Arshad Alam, New Age Islam
16 May 2016
death of a 25 year old Muslim woman from Hyderabad from the torture meted out
to her by Saudi employers should not come as a surprise. Torture is endemic to
Saudi Arabia and thanks to their regressive and peculiar interpretation of
Islam, torture almost seems normal if one is living within the kingdom.
Moreover, if the person is an immigrant, then some of the laws which should
ideally be applicable to everyone hardly applies to this section of population.
Considering that immigrants form a sizable section of the population of Saudi
Arabia, in effect it means that people who work hard on this soil do not have access
to decent a legal protective system. The rentier economy which dictates such
norms is only too happy to allow such gross violation of human rights and a
dignified living. Public flogging and beheading are practices which would be
repugnant to much of the civilized world today, but is carried on with a
monotonous regularity in the kingdom.
But it is
not just the immigrants which have been at the receiving end of such regressive
laws although it would not be out to place to suggest that they hardly get a
chance to defend themselves. Part of the problem of course is the Islamic law
or the Shariah which informs the penal law of Saudi Arabia. One only has to
recollect the punishment meted out to the blogger Raif Badawi. His only fault,
if at all it was a fault, was that he was blogging about the regressive nature
of Saudi Arabian laws. But in Saudi Arabia, being critical of the regime is
perhaps the biggest crime that one can commit. Badawi was sentenced to public
flogging and after the initial round of flogging when he could not take it
anymore, the punishment was suspended. This sadism on the part of the regime is
very normal and most Saudi officials would not even recognise it as
also not recognised as a problem is the fact that women in this kingdom are not
allowed to drive, to have a bank account in their name and even to travel
unaccompanied. All this and much more is considered normal since women are
still considered as chattel in this country. And because of this understanding,
they are not supposed to work and engage in a life which they think is
meaningful. As the particular interpretation of Islam in Saudi Arabia dictates,
if women are made for the pleasure of men, then they should not be engaged in
anything remotely productive. In short they should not have an agency.
women freedom would mean inviting a Fitna and what could be worse than
that? All that women can look up to in this kingdom is a life of ‘protection’
under the all-encompassing patriarchal gaze. Very few can forget that in 2002,
when a fire broke out in a girls’ school, the authorities refused to open the
gates to let the students out which led to the death of fifteen schoolgirls.
The more recent video in which a Saudi imam is advising how to gently beat
wives is a reminder that very little has changed in the kingdom since then
despite the media hype around the reformist measures of the previous King.
is not Islam; rather it is a corruption of Islam. What interpretation of Islam
teaches the Saudi to fund millions of dollars to Muslim communities abroad with
the purpose to exterminate the very cultural context in which these Muslim
communities are embedded? And within its own country, this Islam has wrecked
havoc on its own historical and cultural sensitivity by larger scale
destructions of sites linked to early history of Islam. What kind of religion
is this which teaches its adherents that hands be cut of stealing and which
still insists that the onus of proving that she was violated lies with the women?
The torture and eventual death of the Muslim women from Hyderabad will soon be
forgotten as has been many cases of the past. What is required is the
recognition and acceptance that the Saudi Wahhabi regime is a regime of
torture. And that torture is considered normal and even Islamic by the Wahhabi
regime. Till the time we recognise this normality, we will not have an engaged
discussion on what goes on in the name of Islam in that country.
have hoped that such incidences of torture would raise criticism from various
governments which have their citizens working in Saudi Arabia. The silence has
once again proved that these governments are inept and in-effectual in mounting
any criticism of the Saudi regime, partly owing to their own geo-strategic interest
and party owing to the Saudi manipulation of media industry. It is only a
robust criticism from the people which can force the Saudi government to sit up
and take notice of the fact that something is inherently rotten with their
interpretation of Islam. And Muslims must take the lead in this critique.
A newageislam.com columnist, Arshad Alam is a New
Delhi based writer
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