Monday, November 24, 2008

The Rocking, Driving, Slamming Women of Saudi Arabia

They cannot perform in public. They cannot pose for album cover photographs. Even their jam sessions are secret, for fear of offending the religious authorities in this ultraconservative kingdom. But the members of Saudi Arabia’s first all-girl rock band, the Accolade, are clearly not afraid of taboos.
--The AccoLade on MySpace and FaceBook, and their music for download.

A Saudi woman has posted a video of herself driving on YouTube in an effort to urge the Saudi government to expand the rights of women to drive in Saudi Arabia. Wajeha Al-Huwaider has a driver's license, but she is only allowed to drive in rural areas of Saudi Arabia. She said that restriction "paralyzes half the population." She wants authorities to let women drive in Saudi cities.
The Jeddah United women's basketball team trickled onto the court, each player wrapped in a black abaya and head scarf. Within minutes, the women had shed their cloaks and were in uniform – white pants and jerseys with their names in red – practicing layups, passes, and foul shots. The team, made up mostly of Saudi students and housewives, is preparing for a local tournament this month. But what the women would really love to do, many said, is compete internationally and represent their country abroad, something Saudi Arabia does not permit.
--"Saudi Arabia's Underground Women's Basketball Scene"

Saudi women are being kept in perpetual childhood so male relatives can exercise "guardianship" over them. . . . Saudi women have to obtain permission from male relatives to work, travel, study, marry or even receive health care. Their access to justice is also severely constrained. . . . The Saudi establishment sacrifices basic human rights to maintain male control over women. Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world where women are not allowed to drive. Saudi clerics see the guardianship of women's honour as a key to the country's social and moral order.

Saudi boys are raised, essentially, to believe that they are the center of the universe. They're fussed over not just by their own mothers, but by all of their father's wives in the harem.   As with the breast feeding, much of this intensive communal care can leave a strongly erotic aftertaste in the boy's memory. For example, a common way for the women to stop a baby boy from crying is by caressing and stroking his genitals. Such practices have been credited with contributing to the way that Saudi men tend to view women as mere sex objects, placed on this earth solely to gratify the men's physical appetites.

Meanwhile, girls are taught to understand and accept that their existence has no meaning whatsoever, except as it relates to the men in their family. When a girl is young, her parents are merely ashamed that she wasn't a boy. Her main role is to help care for her brothers. Later, however, the parents will be anxiety-ridden over the possibility that she might bring shame upon her family. Just as a mother will later be called after her son, so are girls called after their father. If Fatima's father is named Abdullah, she will be known as Fatima bint Abdullah, "Fatima, Daughter of Abdullah," until the day she has a son. . . . (page 173)

I explained, too, how Byzantium was basically Greek in culture, so it also shouldn't be a surprise that the most important part of the Byzantine influence on Islamic civilization came from Byzantium's Greek past. This may seem like a bit of mystery at first. But in a second, you'll probably agree that, in fact, you already know roughly what I mean. After all, what do you think of when I say the word "Greek"? Socrates, right? Plato? Aristotle? All those guys. Philosophers and other intellectual pioneers that we've all heard of. Well, they were the ones who influenced Islamic thought. Most important was Aristotle, but the Arabs also took up the work of mathematicians like Euclid, physicians like Galen and Hippocrates, and scientists like Ptolemy. These ancient Greek sages were still being studied in school when the Arabs conquered Byzantine lands in the Middle East. Eventually the Arabs realized they had a treasure trove of knowledge on their hands, and they began to promote further research on it. A leading example of this is the early ninth-century Abbasid caliph al-Mamun. He was once thought to have set up a research facility in Baghdad called "the House of Wisdom," especially to translate works on science and philosophy from Greek into Arabic. (page 37)


Anonymous said...

About The accolade, i can say that, yes they have a large list of stuff they cant do, but it's really a great step, cz there is a lot of talented girls who cant do the same cz they dont have the gots to do it, when the accolade..(dina-dareen-lamia-amjad) did it and it's only a matter of time before a lot of girls can do the same,They are such an inspiration for us, cz they are brave enough to do such a thing in a country where a woman isn't aloud to drive, i believe in that change is not something we wait for others to do, change is what we do to make our lifes and other lifes better, and the accolade made this change, and it's a matter of time before a lot of girls can do the same, i have talnted friends who are workin on bands now just bcz of they saw the very inspiring girls power the accolade represented, hope u undrestand that yes they cant do a lot of these stuff but someday bcz of them there will be girls brave enough to do it..!:)

J. K. Gayle said...

Thank you for sharing how The Accolade are inspiring so many to be as brave! We look forward to hearing and hearing from more talented girls and women.