What is a Typical Dowry in Saudi Arabia for a Bride?

During a recent dinner conversation among friends the topic of marriages between Saudis and dowrys came up. Naturally I asked what should a Saudi woman expect or request as the dowry. I was advised that the traditional dowry is 70,000 SAR for a virgin and 20,000 SAR for a non-virgin (implying the woman had been married before; not that she was promiscuous). Because of the high costs associated with holding a typical Saudi wedding, I was told that it is normal for the dowry to be given before the wedding party and that in many cases the dowry money is often used to pay for the high wedding party costs.

 

To try and put the dowry amount in perspective, 70,000 SAR is the equivalent to living in a Western-only compound with full amenities or rent a nice villa in the prestigious Diplomatic Quarter for one year.

 

These realities can damper the thought that the dowry is supposed to be for the bride for her nest egg and security but the Saudi men told me this is part of the realities of life in the Kingdom. They said while everyone would like the full amount to be exclusively for the bride, reality may often dictate otherwise.

 

In speaking further on the topic of dowries, I engaged in a dialogue with a Saudi woman from Nej’d on this subject.  In her experience, dowries range from 50,000 – 150,000 SAR dependent upon the family, their social status and ability to provide.  Again, this is in reference to new “virgin” brides who are marrying for the first time.  However in some areas in Southern KSA it is traditional for the groom’s family to not only provides the bride with a substantive dowry but to also pay for the wedding party and a specific party for the men too as well as the dresses for the bride and her female relatives.  At the same time, other parts of the Kingdom and certainly many families in the Kingdom do not adhere at all to the concept of the dowry as it gives the perception of “buying the bride.”  So again, this illustrates there is certainly not a “one size fits all” in regards to dowries and traditions.

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45 Responses

  1. From what I gather over here, it has a lot of factors into play. Different tribes deal with it differently as per the amount given. Sometimes it has to do with location (as to what village she is from) too. There’s supposed to be cap on it (per laws here), but I don’t know if people follow it. Sometimes I hear of girls getting RO2,000 ($5200), other times I hear of girls getting ten times the amount of that and there are extreme cases where the amount is just too much to fathom.

    I have never had the guts to outright ask a woman how much she got (although I can’t count how many times I’ve been asked and have tried to wiggle my way out of that one because I feel it’s pretty personal). I don’t even know how much my s-i-l’s got but I’m sure the amount was huge.

  2. I thought there was a law in Saudi that capped dowries at 20,000 SR. This would be around $5,000. From what I have been told it is regularly ignored.

    The high costs of marrying in Saud is what has caused a lot of Saudi men to travel outside of Saudi to get married. Often they travel to places like Morroco, Egypt and Yemen where the brides are found much cheaper.

    This, in itself, has caused its own issues and laws have been passed to try and stop some of the extreme cases of abuse that have resulted. Laws targeting Saudis and other Khaliji have been passed in Morroco and Egypt to help protect their women.

    Gulf states have passed laws to make it harder for their citizens, mainly men, to marry foreigners. UAE is a good example of this. UAE has also set up a way where the government helps to actually off set the costs of the dowry and marriage if their men marry a UAE citizen.

    I have done a blog post that talks about some of this, especially in the comments.

    http://abusinan-sayf.blogspot.com/2008/06/halal-sex-slavery-it-was-common.html

  3. Less for a non-virgin hey? Is there any muslim men who actually prefer non-virgin women? Personally I have no desire to marry a virgin and don’t think I’ve ever dated more than one or wanted to. I’m not a muslim though.

  4. Bahraini men also seem to be going abroad to find wives as the dowery required here seems to be way out of proportion…either that or they just dont want to pay regardless. Wives from Indonesia seem to be the preferred choice here…as well as the Philippines.

    My friend is one of those ladies that gets asked to find prospective wives or husbands for the daughter or son of a family. When I hear her “haggling” over the phone about doweries expected etc….maybe its just me but she could insert the word ‘daughter” for “used car” and you wouldnt know the difference. I personally find it distateful to auction females off to the highest bidder…virgin or not. Especially when the mans status as virgin or not never even gets mentioned….how do we determine his worth?

  5. Is this another middle eastern culture thing using Islam as the excuse or is this endorsed by Islam?

  6. Ryan,

    Dowry is a requirement of Islamic marriage. However, there there is not specific requirement on the amount. There is a Hadith that indicates that a dowery can be as small as a ring made of iron (a couple of USD perhaps). And there is a verse in the Qura’n that indicates that it can be a heap of gold (i.e. a huge amount of wealth). So there is a big difference between the the min and the max under the religious definition.

    This leaves it open to interpretation and different social customs are developed. As Carol indicated these customs can vary wildly even within the same country.

    There are 4 reasons why dowries got high in my opinion:
    – Greed: Islam states that the dowry is property of the bride, but there are men that are greedy and will take a part of the sum amount for their daughters
    – The high costs of weddings, requiring high dowry to support these practices
    – Protection for the wife in case of divorce. As Carol mentioned this does not happen well in practice.
    – Social pressure, some families may feel they are not giving their daughter the right stature, if she does not receive a high dowry. Kinda cheapening her in a form of socially twisted logic.

