Assalāmu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullāhi Wabarakath,
There was a recent article in New York Times in a 'series of articles examining the lives of youth across the Muslim world at a time of religious revival' called 'Love on Girls' Side of the Saudi Divide'.
The article gives an inside into the lives of Saudi Women and girls, their way of life, the gender segregation, the face-veil and the hopes and dreams of these girls.
Here is an excerpt:
The separation between the sexes in Saudi Arabia is so extreme that it is difficult to overstate. Saudi women may not drive, and they must wear black abayas and head coverings in public at all times. They are spirited around the city in cars with tinted windows, attend girls-only schools and university departments, and eat in special “family” sections of cafes and restaurants, which are carefully partitioned from the sections used by single male diners.Although the author tries to present the article in a neutral light, there is obvious bias in it. The Women and Girls are portrayed as being oppressed and suppressed and some of the comments that were left by readers were filled with ignorance, hate and were very insulting.
Special women-only gyms, women-only boutiques and travel agencies, even a women-only shopping mall, have been established in Riyadh in recent years to serve women who did not previously have access to such places unless they were chaperoned by a male relative.
Playful as they are, girls like Ms. Othman and her friends are well aware of the limits that their conservative society places on their behavior. And, for the most part, they say that they do not seriously question those limits.
Most of the girls say their faith, in the strict interpretation of Islam espoused by the Wahhabi religious establishment here, runs very deep. They argue a bit among themselves about the details — whether it is acceptable to have men on your Facebook friend list, or whether a male first cousin should ever be able to see you without your face covered — and they peppered this reporter with questions about what the young Saudi men she had met were thinking about and talking about.
But they seem to regard the idea of having a conversation with a man before their showfas and subsequent engagements with very real horror. When they do talk about girls who chat with men online or who somehow find their own fiancés, these stories have something of the quality of urban legends about them: fuzzy in their particulars, told about friends of friends, or “someone in my sister’s class.”
Sad how backwards and sad the society is over there
— David g, HoustonIt's humanizing and relieving to understand that, despite the severity of their oppression, these women still have joy and desires. But I guess in the NY Times, like in Saudi Arabia, boys stories come first.
— EKO, DC I have a dream that someday we will have a Christian church built in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, where men AND women are sitting side by side as equals and no one is wearing a veil of oppression.
— chris, new york
With restrictive lives like this, where nothing is left to individual initiative, it is no surprise that Saudis, and Arab Moslems in general, have contributed so little to the intellectual accomplishments of the world.
— Jim S., ClevelandThese young women are such perfect examples of the Stockholm Syndrome--the captives identifying with the captors. This is one of the saddest articles I have read in a while.
— brendan, nyc
Gender segregation and modesty is greatly emphasised in Islam. Women-Only beaches, libraries, parks and other such places within the Muslim World are a blessing, especially for those of us who practice Hijab/Niqaab and these Countries cater to the needs of its Women. A lot of people, usually Non-Muslims cannot conceive why Muslim Women would choose to wish to cover their face, or even their heads and body with Hijab. It has a religious and spirtiual connotation to it, and one must be part of a certain society and familiar with particular religious values to understand the reasoning behind it.
In the sea of ignorant comments that were made, there were a few which came from reasonable people:
Great story, great topic, very well written - an objective view on a world few of us are familiar with.
While many of us westerners are shocked or outraged at what we see as a severe aspect of Saudi culture, it is alas theirs, not ours. It is funny how so many Christians here are quick to pass judgment.
How can a citizen of a country that worships the likes of Paris Hilton be so quick to judge what is or is not immoral?
— poliko, Tbilisi
I really liked this one because it really hits the point. 'How can a citizen of a country that worships the likes of Paris Hilton be so quick to judge what is or not immoral?'
And that is the truth! Why are people, who live in a society which is extremely materialistic and where adultery, incest, fornication, same-sex marriages and other such happenings are the norm even thinking about passing judgement on other people? Who made them the higher authority on how people should behave, live and act?