Friday, November 23, 2012


Skimming through a magazine, I saw these five shapes, in black outfits, with these words plastered across the picture: "I pray my daughters have a life like mine."

I've blogged about veils --the kind with slits for the eyes, the flowing, cover-everything abayas that Muslim women wear.

"Never would I wear an outfit like that " I thought, as I dug into an article which Karen Elliott House wrote, summarizing her latest book on modern Saudi Arabia.  It's just been published. A Pulitzer Prize winner, the author has spent 30 years studying this part of the world. 

Karen House was a guest in the home of Loulwa, one of the women in the photograph. Loulwa's home is on the upper floor of a modest size house. In her middle forties, the mother of seven children ages 5 to 20, Loulwa is maid, laundress, cook, school-teacher, and wife -- a loving wife, devoted to-pleasing her husband every other day

... Every other day... Huh  

On the ground floor, the floor below Loulwa's, her husband's other wife -- first wife for the past 40 years -- lives much the same way. The first wife has eight children, and serves them, cares for them, and also is devoted to pleasing her husband every other day.
He's a professor, teacher of Hadith, the words and teachings of the Prophet Muhammad. Ever since Muhammad's death, these words have been the daily guide for devout Muslims who believe men are in charge of women -- that righteous women are devoutly obedient -- that serving Allah means serving your husband -- that only by serving God can you enter paradise.

The two wives and their husband are average, middle-class Saudi Arabians, who have been assaulted by technology. They have access to modern shopping malls, the Internet, television, cell phones, drugs, and alcohol.  Educated at King Saud University, though Loulwa speaks English haltingly, she clearly and strongly opposes women who want to drive, get jobs, and dress the way American women do.

Both wives' homes are free of "infidel" influences. There are no photographs on the walls, because any human representation is forbidden by the strict interpretation of Islam. There is one television that is set to receive only a religious channel that bans any appearances by women. Loulwa doesn’t want her children seeing faces of unveiled women who have recently been allowed to work as anchors on some Saudi channels. The family’s sole computer, used only under the wife's supervision, is for homework that is primarily for studying the Quran.

Loulwa's teenage girls admire and obey her. Her oldest, age 19, lets her mother control what music she listen to -- proper Islamic music, cannot have rhythm or include a woman’s voice lest a man hear it and be led astray, This daughter, in her black abaya, also a student at King Saud University, said (about her mother) “She is dedicating herself to helping us have a life just like hers.”

What would I say if I met Loulwa? I've conversed with thousands of women all over the word, and never met a woman with whom I couldn't communicate. Even when language is a barrier, you can smile, laugh, frown, fan yourself as if it's hot, or point to your mouth as if you're hungry. You can shake your head yes or no.

It shocks me. It frightens me, that this woman has deliberately shut herself off from today's world, and chosen to live in a time and an age of ignorance,

Ignorance? Yes.

I want to tell her that if I had a daughter, I would want her to be whatever she chooses to be.

I have written seven, yes SEVEN  love thy neighbor posts on Muslims, and have published them in my blog. Muslims live on my street. I like my neighbors. I want to like this woman who lives in Saudi Arabia. But our worlds collide.
If I had a daughter -- dear God, whatever God you believe in, it is life and death important for my daughter, your daughter, all our daughters to be free.`


Anonymous said...

If you teach a child one way, and only that way, if you never let them see anything else, what will they have to compare their lives to?
If their life is regular, measured, peaceful, they will probably be content, if not happy.
But that's life in a fishbowl.
People raised like that will have a painful awakening if the real world ever intrudes.
This is where things get tricky.
Religions the world over teach their followers sets of rules, ways of life, beliefs, for how to live your life.
Think of your religious or spiritual beliefs.
How do you feel about millions of other people in the world who think your beliefs are wrong, incorrect, ridiculous, ludicrous, out of date, or even downright nasty?
And yet this is what you were taught, good people believe this, it's served you well, your father and your father's father and his father before him believed in these good and god given truths.
When you belong to a religion, you have friends, comrades, a team. All with the same wise agreed upon beliefs. You belong. People will stand with you, defend you and your right to your beliefs. You are somebody.
And yet, billions of people in the world do not agree with you or your beliefs. Billions of people were raised, taught some other belief from the moment they could understand their native tongue.
There are many harms done this world, but especially prevalent are the harms done by men of good faith. More people are harmed over religious beliefs than is logical, given that most of the religions of the world teach love and kindness.
But only if you are a member of their faith.
If you belong to the other guy's faith, then all bets are off and you're fair sanctioned blessed game.
I'm talking about everyone here.
The mother and daughters in the above mentioned article live in a comfortable, insular, protected world. They don't know any different.
If one of their daughters discoverevd the forbidden internet and put on nail polish, what then?
If one heard a song and discovered she loved music, what then?
If one of them talked to a boy not of her faith or sect outside their home, what then?
You only have to read the newspapers to know that Muslim girls have been killed for doing these things.
Would this happy little picture of contented mothers and daughters be changed if the parents were presented with wrongful acts by their daughters?
One of the topics I try to avoid is religion, the other is politics.
Religion is full of dogma, that is beliefs you drank in with your mother's milk, that billions of other people in the world disagree with. Politics, pretty well the same.
In the olden days of low population, scattered tribes and low tech weapons, religion held us together and so increased our chances of survival.
It was a vetting system.
Joe's a (insert name of religion here) so he's safe, he's a good guy, I can trust him.
Now however, with huge human populations, instant communication, low tech weapons that harm many innocent people and high tech weapons that can obliterate cities, conflicts withreligious beliefs cause countless injuries, harm and suffering.
The Dalai Lama has said, "My religion is kindness."
I can think of no better belief.
Louise Sorensen
louise3anne twitter

Carola said...

I bet you would like her if you met her (unless she is an unloving person). I think that change has to come from within the society, and the fact that the girls are university educated is a sign of hope.

Billy Ray Chitwood said...

Good post, Em and John...

It's tough, I can imagine, to betray the only life you've ever known. Change does come, but it exacts its price.

There are times when this old fool who lives within my body wishes for less frenzy and haste in his all leads 'somewhere!' That is to be determined.

We are born. We find something missing. We search for a better existence. We find another existence, only to be haunted from memories of our past. We move on, colliding not only with others different from us, but, with ourselves.

So we await the TBD - 'To Be Determined!'

Or, not! I'm just saying!

Billy Ray

Linda Phillips said...

I find this all makes me very angry...I am a liberated woman in every sense. But, I guess we need to respect who they are and their beliefs.

They say in that article that they love their lives. Is it for us to sit in judgement of what makes their lives happy? That's a rhetorical question. Of course I sit in judgement of them.

I feel very sorry for them and all that they are missing or that I feel they are missing.

Anonymous said...

Interesting blog today Em. I am happy with my life and living free and having freedom ring in my ears everyday. I would not like living as these Muslims do and I feel sorry for them all the things they are missing in life. I could never wear the outfits and veil either. Reminds me of the movie-NOT WITHOUT MY DAUGHTER where Sally Field plays an American mother married to a Muslim and he tries to keep them over there....quite moving. kam

Pete said...

I don't believe I've ever met a woman who would put up with that kind of treatment.

I think those Arab boys are believers in the old adage, "How you gon' keep'em down on the farm after they've seen Paree?".

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