    Given all the above, I also know of few specific cases where an amount of 3 silver Riyals were accepted as dowry (refers back to sunnah minimum of 3 Darhams) , not because the groom could not afford it, but because the families put more emphasis on the value of the union and not the money exchanged.

  7. Sorry I should have stated that my question was about the whole “virgin” thing for women. Thanks for that input though.

  8. Ryan, There is no difference between a virgin and no virgin under Islam marriage rules.

  9. That reminds me of a conversation I once had with a Riyadh resident (I’m from Mecca). He was telling me how we Hijazis had it easy with our relatively low dowry requirements. I laughed and replied “do you know how much the *rest of* it costs?”. We may demand lower dowries in the Hijaza but our wedding traditions are expensive as hell. Hmmm, might be an idea for a blog post. I could use some way to break this writers block i’ve been having lately.

  10. yup, the dowry thing is quite complicated by itself. There is no one particular amount that we can say is always valid . Whether the bride is married before or first time married , nothing can be specify as an exact amount. My sis as an example, her dowry was pieces of gold and not money (I don’t know how many pieces, how many kg or the value in SR) cause usually the dowry is not announced or talked about. my bro also gave a dowry which I don’t know. The family of his wife didn’t ask him for any amount, but he provided the amount he thinks is suitable. A friend of mine got married last year. From the beginning when he met with the father of the girl, he told him that I just graduated and started work. I’ll not be able to make a big wedding or give a big amount for the dowry. The father told him we wants a man and not the money. According to my friend he gave 20000 SR as dowry — and yes his wife is not divorced or widow.

    This is interesting : a classmate told me that in his tribe , if someone from the same tribe wants to marry the dowry is 2 Sr only. Don’t quote me in this , but if I still recall the tribe is from “Al Namas”

    PS: Carol there are interesting old posts which I look forward to commenting in 🙂 I’m done from my finals next week hallelujah!

  11. I am so enjoying reading the comments and continuing to learn.

    What I find tough is when a non-Saudi asks me for advise in regards to dowry. As my post plus the subsequent comments illustrate, there is no “one size fits all” rule to follow. I think the issue of dowry really does depend case by case on the family, their traditions, needs and requirements regardless of what faith is being followed or whether one is a foreign bride, Saudi bride, muslim bride or non-muslim bride.

    Khalid — Mabrook! That is great news your finals are finished and all of us look forward to your comments.

  12. Saudi in the USA,

    You write:

    “Ryan, There is no difference between a virgin and no virgin under Islam marriage rules.”

    This is, however, some difference between Islamic marriage rules for women who have been divorced and those who have never been married. One of these, for instance, would be that the divorced woman can marry again without having to have permission of a mehram, whereas a non married woman must have the consent of her mehram.

  13. I’m not completely sure Abu Sinan… I was divorced and when I married my Saudi husband I had to have a mehram represent me.

  14. Carol,

    That would be a culture thing, not an Islamic thing. Under Islamic law, as the woman has already been married, there is no Islamic requirement for a mehram.

    My wife, although divorced with two children also had a mehram, more correctly, a “wali” represent her even though religiously she didnt have to.

    Culturally it looked better to have her late father’s long standing best friend act in the capacity, although in the religion it wasnt needed.

    One of the MANY ways Carol in which Saudi practice and culture differs from Islam.

  15. The mehrem is supposed to look out for your interest…in other words…make sure the man is good and your not getting cheated in any way…but the underlying reason for a mehrem is that it was generally considered that women were not capable of making such a decision for themselves…being emotionally strung creatures “deficient in the deen” etc…so the mehrem is rather like an adult guardian making a legal decision for a minor or child…the woman being viewed as the minor or child. Virgins were considered “greenhorns” and thus needing parental guidance and consent for any man that came a courting…divorced women were considered “seasoned” and knew the ropes so to speak….so no need to guide them…but its still done in many instances. Islamically speaking neither one needs formal consent from the mehrem or guardian.as both are agents of their own futures etc but culturally its practiced since time forgotten.

  16. As I write different posts and then we have the various dialogues, I can see where I should do a separate post that we can discuss forever on Islam – Which is Mandated as a Religion and Which is Mandated by the Culture.

  17. Good idea Carol. The only problem with that is so many in the various countries do not know the difference.

    If I have heard it once I have heard it a dozen times “we do it in an Islamic country, it must be part of Islam.” Many, many Muslims who were born and raised in Islamic countries have no clue where religion ends and culture begins.

    It was frustrating in my travels in the Middle East and North Africa to have people be completely unable to provide any religious context to their actions other than “we do it here, it must be from Islam.”

    We had to talk my MIL’s maid, a Muslim from Sri Lanka, out of believing that the woman’s family were the people who were to provide the dowry. They thought that the women’s family provided the dowry, and that it was Islamic, because they came from an area that was Muslim and that is the way they had always done it.

