Saudi Arabia: Does your Mahrem Know You Are Online?

 

Many people who have not been to Saudi Arabia or no little about the country focus on the life and traditions of the Saudi woman such as how  she can’t drive without realizing this is part of the law in the Kingdom.  NO woman is legally able to drive within the Kingdom.

 

There is also a focus on the dress of the Saudi woman.  When she is out publicly she likely chooses  to wear an abaya, cover her hair and in some cases may wear a niqab so that only her eyes are visible.  Her way of dress is part of the tradition and heritage in which she was raised.  However, outside of public eyes and within the privacy of her home, she may dress how she chooses.  When the Saudi woman is among her family and friends she will wear the fashions and style of her choice.

 

Yet, the Saudi woman and women who are married to Saudis will have a mahrem.  The mahrem is the male guardian whose responsibility is to protect and watch over the female relatives.  His decisions will determine the amount of freedom a woman will have such as working, education, and travel as examples.

 

There have also been many Fatwa’s (rulings) which among the issues include ‘guidance’ on abilities and rights of women.  In 2010 one well known Sheik announced a fatwa banning women from being online without a male chaperone at her side.

 

“Women are similar to other beings, yet they are weak and emotional, which drags them towards what is against God’s rule … The internet is full with tempting things that will be very hard for the weak woman to avoid … Thus an escort who is aware of her weak psyche, which is prone to sex and emotion, is to accompany her while being online,” said Sheikh Saad El-Ghamdi in 2010.

 

While specific numbers may not be available, it is known that Saudi women are prolific online.   They are well-known bloggers.  They have twitter accounts.  They are active in email.  They use Facebook and other social media.  American Bedu’s blogroll features some excellent blogs maintained by Saudi women.

 

In my personal view, it is not the Saudi woman who needs to have her online activities monitored.  Sheikh Mohamed El-Aly, professor of Islamic law at Imam Mohamed Ben Saud University to Al-Youm agrees.  In a recent interview with Ahram online he states that internet usage should be equal for both men and women.

American Bedu encourages readers to view the article and share their perspectives.  Do you think online activities of Saudi women should be monitored based on the premise that they may have led sheltered lives?  Should the online activities of Saudi men be monitored?  Is monitoring necessary at all?  And last but not least, what impact has the internet and social media had on Saudi society?

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16 Responses

  1. I think people should have freedom to look online without someone sitting beside them guiding them. Maybe you can guard children from certain sights, but women are not children! If anything MEN are the ones more likely to be tempted to sexual (porn) websites, I’m thinking. That is more silly Saudi stuff!

  2. Very good book available online called, “When God was a Woman.” It helps to explain (historically) why men are so insecure and weak in current times.

  3. Praise the Lord. If we are going to include some kind of chaperoning role in people’s lives, let me point out that, as I understand it, in Saudi Arabia men are not permitted in certain places in principle ‘reserved for women’ without a female chaperone. And quite frankly, in the online forum, pornography is such a potent temptation that in principle, men should also be chaperoned, if women are. For that matter, the men are often so ill-behaved – imagine, a man attempting to molest a 9-months-pregnant woman in niqab IN THE COMPANY OF HER HUSBAND!!! – that they should probably be chaperoned when they go out in public. Except oops, I forgot one little thing: they won’t feel themselves accountable to their wives anyway. THAT is the problem. In the end, that the men don’t feel accountable to their God and, even worse, want to set themselves up as gods in other people’s lives. If that isn’t shirk, I don’t know what is.

  4. As a parent, I have the responsibility to monitor what my children are reading and watching in books, television, and the internet. If I were a single woman, I alone would be responsible for my choices. As a married woman, I have a responsibility to both my husband and my children to be sensible about what I do online, whether that means being careful about time spent on the internet or avoiding sites, like pornography. But I self-monitor out of respect for myself and for the people in my life. I likewise expect my husband to be careful about what he does online. If he were viewing sites that I thought were harmful to our family or to himself, I would ask him to stop. But I can’t and won’t regulate his internet usage, just as doesn’t regulate my internet usage.

    I think this is a case of Saudi society treating women as if they lack moral fiber, intelligence, or the ability to self-regulate. Frankly, it is despicable.

  5. There’s something so sad that a so-called, progressive society still operates by having a guy chaperone a woman at every stage of her life.

    I say progressive (which I’m sure at least middle class to wealthy Saudis think of themselves) in an ironic, satiric and sad way for the all material things such as a nice home, cars, food, etc., still cannot give personal independence.

    And not even women who are university-educated, still have to be chaperoned? What a waste of minds.

  6. American women should look within their own country to see that there are religions that are Christian yet just as ‘oppressive’ as Muslim. The Amish are a good example. The point is they ‘chose’ to live that way. It would be great to free the women of Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries. I believe in choice for all men and women. I am a woman, but I also understand why the Saudi mem may think that women have weak minds, because some women ACT that way, even here in America!! Freedom is wonderful but it comes with responsibilty. Everyone needs to be responsible with it.

