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Saudi American Values

Death of a Princess was a docudrama that was released in 1980, two years after the execution of Saudi Princess Misha’al for adultery.  You can watch the movie on youtube where it has been broken into parts.

Up until the year the film was released, most people living in Saudi Arabia didn’t know the details of what had occurred, even though the execution was carried out in public.  The documentary filmmaker, Anthony Thomas, was only able to ferret out the truth by speaking to a few people in Saudi Arabia who knew the royal family personally.  There were many strange details about the execution that didn’t make sense.  For one thing, judicial executions usually happen in a particular square.  There’s a formality about it.  But in this case, the execution of the princess and her boyfriend happened in a parking lot that had been hastily prepared with a pile of sand.

Thomas finally did get to the bottom of this story and when the movie was released, it caused quite a stir in Saudi Arabia where copies of it had to be smuggled in.  People identified with this girl who chose to live a free life for a few days, something most Saudis only dream about.  In 2005, the PBS program Frontline looked back at that movie and the controversy surrounding it.  As with most things Frontline does, there is a thorough cache of supplementary material including interviews with journalists, cultural experts and activists.

The interview with Ali Al-Ahmed is particularly enlightening.  Remember that this interview happened in 2005, back in the Bush era when Condoleeza Rice was Secretary of State.  But what he says about how the Saudis conspire with conservative religious fanatics to keep the public’s eye away from what is really going on in their country is very relevant today here in America.  We have learned from the Saudis.  Here is a piece of the interview:

You wrote that, in fact, women to some extent are the line in the sand between modernization or remaining a medieval kingdom.

It’s true. You cannot really go forward and progress as a society when 50 percent of your population are oppressed. And it is the tipping point. This is the line you have to cross. It’s the frontier we have to conquer in order to tell ourselves we are walking straight.

This is, to me, like a man walking with half his body paralyzed. This is our society, a paralyzed society, because half of it is not moving, and the other half is trying to move. But we are dragged back by [the fact that] half the society is paralyzed, and this is not going to change internally. External help must be offered, especially from the United States.

Is the United States playing that role?

The U.S. has one thing in its mind, which is [its] interest. And I think it has been harmful for the U.S. There is no harm that the United States can do to itself by encouraging — not forcing, encouraging — one of its closest allies to allow women their freedom. It’s not against Saudi culture or society to have women attain these freedoms that I talked about. It is against the government’s policy, yes, but it’s not against the culture or the religion of that society.

And the U.S. has not been vocal. And this is the last country in the world besides Kuwait where women cannot vote. This is the last country in the world where women cannot drive and cannot attain these freedoms that I spoke about. And it is very easily done if this is a priority. I asked a U.S. official recently about it: “Have you ever had a program to encourage the Saudi government to allow women more freedom or to improve their status?” And the answer was, “No.”


“It was not important to us.” And I said that “Well, I think I’ve started to rethink my appreciation of a democratic system.” If a democratic government [or] society does not think it’s important to have its own values protected and promoted to its own friends, then there is something wrong with these values.

The role of women in Saudi Arabia is in some ways a concession to the religious conservatives who are so important in propping up the royal family, correct?

The religious conservatives in Saudi Arabia consider women one of their most important issues. They are obsessively concerned with women. The royal family uses these extremists to suppress society and to preoccupy them with fictitious issues, from “How long is your beard?” [to] “Can I say ‘bye-bye’?” I’m not kidding — “Can I say ‘bye-bye’? Is it OK to say ‘bye-bye’ instead of ‘salaam’? Is my robe longer or shorter?”

So they figure out that if you make women an issue, then you have 50 percent [of] society paralyzed and part of the other half concerned, obsessed about suppressing the 50 percent. … The conservatives of Saudi Arabia feel the need to control society and guide it, and they use women as a means to control that society. And that pleases the royals, who would like a society that’s obsessed with long beards and short robes rather than a society focused on equal rights, democracy, human rights and education and so on.

Has 9/11 changed that?

Absolutely it did. Society has now realized it has been fooled all along, and the religious conservatives are nothing but a tool in the hands of the royal family to suppress society. At the end of the day, the same people who issued fatwas against elections turned 180 degrees and said, “Oh, elections are good.” Two years before they said, “Elections are evil; they are imitations of the infidels.” The Saudi government decided to have limited elections; then suddenly it became a good thing. They figured out the game, and I think more people are figuring out the game, and the religious conservatives very soon will have very little influence in the country.

So what’s the game?

The game is, “We are doing this to protect our religion, to protect you.” … They don’t think democracy means you will participate. They equate democracy with sexual promiscuity, with rapes. That’s why, as long as society is obsessed with women and the fact that they have to be covered and suppressed, then we won’t have a democratic society, a society that’s looking for participation in government.

It puts the recently renewed battle over contraceptives in a whole new light, doesn’t it?  And now we have people fighting in state legislatures over whether it is proper to say the word VAGINA in public.  The hits and obsessive battles over trivialities are coming fast and furiously now.  I don’t think we will start making women wear veils but in a very short period of time, the religious conservatives have successfully taken women back to the 60’s.  It’s hard to believe that my daughters will have *less* freedom than I did and that we are reintroducing shame and restrictions.  But this has happened in countries like Iran and Afghanistan where the ruling mullahs rejected modernity for women after a period of relaxation of strict tribal rules when bare faces and miniskirts flourished.