    She finally believed us after we provided her with Islamic proofs, but we are pretty certain that when she went back to Sri Lanka she never married because her family didnt have enough money to pay the man a dowry. the thousands she got from our family went to build their house.

    All over the Muslim world there are practices that are attributed to Islam that have nothing to do with the religion. One of the biggest issues in the Muslim world is the sheer lack of knowledge. Even a small amount of education would help the state of the Muslim world.

  18. Thanks AbuSinan,

    I did not that the requirement of Mahram drops on second marriage. Although I was married 72 times, they were all virgins. J/K, 🙂

    Just for the record I only married once to my beautiful bride of 21 years. She accepted very little as her dowry even though the Imam informed her of her rights to ask as much as she wanted.

  19. Saudi in the US,

    Well then I guess we dont have to worry about you being a martyr “for the cause”. You already got your 72 virgins in this dunya, none in the after life for you! }:>)

    I paid a nice sum in dowry for my Saudi lady, but as is her nature, she spent it all on buying stuff for our new abode.

    What I found weird, from an American perspective, was talking to her about it before the wedding. We just dont do dowries here and I didnt know how to talk to her about the mahr.

    We discussed it, agreed on a sum of money and that was that.

    I think the practice of asking for tens of thousands of dollars is a bit obscene. Spending hundreds of thousand of dollars on a wedding is too. Personally I’d rather spend much more modestly on the wedding and have more money for the honeymoon or for the new house.

    Bankrupting yourself and your family, or putting them into debt for years is stupid. What an awful way to start a new life together in marriage……..in debt.

  20. Abu Sinan,

    Thinking positively, when you get the chance to come and stay in Saudi, it will be very interesting to see if or how your views may change. Believe me, there were many aspects I questioned about Saudi culture and tradition before coming here. Things that sounded odd and so “foreign” such as dowries, mahr, etc., but then after being here and experiencing life here, I am more understanding of the reasoning and causes behind some of the traditions.

  21. Carol,

    None of it sounds odd or foreign to me, maybe with the except of applying it to my own life. I have been to almost every country from Morocco to Yemen, Saudi is the rare one I have not been to.

    It is some of the cultural practices in the MENA (Middle East/North Africa) that I don’t like, and for whatever reason, they seem to by hyper-represented in Saudi culture.

    Mahr makes sense, “Kalam fadi” doesn’t make sense to me, neither does “jamile kadaba”. I guess there comes a point you have to accept that cultures are different, but in cultures that are supposed to be Muslim it is hard to reconcile the two different practices. A culture based on Islam should be completely AGAINST “kalam fadi” but the reality is that words like “Insha’Allah” usually mean nothing.

    I guess my issue is when these practises, so inimical to modern life (not to mention religious life), affect me personally.

    It is hard to view a country in question outside of your own personal experience with it. I had baseline/neutral view of Saudi before I really had to deal with Saudis. Once I had to deal with them it changed my opinion of the people and the culture drastically.

    I have been all over the world, even had to deal with the governments of communist era states and never had the feelings I do about a government like this until I had to deal with the Saudi government.

    Not just that, the complete unwillingness of their own citizens to do anything to help. Unless, of course, I have 20,000 SR to give you or an uncle who can get your family member a job in the MoI.

    With all due respect, your experience with the Saudi government, and Saudis in general, has been much different than mine. That is why I approach things with a more skeptical view than you do.

    Had I had the benefit of people helping me, people going out of their way to do what was right I might be more open to things that are positive about the Kingdom.

    When I have personally met with the Charge D’Affairs and he was unwilling to help, when I asked him to pass on a request to the Prince for whom my FIL in law worked with for 25 years ONLY requesting that her pension not be shut off again for a year like it had been done before, I was met with a stone wall, no help, nothing.

    The other day I was looking at pictures with my SIL with her and the Prince’s daughters when she used to play at his palace in Great Falls here in the Metro DC area. We both sat and shook our head that this man would refuse to even make a phone call to ensure an elderly, sick lady’s pension. Not that my MIL was a stranger to them.

    My MIL knew the Prince’s wife. I even called her personal cell phone number trying to get a hold of her. Her private British security picked up instead and I left a message, of course we never got a call back.

    25 years of service for a Prince and a country and it doesnt even rate a phone call back or helping make sure that the pension (cut by 50% after her husband died) doesnt get cut.

    Imagine. It is almost obscene in the depth of it’s uncaring, but that is the Saudi government. That one example speaks volumes.

    THAT is what I am dealing with. So it isnt even the outrageousness that is trying to get my marriage recognised, it is this nonsense.

    I dont think I could even make up a story about such an uncaring and unresponsive government. People wouldnt believe it. Even corrupt bribe taking dictators look out for those who worked for them right?

  22. The prophet Muhammad pbuh said that the best weddings are those that are the least expensive. I don’t understand why these wedding costs and dowries have gotten so out of control.

