Saturday, September 5, 2009

13 Comments, Outside Looking In, Figuring out Saudi Women

"Both Fareed Zakaria and Mary Fitzgerald do a brilliant job of bringing up a subject that will probably grow in importance in the future." Boy was he right!
This link leads to a very good article related to the treatment of Saudi Arabian women and how there culture is so much different than the west. I titled the post 13 comments because 13 very interesting comments were posted regarding the article which really are a must read to enhance your understanding of what Islam means in Saudi Arabia and what it is like to be a woman and to live in the richest oil nation in the world is really like. It is not all peaches and cream from a "western point of view. I would like to comment on one of the comments made regarding the article. The comments get "off topic" but I think its good for the topic of my blog. That is I want to make a point that different people have differing world views so there perceptions of the very same subject "come across" in very different manners as evidenced by the following discussion about the same article, which is really good!

"John - Thanks for the link. That case is appalling. But that’s why it made it into the newspaper. To call people Cavemen based on their worst practices is worse than just short sighted or foolish. It’s exactly what extremist fundamentalists do. The worst of Western society is just as revolting to a set of eyes from a different culture which doesn’t understand the context. I think the reason Mary Fitzgerald’s article doesn’t come down hard on Saudi society is that having been there, she experienced positives as well as negatives and realized that things weren’t black and white, though I could be wrong.

In any case, I take exception at the cavemen remark. Read some history John. Europe owes much of its ‘civilization’ to the East. If anyone has the right to call another a caveman, it’s not this part of the world.

As for the ’stay in your cave’, I think self determination works both ways. If I choose to live in Ireland, I have to be willing to give up any of my cultural practice that Ireland finds unacceptable. In that regard, we agree in principle.

Comment by Bryan
March 11, 2009
12:31 pm

Despite the utterly bizarre logic of such a society (attempting restraint here), religious conservatism in general be it christian, Muslim or otherwise,and stifling scariness of imaging what it must be like to actually life in Saudi Arabia I am really enjoying Mary Fitzgerald’s articles even if only as a window into to a world i know nearly nothing of. It would be good to have more of this kind of material to read, especially as a young person to gain a perspective on the life of my peers in such a different society to the freedoms we take for granted in the west.

Comment by Claire
March 11, 2009
5:59 pm

“Europe owes much of its ‘civilization’ to the East. If anyone has the right to call another a caveman, it’s not this part of the world.”

I am fully aware of Islams much trumpeted scientific past. What is rarely if ever talked about is how the most scientific civilization of the middle ages managed to return its people to the stone age. And yeah, that's what I think it is -the stone age. I have no respect for a society that legitimizes child abuse, the execution of homosexuals & rape victims etc etc etc. Cultural relativism is moral cowardice.

Comment by John
March 12, 2009
4:49 am


“Cultural relativism is moral cowardice”.

Now that’s some statement. In Thailand you take off your shoes when you walk into a house: in Ireland not. I could quote a thousand of these examples. This is cultural relativism but surely not moral cowardice.

I presume John you are talking about specific cultural behaviors which link to what is generally considered to be fundamental human rights. The right to life. The right to an education. The right to freedom of speech,etc.

Where I have problems with a country is when that country imposes a law or condones a behavior which does not allow a citizen to express one of those rights.

And some of those rights are very complicated. I have met people in the US who vehemently support the death penalty while vehemently being against abortion. The right to life passionately defended and yet passionately denied by the same person.

It is complicated. Therefore John it is important to avoid generalizations and oversimplifications. Frankly I think you are doing this.

Secondly you use the word “respect”. “Sick rules” and “cavemen” are pejorative and show lack of respect. One gets the respect they accord others. Based on your use of “cavemen” you lose my respect and probably that of many others who read this blog.

When it comes to discussing cultural differences and their relationship to human rights the last thing we need either on a blog, a radio/TV station, or in a pub discussion is over simplification and lack of respect.

Sorry John for me you lose on both accounts. Perhaps you should reflect.


So you see where I found this to be relative then right? Nobody could even stay on topic regarding the article because they got "lost" in the way each other responded to it in there own opinions!!! Am I making sense? See how challenging, to say the very least, I might add, it is to make sense out of cultural relativism and human rights, when you can not even have a simple discussion about an article? Furthermore, you would rather just just continue debating about your response rather than what the article actually said? This is a lack of communication which exists just between a few people about one article! Imagine how hard it is to have different societies and cultures and religions try to find common grounds in which to communicate on right?

Food for thought.


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