King Pardons Saudi Gang Rape Victim

by matttbastard

Some good news for a change:

Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah has pardoned a Saudi woman sentenced to 200 lashes after she was gang raped.

The woman, known only as “Qatif girl” after the area where the crime occurred, was raped at knife point by seven men as a former boyfriend drove her home.

She had been sentenced in October 2006 to 90 lashes for being alone in a car with a man who was not a relative but had her [punishment] increased to 200 lashes and six months in jail after she spoke out about her case.

As noted in yesterday’s LA Times, the move was not entirely unexpected:

Saudis are used to the public beheadings of murderers and amputations of the hands of pickpockets, but the Qatif girl’s ordeal embarrassed the country at a time Riyadh is negotiating major international business deals and emerging as a potential broker in Middle East peace talks. The government has said it will review the case, an indication that the king may move to overrule Islamic fundamentalists.

But:

“Don’t expect big changes and sudden successes, but reform has taken root,” said Mishary A. Alnuaim, the vice dean of law and political science at King Saud University. “Modernizing religion is still slow. That’s the million-dollar question. You still find a lot of messages of intolerance.

Yeah, modernization sure moves at a glacial pace sometimes. Let’s hope it quickens, for the sake of all women who reside in the kingdom. Melissa further highlights the half-full aspect of the ruling:

According to the Saudi justice minister, Abdullah bin Muhammed al-Sheikh, the King remains “convinced and sure that the verdicts were fair.” Saudi Arabia remains a US ally, despite its appalling treatment of women and other widespread human rights abuses.

What, you didn’t actually expect institutional mistreatment of women and “widespread” human rights violations to actually mean something, when balanced against (short term) regional stability (and, of course, that sweet, sweet crude)? But at least we can be all but assured that Dubya went to bat for the victim at some point during all this, right?

Right?

President Bush expressed anger at the sentence earlier this month, saying he wondered how he would react if it had been one of his daughters. But he said he had not made his views known directly to the Saudi king, a U.S. ally.

Feminist Peace Network acidly observes that “[e]xpressing astonishment and wondering how he would react if it was his daughters and failing to lodge a protest directly with the King himself is not an acceptable expression of “anger”, the word used by the article to describe his reaction.”

Hey, it’s the thought that counts.

Update: CAP’s Mara Rudman comments on the ruling:

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Immune Deficient Sunday

by matttbastard

Once again my body has unconditionally surrendered to illness. “Not an option”? My defeatist antibodies would argue otherwise.

In lieu of substantive posting today on the part of yours truly (substance? Ha! I’ve got your substance–and a pony–right here…), I recommend you head on over to cripchick’s place and read up on the NYU Child Study Center’s scary ransom note ad campaign, which utilizes a most unsavory metaphor in a misguided attempt to draw attention towards people living with disabilities and psychiatric disorders.

Also, be sure to check out Feminist Peace Network’s ongoing (and, as always, superlative) coverage of the KBR gang rape whitewash (corporate fucktardery at its finest); Lindsay Beyerstein looks into the connection between John Kiriakou and The Kite Runner; finally, the indomitable Melissa McEwan continues her ceaseless teaspoon-dipping with an absolutely heartbreaking-yet-unfortunately-necessary post on the cold, hard reality of rape (newsflash: it fucking happens to people).

Oh, and if, after reading all that, you’re still bored, the 2007 Canadian Blog Awards are accepting nominations; go forth, my Canuckle-headed brethren and pimp your homies. Additionally, The Lefties are being tabulated and somehow this ‘umble little blog managed to garner a last-minute nomination. Ta (and squishy hugs) to whomever gave us the nod.

Alright, that’s all I can muster–heading back to bed forthwith. Hope y’all are enjoying the weekend more than I am.