  23. Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to share my wisdom with all of you. I’m a renowned scientist, an I believe in nothing but solid evidences and substantial findings. I’m going to introduce the truth and to share an interesting statistic with all of you. This statistic is the result of my hardworking and my rigorous studies of the matter that I’m about to reveal.

    Two months ago I was watching an interview on the TV. The interview was with an American father and his daughter. The teenager daughter was pregnant. The father of the baby is the daughter’s father. In other words, the baby’s father is the grandfather too. Again, in other words, the teenager-daughter is her daddy’s mistress. Interestingly, the couple were curious to see the baby, and therefore, the daddy/grandpa didn’t want his daughter/mistress to go for abortion. Though all the gynecologists warned them that the baby will be with lots of problems, they insisted in keeping the baby.

    I came to this conclusion after watching this interview:

    “Incest is a common practice in the US”

    I’d be interested to hear the opinion of everyone about the result of my study. I appreciate everyone’s opinion, and I should admit that I learnt a lot from most of the comments in this Blog. I accept both, criticizing and prizing my study alike, so everyone feel free to let me know what you think of me and of my logical conclusion. Do you agree that Incest is a common practice in the US?

    Specially, Carol, Saudi in US, AbuSinan, Aysha , coolred38, OnigiriFB, Aafke, Viking Daughter, American2Saudi, Marahm, Lofter I’ve immensely enjoyed and learnt from all of your comments. I’d be interested to hear all of your thoughts on the matter.

    I’d like to start off with my father comment before everyone. I phoned my father. I told him about the TV program and my logical conclusion. Initially, he thought that I’m only joking, but I spoke with him in a serious tone , and I told him I mean everything I say. “yes all Americans are morally corrupted, and incest is a common practice in the US” . after he got shocked and felt that I’m serious , Dad told me “ya waladi maysir” (Son, this is not acceptable) you saw only one case in a program, you cannot generalize this. There are millions of good people in the US, why you waste your time and only look for their drawbacks? I `insisted on my opinion and I told him, but everything in the US is consider to be drawbacks , nothing good they have , and the big example is the teenager-daughter and her dad. Now he got kind of mad on me and said “la tseer jahel wee moghafal” (don’t be stupid and ignorant) what you are saying is illogical and only a person with no commonsense will say such things , and I know that you are not such an idiot..

    I felt I cannot fake it anymore and I told my dad with a smile, “ma’ak al camera al khafiya”. He told me you shocked me, you did it well. I believed you.. 🙂

    Thanks, this was the first time ever that my dad tells me “jahel” (ignorant) and I thank him for his trust on me that he believes that I’m not such an idiot ..

    I thought of sharing my study 🙂 and my conversation with my dad with all of you because I’ve read in a link that was pasted above that someone wife’s grandfather who is Saudi married a 21-year Lebanese woman. The grandfather was 85 years old. as a result of this marriage, the practice of old-men buying young virgin girls is common in KSA.

    I was smiling when reading the result of this study, so I thought to share. I hope everyone will enjoy it.

    Finally I should note that whatever I said above about Americans and the study I conducted 🙂 I don’t believe in. I have lots of American friends whom I highly respect. I apologize if I offended any. Carol, if you think that this post crosses boundaries and it offence Americans , please feel free to remove it.

    Best of Logics to all 🙂

  24. Khalid,

    Your example doesnt work. We are all sitting here having a frank discussion about current events and issues in Saudi. We are not all sitting back making judgements based on one TV show or a conversation.

    You have a wide range of people here from a wide range of backgrounds giving their experiences and what they have seen and heard. That is what makes it so valuable. Instead or trying to shut people up or lampoon their opinions, why not give YOUR opinions in a better and more informed fashion?

    To be honest your lengthy example just really sounds like a school ground insult, “I know you are, but what am I?”

    Why single out people critical of Saudi? Are their experiences somehow less important or knowledgeable than those who are more generally pro Saudi? Isnt it possible that those opinions are just as suspect? Or is it only negative opinions and attitudes about Saudi that come up for further investigation.

    I have yet to see you do anything more than provide your own perspective, I have yet to see you provide the types of proofs and evidences you seem to want to require some to do. At the same time I dont see others of a different opinion minimise your viewpoints as you have tried to do.

    Your anecdotes and experiences are no more, or less valid than anyone elses. It would seem you would like to have pro Saudi comments held to a different standard than more negative Saudi comments.

    More than a bit lame.

  25. Khalid….I cant let the incest remark go by…considering my own children are victims of their own fathers sexual immorality…I must conclude that all Bahrainis are sexual perverts….which….if the newspaper is anything to go by…isnt far off.

    very bad attempt at ….whatever it was you were attempting.

