdom’s women. There was a hope that this may change after King Abdullah gave them the right to vote, but that view quickly darkened after an Egyptian news site reported that the Saudi religious police may now start demanding that women cover their overly sexy eyes, or else…
This newest innovation in religious belligerence has been hatched by the often loathed Saudi religious police force known as The Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, and further extends the already rather explicit message from very conservative Saudi men who believe that women simply aren’t valid human beings in their eyes and are more akin to property. And hey, their logic seems to continue, if they’re my property, why should others be looking at them or talking to them? Why do some of them even try to make the occasional peep about being treated like real people? If they get uppity, we’ll arrest them, lash them, or stone them until they stop complaining and do as we tell them, right? And this mix reactionary fundamentalism has been working very well to keep Saudi women repressed and helped fizzle out peaceful demonstrations by a number of Saudi ladies who wanted to be able to drive themselves on some basic family errands. One of the first women to try was swiftly sentenced to ten lashes, though the King suspended her sentence at the last minute in light of international discontent about the matter. And strangely, not too long afterwards, he suddenly began to publicly mull the idea of allowing women to vote and run for office in The Kingdom.
But then again, these rights may be short lived. The buzz from the kingdom says King Adbullah is rarely lucid for more than a few hours a day and the real force behind the sudden reforms is one of his daughters. A new crown prince appointed after the slated one passed away from numerous ailments, the 77 year old Nayef bin Abdul Aziz, doesn’t think much of women’s rights, and in 2009 said there’s no need for women to vote or try to hold office in Saudi Arabia. His view of the female half of the human species is as abysmal as of those in charge of the laws that strip them of all but the right to existence. Whereas in the West, fundamentalists who try to treat women like their possessions are constantly ridiculed and rightfully so, in Saudi Arabia, it’s normal to treat women as third-class citizens, instruct them to seal themselves in burqas, separate them from male Saudis by threat of legal, institutionalized violence, and now warn them to be ready to cover their eyes should one of the fundamentalist enforces of a CPVPV squad decide that their particular eye color and shape makes him feel some sinful and immodest temptation, or what we, in a society that doesn’t feel it needs to be based on the prudish ideas of obsessed, asexual clerics, would call perfectly normal feelings of attraction.
Really, it never ceases to both amaze and scare me how religious fundamentalism can propel some to build oppressive institutions and make discrimination based on nothing more than the claims of theologians who spend their lives endlessly rehashing hundreds of interpretations of the same texts, the modus operandi. To think that there is a country where a public appointed official can call a press conference at which he issues a legally enforceable edict to women to cover their eyes if they make prudes like him feel funny and be taken as seriously as a judge ruling on a case in court simply boggles my mind. And this is without even imagining the kind of mindset a CPVPV squad member would have to spend his days patrolling the streets and looking out for anyone acting like an actual human being rather than a fearful automaton programmed by al-Wahhab. It’s no wonder that the religious police is widely despised by Saudis and reports of abuses by its officers are not at all uncommon. After all, when you believe that your decisions are divinely correct and that those who violate what Allah told you was right are insolent sinners who deserve your wrath for their own good, why not make a few extraordinary efforts? It’s a tough job to keep humans from being humans and women from getting ideas about having the same rights as men, but there always seems to be a tyrannical zealot more than happy to do it. And as long as people like him are around in Saudi Arabia, the kingdom’s women will suffer.