Prison and a Whipping for Acting Impudent in Saudi Arabia
At times news stories from the kingdom of Saudi Arabia seem more like tales with Alice in Wonderland themes than believable news coverage.
Some of the laws are so bizarre you come to expect freakish reports. A lashing sentence for the "Girl of Qatif" who was a victim of rape ... or poor guys like Haidi Al-Mutaif, a young Saudi whose jest about the prophet Muhammad earned him years in jail.
However a recent news report had me gawking.
Judge Saud al-Boushi sentenced 20 foreigners to prison terms of three to four months plus lashings for the crime of "impudent partying" in Jiddah.
What exactly is "impudent partying"? Revelers all waving their middle fingers in the direction of Mecca to the beats of Notorious B.I.G.? Group moonings directed toward the limousines of passing Saudi royalty?
No nothing quite so outrageous. These folks were dancing - dancing with members of the opposite sex in the usual time honored manner.
They weren't naked and gyrating in provocative ways. No table dancers or flashers. Just basic no-frills dancing. How outrageous! Ignore the rumors that sheiks in the kingdom have reportedly been helping to keep sex traffickers well heeled and get up to all manner of hanky panky in their palatial romper rooms ... focus instead on foreign infidels who have the impudence to dance!
It gets worse. The impudent ones weren't merely dancing - they videotaped themselves while dancing. This amounts to a charge of "aggravated impudence" since narcissistic voyeurism comes into it also. The evil doers weren't merely being impudent, but impudently videotaped their disco moves with the intention of impudently watching themselves afterwards.
No wonder judge Saud al-Boushi was deeply shocked. Some of them were even wearing tight fitting jeans and a few of the women impudently revealed tummy flesh when they raised their arms a few inches too high during We Will Rock You. How impudently out-of-control can things get?
To add fuel to the fire, drinks were served! I don't mean coke, I mean alcoholic beverages.The evil brew - which presumably raised the impudence aggregate to dangerous seismic levels.
Even though 20 of the impudence doers were sentenced to prison and lashings, the Saudi religious police actually arrested a total of 433 foreigners, 240 of them women. That's a lot of impudent infidels to cram into a cop shop.
Okay the kingdom enforces Islamic law. But why don't they focus on Muslims. Foreigners working in the kingdom who aren't Muslim and who don't abide by Sharia law shouldn't be harassed for socializing in the manner they see fit.
This type of cultural and religious tyranny makes it hard to watch Dick Cheney and other Bush people grinning and smiling (but not too impudently), as they stroll arm-in-arm with Saudi potentates. On one hand Bush harps about the sacred mission of exporting democracy, and on the other hand he's in bed with robed oligarchs who deep down, despise everything democracy stands for. A little bit of a paradox?
The last time King Abdullah was at the Crawford ranch there was a picture of him leading Bush around by the arm as though the President was a small boy who needed to be told a thing or two. Which is true ... just preferably not while sitting on the knee of Abdullah-of-the-Dunes.
What about the rights of foreign workers in Saudi Arabia? Shouldn't our embassies and even the likes of Condoleezza Rice have something to say when foreigners in the kingdom are threatened with lashing and imprisonment for "impudent partying"? A term that remains ambiguous at best.
Without Mecca and oil, Saudi Arabia wouldn't have a fraction of the influence it has today. Those two factors were fortuitous gifts that descended upon the Saudi generations and generated both wealth and power.
I wonder if there is any penalty for "impudent illusions-of-grandeur"?Aidan Maconachy is a freelance writer and artist based in Ontario. You can visit his blog at http://aidanmaconachyblog.blogspot.com/