  26. Commenting on Abu-Sinan, I always think it is important to write from our perspective. So, for example, Abu-Sinan has clearly faced a very ugly side to Saudi..so when he discusses issues it is important that he is consistent with that perspective.. Same goes for Carol, myself and the rest. There’s always truth and power to keeping consistent with our own personal experience, and once there’s good we must speak it. Once there’s bad we must speak it too. First hand experience of either the good or the bad is the most effective and powerful. It does make a beneficial impact and brings on change. Things, however, are never this u-topic. Often, persons from either side blame the others for what is thought to be lack of honesty, or what is interpreted as either being (defensive) or (offensive).

    Now, when it comes to the issue of dowry, it is very family specific. Some parts of Saudi are stereotyped to be highly “greedy”, requiring high dowries. Stereotyping has it’s flaws of course, and marriage almost always depends on the families. My gramma always likes to use that example. She says a man once came to her father and patted a golden braided “besht”. When her father asked him, “who are you? what is your tribe?” The man proudly patted his golden braided besht and said “I’ve got a beshtakhta!” The father right there and then spitted on the man and said “We don’t want your beshtakhta, we want men of good decent and reputation for our daughters. We will buy a good man if we had to.”

    Dowry can be interpreted differently by Saudi families. It can indicate greed. It can indicate proof of status of the man. It can indicate respect for the status of the woman/woman’s family. It can indicate complying with tradition of a certain tribe, city, village.

    Some families are at ease discussing dowries ahead of time. Some families are not at ease, and leave it to the man to decide (poor thing!) Some families are very reserved about announcing the amount of dowry upon pronouncing the contract by the sheikh with the presence of the groom and the bride’s father. Some families don’t mind. You’d think Saudi’s are very well informed about this issue, but it is always different and the more you venture into distant families the harder it is to figure what everybody wants. It is almost like walking in the dark or “playing it by the ear”.

    My family has always kept it between 20-40 k. Never heard of a higher number. Of course, I do hear about dowries of 70-100 k, but they were never discussed in fully-female conversation without criticism. You can argue that girls would like that, but do remember that to every girl who accepts such dowry a brother that will probably have to pay it. Which makes it hard for a bad/expensive dowry system to go on for long. If it does, that means there are unannounced incentives, excuses or privileges to it. Non that I know of, of course 😉

    There are stories you hear of where a woman asks for symbolic things as her dowry. Mostly, those stories occur within very religious and at the same well educated women. One that I heard of, is that a woman requested her groom would memorize the Qura’an.

  27. Khalid,

    I really do not want to add to the comments with negativity. Just remember there are topics like incest which are hard to handle in a joking manner(not impossible), because they have victims. So it is better to avoid them in the comedic context, unless you have excellent social and language command. I say this as I think you made a mistake in your message. Mistake are a natural part of the learning process as long as you take a lesson from them. I know your message could be viewed in an offensive way, but I also know your heart is pure.

    Regarding the underlying message you are trying to convey. I do not agree with you for a simple reason. I think Saudi Arabia has huge social problems and those problems need to be criticized.

    Every country has social issues including the US. What is unique about Saudi is transparency. When issues are transparent, society can address them and develop solutions. We in Saudi hid all of our problems away for decades under the shields of censorship, goverment denial, social taboos, and religion. The result is that these issues grew into giant problems (women rights is a good example of this.) By the way Saudi Arabia also has a problem with incest that is bigger than what you think, because it is masked under the shields.

    In my opinion external criticism is very healthy. As it is pointing out that some of the conditions we have in the country are not in line with humanities experience of goodness. It may serve as a wedge that will jolt us out of our deep slumber and make us look in the mirror.

  28. Carol, you’re blog is great because you have interesting topics with very interesting commenters!!

    Abu Sinan:

    ”I think the practice of asking for tens of thousands of dollars is a bit obscene…”

    As an American, I also found the dowry topic ”obscene” and married with NO dowry. Allow me to give my opinion 30 years down the road. I would ask for a ridiculous amount in the Arab world because upon divorce you find out the ”alimony” is a joke. The dowry is the only security a woman has!!

    Khalid: I can really appreciate your honesty on the incest topic, and I can admit there is a problem in my country. It’s funny you mentioned this, as I plan to do a series on domestic violence on my blog, and incest is involved in one of the recent cases here.

  29. abu sinan, divourced women still require the consent of the wali. the difference is that virgin women usually let the marriage be arraned for them, but a more expeerienced woman can handle her own business but still needs the consent of a wali. there is a authentic hadeeth which states that a marriage is not valid without the consent of a wali.

  30. Wow…I’m away a few hours and come back to some very interesting perspectives here! Thank you!

    First, while I may not agree with the initial venue in which it was addressed, I do thank you Khalid for raising the ultra sensitive topic of incest. I will do a future post on the topic and can already see by the comments thus far it will be quite a discussion and probably have many side-variants too.

    You’re so right Aysha how dowry is so different in various circles, tribes, social strata, etc. And it should be noted that this is not just for Saudi Arabia but anywhere a dowry is discussed I do not think there is a set formula.

    Speaking from what I have personally observed though it does appear that western woman will ask for less or receive less as compared to the Saudi bride. I attribute this to either lack of awareness on the emphasis placed on dowry and/or the distinction in culture and tradition of dowry.