  7. I know quite a few Saudi women and they all have free access to the internet without some male checking on them.

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  9. Just because one’s own country has it’s own examples of women being oppressed doesn’t mean that it leaves places such as Saudi Arabia out of the spotlight.

    I am sure there are some examples of people who do not mind being oppressed, however, there are some that are fine to just follow the status-quo and do as is done because they simply don’t know any better. Just being born into a situation and then following the rules doesn’t mean that you chose it.

    My significant other brought up a good point one evening while we were talking, “Before I came to the United States, I didn’t think much about the treatment of women. It isn’t that I enjoyed seeing it, but it was just normal and nothing you could do about it so I had no opinion about it. After living here and seeing the life, I can see how wrong it is and I hate it.”

  10. Wendy, I do believe there are more women with access to the internet and freedom to use it than those who are limited and restricted. I wanted to point out the differing views of the two sheiks with the post.

  11. Katharine Canfield:

    Men can act the same way but you don’t see people going about this like they do women. In fact men can often times can be more childlike than women and they are not treated as such.

    Have you ever thought that some women have not had exposure to the world to develop and that they are still constrained by social mores even in countries like the USA ? Ever hear that women are their own worst enemy as they like to throw their own gender under the bus like you have here. Doesn’t hellp women’s causes, I assure you and often women like you are part of the problem as you get in the way of progress and aid backward thinkers.

    Next all religions treat people like children when you expect nothing else than this, then it is what you get from it’s indoctrinated……….a bunch of male/female religious children.

  12. My point is all people are created equal. Men and women are both guilty of doing the wrong things for the wrong reasons. That is human nature. I throw no one under the bus. Saudi see the decadance of Americans and do not want that for their people. I am saying not everyone in America is like the decadant ones. We have the choice to not be like everyone else. All Saudis should have the right to choose how they want to live, the men can give the women the right to drive if they want to, the right to work if they want to, the right to the internet if they want. I believe in choice but one must accept the responsibility htat comes with it.

  13. Katharine:

    You point starts off that way then deviates to something else on your intial point. Next, it is not always so simple to be allowed to live a certain way as the consequences could mean the loss of your life, family or environment. Often times we live in socially/religiously constructs that are meant to suppress, oppression, control and subjugate.

    Next:

    “All Saudis should have the right to choose how they want to live, the men can give the women the right to drive if they want to, the right to work if they want to, the right to the internet if they want. I believe in choice but one must accept the responsibility htat comes with it.”

    I find this an interesting statement. In one respect you state that all saudis should have the right to choice but it is only men that have choice which negates that statement, All. Next you equate having a choice is a responsibility but you do so by making it that women being treated as an adult is a choice rather than a right. Women should have the right to drive, to work and even the right to the internet not because of a choice but because of a right of being an adult. Now an adult has the right to make mistakes and as such some of those mistakes may have consequences and that is part of growing up as well as being an adult.

    Next, many American’s see decadence, oppression, hatred, bigotry, slavery, racism, inquisition, hidden domestic abuse to include rape, child abuse/rape/thighing, backward teachings of fantasy hate religion (such as jews are monkeys), laziness, witchcraft trials, deceptions, hypocrisy and much more from Saudi and do not want it as well. However, that is not going to stop the interaction between the two as we are stuck with one another on this planet.

  14. Katherine, you have to understand one important thing about Bigstick, he despises anything related to Saudi and Islam. Just thought I should give you a heads up on that. I appreciate your analysis though. The opinion of that sheikh carries little weight to most Muslims in Saudi and around the world. My Saudi niece (a future bone doctor mashallah) has all the internet gadget and blackberry and what not (even I’m not aware of 🙂 without a chaperone, horrors. But she’s a responsible young 19 year old, not looking to meet up with a potential murderer or anything hamdulillah. But, as a parent myself, the fear is there and you bet I’ll chaperone my daughter’s internet usage until she’s a grown up!

  15. I give the point that of Saudi males must give women the choice because that is the law there now. It is my hope that all men, in all countries, of all religions would look at women as equals.
    Also, I am more aware than most Americans as to what is going on within our borders in regards to oppression, abuse, both physical and mental, and racism, ect. It is going on here! And some of it happens in the name of religion. My whole point is to address the problems by giving all the choice if they want to live that way, and choice of how to live within their religion.
    It saddens me that there are women who continue to live in abusive relationships but it is their choice. I don’t understand that, but it happens. We have to help the ones who want to get away from oppression. Thus, there is choice, which is what I think is needed more everywhere.

  16. I think this Culture is ridiculous, who has time for this. I’m happy i live in CANADA where everybody is free of there choices. i dont know why men think they can take over and why they think they are better then everyone else in this country or Kingdom what ever you want to call it, But they are not. I am a women and i would not have no man telling me what to do or let him tell me i cant do something that he can do. No offense to anyone and im sorry if i offend you but this CULTURE is RIDICULOUS and i would never follow something so silly. Everybody has the right to believe in what they want and do what they want. Sorry but this is my thoughts and i think alot of stuff needs to be changed.

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