It’s seems futile to point out to American religious conservatives that they are being used to suppress democracy in this country but that appears to be what is happening. I see the mission of the Catholic bishops and the “religious freedom” meme in a whole new light.  I also see *both* parties conspiring to distract the public with attacks on women.  None of this is really that surprising.  It’s just strange to see it distilled as succinctly as Al-Ahmed has done.

Prove me wrong, Democrats. Why don’t you come right out and say what’s going on? Let’s hear Obama get up and make a truly significant, meaningful, emotional “Reverend Wright-esque” speech in defense of American women.  Let’s see him lay out to the American public what the game is, pledge to stop playing it and challenge the other side to stop too.

Remember, national women’s groups are meeting in Baltimore at the end of June.  I challenge them to demand that both parties stop using women as a distraction and route to suppress democracy in this country.  They should refrain from endorsing ANY candidate for president until they get a firm committment from both parties to stop using women and to tell the religious nutcases and Catholic bishops to back the fuck off.

This is not a game and we’re not going to play it.

11 Responses

  1. Happy Father’s Day to all the Dads!! And all the single Moms doing both jobs. 🙂

  2. Ayatollah Obama says a woman’s place is in the stove.

  3. Separately but in parallel, here is an article about the ongoing OverClass campaign of thought-prevention through knowledge suppression and even basic primary data-collection-suppression.

    People who want a reality-based gender-equal society may have to figure out what least-common-denominator goals they can all agree on
    supporting so they can pool their power to become an effective strike force. If the different reality-based groups cannot agree on one set of least-common-denominator principles for all to support till they are achieved, then the different reality-based groups will have to engage in Darwinian mortal combat among themselves till only one Reality-Based Group survives and becomes the strike force for the things important to that one Reality-Based Group.

    • The Malefactors Of Great Wealth want the rest of us “to engage in Darwinian mortal combat among (our)selves,” but I’m guessing RUR knows that, and does not actually approve the idea.

      • You are correct. I don’t approve of the idea. It would be a very poor second best over the much better first-best alternative . . . which would be for all the reality-based sub-grouplets to gather together over the next few years and see if they can all agree on a few shared goals to all help eachother all push for. And forgive eachother for the goals that some separately refuse to share, and not seek revenge for it.

        I believe Canada shows the sad example of what happens when the reality-based community refuses to agree on a least-common-demoninator list of “must achieves” to unite around for the moment in order to defeat a common enemy. Harper and the Harperoids get 40% of the vote. The Liberals get 30% of the vote. The New Democrats get 30% of the vote. So the Harperoids defeat the evenly split 60 percenters with their united 40%, over and over and over. If
        the Ls and the NDs got together to form an Emergency LCD Party just long enough to “crush, kill, destroy” the Harperoids (I realize that Canadians don’t believe in Crush Kill Destroy), they could perhaps form a National Government without any Harperoids in it. (I am sure our Canadian fellow readers will tell me how wrong I am on all the details. I hope I got the general principal right for example’s sake.)

        But if either the Ls or the NDs won’t give in to the need for an Emergency LCD party just now, the Harperoids will dominate unless one of Canada’s reality-based parties can destroy the other one and assimilate its members so as to use their numerical strength against the Harperite Menace.

  4. Why would the USA try to promote democratic values? The USA is not a democracy.

    In my childhood, I thought it was.

    For much of my adult life (I turned 18 in 1981), I thought it basically was still a democracy, just one which had been hijacked by a well-financed minority of authoritarians, highly skilled in propaganda which took advantage of persistent reactionary values in the minds of voters. In other words, I thought if only the reactionary GOP could be legally and peacefully neutralized, then the USA would become a true democracy again, as in my childhood.

    Then came the MOGW-arranged Obamajacking of the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, and I lost my last hopes for the USA. I now only hope the system can remain civilized and humane enough for me to die of old age first (I have no descendants to think about). 😦

    • One might draw some slender comfort from the fact that the DemParty is not “America” nor even America’s “government”. It is just one of two private clubs ( as Katiebird has called them) that have become powerful gatekeepers against peoples’s entry into government. The DemParty may be disinfectable or destroyable or bypassable, though not easily.

      It may be that the Master Class has “let” the militant stupidite backwardites take over the Republican Party in order to make their
      subverted penetrated Democratic Party look like a “better choice”. But
      it still has to be said that a determined movement of militant backwardite stupidite religiofascists has been able to conquer the Republican Party and purge their opponents out of it. They have been able to make intraparty Democracy work for them over there in their party. (The massive OverClass money and talent support for them may partially invalidate that argument. But not completely.)

      I guess it is not nice to refer to “biblically inspired” global warming deniers and French Enlightenment would-be Repealers as ignorant backwardite stupidites. But I don’t know what else to call people who seek the Dawn of a New Dark Age.

      • “ignorant backwardite stupidites”

        I think the term you are seeking is “obscurantists”. :mrgreen:

        • Yes, but my term hopefully hurts worse. ” Why . . . I do believe he’s talking about US. the nerve, the NURRRRVVVVVV….” Maybe the obscurantists are the cynical leaders and the MSBs are their joyful followers.

  5. Good God, the Princess was 19 years old and her beloved was all of 20 years old and neither ever got a trial, they were executed, executed for the protection of the patriarchy, not the family.

  6. And here is a funny little gif titled something like “my reaction when religious people approach me on my university campus.” Probably
    what she means is conversionist fundamentalists. I can’t imagine Christian Humanists in the mold of Dr. King provoking such a reaction, for example. Anyway, here…http://i.imgur.com/8fX8r.gif

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