  31. Dear Abu Sinan I apologize if you found what I said insulting. Honestly, It wasn’t in my intention to offend anyone. I only attempt a humor approach to criticize a type of analogy that I don’t buy. I admit that I was mistaken in my attempt, so again, I apologize from everyone here.

    I’d like to clarify some points though. I wasn’t making any judgment here. As I said above, I was only criticizing a type of ‘illogical logic’/ (an illogical statement). I’m not a person who would base his judgments on an incident or a TV program. I’m not against anyone’s opinion and I’m up to criticism. I value criticism because firstly I believe that in the personal level, without accepting criticism from others, the person will never improve. Secondly, in countries and governments if there is no criticisms , there will never be progress.

    Why Abu Sinan you think I’m minimizing other people opinion? I think this is not true. There are many people here in this Blog and around me in the daily life criticizing KSA, and I don’t have a problem with any of them. I myself criticize my country — if not in this Blog, then I’m criticizing with my friends and family.

    Why don’t we accept other people’s opinions if they are against ours? I think that I freely accept other people opinions. I don’t criticize just for the sake of criticizing others. If I find something good I’ll say, yes this is good, and if I find something is not acceptable, I’ll say this is not acceptable. I try my best to be objective.

    Perhaps, as Aysha said, if you have been treated better from the Saudi Gov you’d have different opinions and style. I like to listen to other people’s opinions and I appreciate them. I hate just to listen to my own voice and to give a deaf ear for all the other voices around me.

    _Saudi in US first of all thanks for pointing out my mistake in a very constructive and polite way. I told you, I’m a fan of your amazing style 🙂 Honestly speaking, I wasn’t sure if I’m doing the right thing or not, and that’s why I requested at the end of the comment that Carol removes it if she thinks it’s not appropriate.

    I agree with you, I should have based , this called, ‘foolish logic’ to another topic that is not as sensitive as incest.

    I second you, yes, censorship, government denial, social taboos, and religion might hinder the progress of any nation, and unfortunately KSA is one of those countries that are affected with such practices.

    I’m aware that incest do exist, however I disagree that it’s masked under the shields. Maybe in the past, but it’s no longer the case. One of my uncles as an example, is an activist in such matter, and he appeared many times in different Arabic TV programs and in the radio to discuss the topic of “zena al maharem” You might consider such topic taboo in KSA, I’ll tell you something (that I personally found it surprising when I knew it yet I was happy to know it) my sister last year in her sociology class was asked to write a paper about “zena al maharem” in KSA. BTW she is in a Saudi university and not studying abroad.

    Again I’d like to stress the point, the existing of any practice in any country does not make it a common practice. We should avoid personal issues if we want to be objective in our criticism. If there are many cases, and there are statistics supporting that, then we can reach the conclusion that a certain practice is common.

    As aside note, This is very personal, I’m curious Saudi in the US, if your 18-year son came to you and told you about this TV program and he came to the illogical conclusion I told my dad, what would your reaction be? I didn’t mention this in my comment , my dad tone changed when I insisted in my illogical analogy. I felt that he felt sorry for me , and I felt a sense of surprise in his tone. That’s why I couldn’t fake it anymore and I started laughing at the end.. It was only for fun, but he disliked it.

  32. Thanks Khalid,

    Regarding your question, my son is fairly logical for his age, so i think I will catch the gag fairly early as it will be out of character for him. However, our serious discussions usually are of the type where I give him a lot of robe to figure things out and just ask a few pointed questions along the way to give get him to look at things from different angles. He figures it out on his own the majority of times. The idea is that these situations help him develop his analytical skills which are more important than the few facts I can provide him.

  33. Khalid,

    “I’m aware that incest do exist, however I disagree that it’s masked under the shields.”

    I wish I can agree with that statement. However, we do not have a system that allows women/girls and even young boys to report such issues freely. The abuser in the case of incest is the guardian or a relative. If females and children are controlled completely by their guardian these issues will never service and counted. I have heard enough stories about hospitals seeing abused children but are unable to investigate further because guardian consent is required. Until we have a system where professionals know they have a duty to investigate cases and have the ability to do it, I will remain worried that we may have a bigger problem than is apparent.

  34. Carol, yes it is our custom of not accepting the dowry, as in the U.S. it is viewed as paying for the woman. It still has a strange feeling to me to discuss the topic.

    I suppose with our custom of share and share alike, then upon divorce we fall back on community property laws, it’s just a foreign concept.

    Saudi in U.S.: I agree. Until we (all the GCC countries) start protecting our children with the same protection that is given to protect the ”abusers” whether it’s family or not, we will be dealing with the ”ugly” side of family problems.

    Sadly, by hushing everything it gives others the impression that it’s only ”them” and nobody else can relate. Meanwhile, these children suffer life long psychological issues, while the abusers go unpunished to abuse again…..

  35. Saudi in US
    _I was talking with dad on the phone, other wise in matter of seconds he would catch the gag. I cannot hide my smile no matter what I do :), so there is no way that I can do it while standing in front of him.