Go.
*moans*

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Paradox and Hypocrisy

by matttbastard

Fatemeh Fakhraie examines the reaction garnered by the story of a female Saudi gang rape victim who was recently sentenced to 200 lashes and six months in prison as punishment for speaking to Saudi media outlets about the crime perpetrated against her. Fakhraie laments the subsequent no win situation Muslim women often find themselves in when situations like the Saudi incident arise, forced to choose whether to defend themselves “against Islamophobia, against racism, or against misogyny”:

This “triple threat” is one we often face as Muslim women (especially if we are also women of color). We always seem to be battling against one (or more) of these three issues: racism (for Muslim women who are also non-white), Islamophobia, or misogyny (not just from our own Muslim communities, but also from non-Muslim communities who think they know what’s best for us).

Being on the defensive all the time creates reactionary behavior. We always feel like we have to keep our guards up to defend our faith and our choices, and it gets tiring. Most Muslims don’t necessarily mind explaining stuff (that is, if you’re genuinely interested in understanding instead of starting an argument), but we can’t all be Encyclopedia Islamicas all the time.

Some of this “damage control” keeps us from having dialogues within our communities. Muslim women face a lot of problems within our communities as well as outside, but we’re afraid to talk about it because it can potentially be used against us. People in our own communities this power: for example, feminists in Iran are accused of being too “Westernized” by compatriots who have no interest in changing the status quo for women. Many women who seek their fair share are given this load of crap in order to guilt them into shutting up, because Westernization is equated with undesirable qualities in the Muslim world. Or, if we try to speak out to a non-Muslim audience, we are accused of “betraying” Islam or our communities by airing out our “dirty laundry.”

And this is a legitimate fear. We don’t want to reinforce negative ideas about Islam, Muslim men and women, or Muslims of any race. But if our own communities won’t listen to us or engage in a dialogue to raise awareness and potentially enact change (phew, a lot of buzzwords in there!), what else are we supposed to do?

Related: Laila Lalami reviews The Politics of the Veil by historian Joan Wallach Scott, which “examines the particular French obsession with the foulard [headscarf], which culminated in March 2004 with the adoption of a law that made it illegal for students to display any “conspicuous signs” of religious affiliation.” As Lalami notes, “both Islamic Sharia and strict French laïcité produced gender systems that essentially deprived women of the right to dispose of their bodies as they wished”:

[I[n Islamic tradition, women are urged to be modest and to steer clear of tabarruj. This Arabic noun has its roots in the verb baraja, which means “to display” or “to show off,” and the noun can be translated as something like “affectation.” In A Season in Mecca, his narrative book about the pilgrimage, Moroccan anthropologist Abdellah Hammoudi uses the term “ostentation” to translate tabarruj, “the invariable term for a bearing that is deemed immodest or conspicuous, a hieratic stance.” Similarly, the French law born out of strict definitions of laïcité warned schoolgirls about displaying “conspicuous” signs of religious affiliation. In short, the battle between the two modes of thinking was played out in women’s bodies.

The sexual argument against the foulard was common in France in 2003, although by that point the word “foulard” had all but disappeared from public discourse and was replaced by voile, or veil, which covers the entire face except for the eyes. This was erroneous but not entirely innocent, of course, because it made it possible for commentators to talk in terms of more general stereotypes of Muslim women in places like Yemen, where the veil is prevalent, rather than the reality of suburban Paris, where it is not. More recently, in an interview with a London-based newspaper, Bernard-Henri Lévy went as far as to say that “the veil is an invitation to rape.” It is perverse to suggest that a woman is inviting rape by the way she dresses, but such is the extreme that Lévy will go to in order to preserve the idea of a homogeneous female European identity. In this view, a European woman is uncovered, and that signifies both her availability to the male gaze as well as her liberation.

It is interesting, too, that Lévy demands for himself that which he is not willing to give others. In 2004 he hired the designer Andrée Putman to renovate his vacation home in Tangier. The home lies next to the famous Café Hafa, whose regulars once included Paul Bowles, Tennessee Williams and Jean Genet, and which has unparalleled views of the Mediterranean. Patrons of the cafe can no longer enjoy an unobstructed view, however, because during the renovations Lévy constructed a wall around his terrace, where his wife, the actress and singer Arielle Dombasle, likes to sunbathe. Lévy reportedly wanted to protect her from the eyes of the men at the Café Hafa. Unveiling only goes one way, it seems.

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