    _ I thought that you meant by “it’s masked under the shields” that it’s completely taboo and no one talks about it. Yes true we don’t have a governmental system that allows abused women/girls/boys to report cases. The only thing that is available is “jam’iyat khyriya” that will take the abused boys/girls/women to live in. I don’t know what the situation in these “”jam’iyat khyriya” but I’ve seen interviews with some abused children who were living in such establishments, and they were happy to be far from their sadist, drag addict etc father.

  36. sorry for this , drug and not drag addict 🙂

  37. Khalid,

    Charities are part of the solution and Saudi has some of these. To solve the problem of abuse you need much more. Victims are reluctant to discuss family issues out of fear or guilt. I am familiar with the US system and it is substantially more advanced. I offer some details to provide a comparison:

    1) Detection; Professionals that routinely work with kids like teachers are trained to detect issues of child abuse and they have a duty to report it.
    2) Investigation: Child protective service units that focus on investigating these issues and are empowered to take actions.
    3) Legal: Laws are in place and courts are setup to deal with these issues.
    4) Support systems: this covers many areas starting with councilors to foster homes.

    Perhaps not all are protected, but abused kids have a much better chance. I am really trying to be logical in my criticism even though I am real upset after reading a story in Al-Alarabiya of a man in Tabouk who beat his daughter to death, because she called her divorced mother. She was beat many times before. It leaves you wondering if kids like her could have been protected if a system is in place.

    It is naive to expect abuse victims to just show up at a charity organization. The full resources of the goverment has to be engaged to solve these problems. I think I said this before “one of the highest duties of goverment is to protect the weakest in society.”

  38. I was just having a discussion with Viking Daughter on the topic of abuse in the GCC. This is another area where BIG stigmas have to be overcome. As you rightly pointed out Saudi in US, trained professionals to detect and a system in place to investigate are imperative. At least here in KSA saving face and protecting privacy are so important coupled with abuse whether sexual, domestic, etc., are just not openly discussed. The abuser wants it concealed for his/her own reasons and the abused keeps it concealed for his/her own reasons.

  39. Khalid,

    I find trying to make a humorous example using a case of incest to be in rather poor taste. If that is your idea of funny then I suggest you need to rethink your sense of humour and how you present it in public. It was very poor taste, but I think Saudi in US said it best.

    Saudi in US,

    Yes, here in the USA we keep things in the open as much as possible. The best example of this would be in the incident recently involving the Islamic Saudi Academy here in the USA. It is a school run with funding by the Saudi government.

    A five year old girl reported that her father had been abusing her. Rather than report the incident to the local law enforcement, which is required by law, the Saudi principle of the school suggested that instead the girl sit down with a psychologist with the man (her father) whom the little girl accused of molesting her.

    That is the difference between the US and Saudi. Here the incident is required to get a full investigation to protect the girl. In Saudi the man, the father is the one protected with little or no thought about the girl, her siblings, or the rest of the family.

    Thank God local law enforcement found out, is investigating and will charge the father if he is found to have done wrong and most certainly is going to charge and convict the principle for not notifying the police.

    If left to the Saudi method the girl had ZERO protection, no one would have found out, and the man might have gone on to continue to molest her and maybe her siblings.

    If left to the Saudi method the little girl, aged five, would have had to sit weekly with her abuser and probably be told the problem was hers.

    That, my friend is the difference between night and day, the difference between Saudi and the USA. Thank God I live in a place where our issues are given light and something is done to fix them.

    I wrote a post on the issue here:

    http://abusinan-sayf.blogspot.com/2008/06/child-molestation-and-islamic-saudi.html

  40. Khalid: Sorry, I had missed the post you did on incest. I would not say incest is common in the U.S. but it is finally being discussed. Seriously now Khalid, if I were to do a documentary on some of the information on abuse over here which I am very privy to, I could really wake you up without any coffee.

    If you saw a TV doc on a GCC country, would you assume it was common? Or, that the few being interviewed had spoken out? How do we get statistics on this subject when silence is the rule?

    Carol and I had a deep convo over this earlier. I have decided (with deep tribulation and anonymity) to run a series on my blog this week. There are some women here who would like to speak out. My aim is not to smear people, my aim is to insh’allah cause people to realize we need to protect children! We need shelters, fostor homes, counseling. d

    I read the Saudi school incident, was rather shocked. The Principal has no right to say he does not believe this girl, as child abuse victims do not lie, rather cover the abuse. Also, it takes a trained psychologist to determine the truth, coupled with the mother who needs to watch for signs.

    In my country, it was not until the 70’s we broke out and spoke of abuse. Now, we face it, and make every attempt to protect children. You will be surprised at my series, most girls abused eventually leave home. The abuser then begins on the other children.

    A perpetual sick cycle.

  41. OK it seems my English is still not up to the level that allows me to convey my ideas :). My argument is completely misinterpreted 🙂 No worries, I’ll try my best to plainly put it down for you Viking daughter. I hope the confusion will vanish…

    AbuSinan In a link that was pasted above said that his wife’s grandfather, who is 85-years old married a 21-year Lebanese woman. Therefore, the practice of old-men buying young virgin girls is common in KSA.

    I found this is down-right illogical, and no person with commonsense will accept or come up with such conclusion. Of course such thing does exist, and it cannot be denied, but to call it “a common practice” this is completely wrong and far from logic.

    I thought of inventing a similar illogical statement like the one above, and to see what people’s comments would be. As I mentioned previously, it was a folly from my part to use “incest” as an example in an illogical-foolish statement. I should have found a different illogical-foolish example.

    Viking Daughter you said: “If you saw a TV doc on a GCC country, would you assume it was common”
    I didn’t assume that it’s common in the US, and I don’t think it’s common in any place in the world. It’s just against the norm. It might exist in some places, but I don’t think it would be common anywhere. It’s Just my opinion 🙂

    I hope now it’s clear. Don’t worry, I’d not be surprise. I already heard enough from my uncle who is an activist in such things. I don’t want to hear more, but reading for me would be fine… As aside note, if you’d like to have more information about such cases in KSA, I’d recommend getting in touch with my uncle — I think he’d not mind.

    Here are two articles that you might like. The first one is by Abeer Mishkhas. I’m a fan of her writing BTW, but lately she writes less regularly. The same with Lubna, she no longer writes. Does anyone know why?

    http://www.arabnews.com/?page=7&section=0&article=111265&d=26&m=6&y=2008
    http://www.arabnews.com/?page=1&section=0&article=111262&d=26&m=6&y=2008&pix=kingdom.jpg&category=Kingdom

  42. Khalid.

    I think it is your comprehension that is in question here. I never stated that because my wife’s grandfather married a 21 year old Lebanese girl that it was PROOF of issues in Saudi, rather it is a good example of what is common knowledge of what is going on there.

    Aside from what I have seen myself in the Middle East, I have talked to a great many Saudis who recognise that this is common. It is SO common that Morroco and Egypt have passed laws trying to regulate the issue a bit.

    So you are right that it would be illogical for me to use such an example as proof of the problem in the Kingdom, but that is fine because I did no such thing. I was doing nothing more than providing a first hand example of the common practice in Saudi.

    Two countries in the area passed legislation because it is such a serious issues. Given the glacial pace of the law making bodies in the region it is clear that there is a problem here.

    I dont understand why some people will bury their heads in the sand and protest that something doesnt exist when it is clear to all and sundry that it does.

    Do they really think that it doesnt happen? Or do they think by denying it somehow others will think that it doesnt happen? Either way it does nothing to dissuade those who know the facts and it certainly doesnt do anything to help solve the issues.

  43. The Virgin preference and higher payment is an insult and completely NOT islamic. The Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) had 14 wives throughout his life. His first and most loved wife was Khadija (ra) who had been married two times before. Only one wife, Aisha (ra) was a virgin when he had married them, all the rest were divorced or widowed. IT’s the arab man and his selfishness that demand this.

  44. Welcome Brenda and thanks for sharing your view. I agree….it is indeed not Islamic and I guess more …. cultural?

  45. An interesting post and comments I had missed out on.

    Some thoughts:

    An Islamic marriage is a contract (think pre-nup) that requires a mahr for any woman by contract law. The amount varies but there must be some amount. It is commonly the only form of financial aid to the divorced or widowed woman. Most Westerners are naive about this, already well established, or get married when they are students, are young, have nothing, and can’t imagine future need.

    Women who are marrying for the second time (widowed, divorced) have the right to conduct their own marriage contract negotiations and agreement; others no matter how old or educated (including professors of contract law) do not. All may choose to have a male family member (or a lawyer) do it for them.

    Incest is a delicate topic, but I think Khalid’s example was valid and his position obvious from previous comments, as well as his final statements in the comment. Unfortunately in the West some overzealous health care workers and lawyers have given rise to “false memory syndrome” and family breakdown where other approaches would have worked better for all concerned. Of course incest is never to be condoned, but one must first take care to do no further harm. In cases of clear abuse children should be protected from further contact with the abuser but may benefit from supervised visits. I know an adult woman who with therapy has come to forgive her sexually abusive father and visits with him, but is still struggling with her relationship with her overly intrusive mother.

    Virgins are valued in a number of cultures, giving rise to hymenorraphy (hymen repair) complete with “blood” capsule that bleeds on “impact”, and becoming the boon of surgeons who “help” with this. To me it raises the question of virginity vs deception and whether one or both partner(s) are better off pretending for the sake of social convention, or dropping the pretense. I do think that they should be honest with each other whatever they say and show (stained underpants) to others. Of course natural hymens are variously formed and doctors notoriously bad at accurate assessments of virginity (although less easy to break than some would have one believe) leading to all sorts of family and legal misadventures in some countries, eg. Egypt.

    Great topic, post, and comments! 🙂

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