Know any 25-year-old men who go cruisin’ for elderly chicks? No? Well Saudi Arabia’s religious police know of at least two who, along with the 75-year-old woman caught chilling with them, will be severely punished. CNN reports that 75-year-old Syrian woman Khamisa Mohammed Sawadi was sentenced to 40 lashes, 4 months in jail, and deportation from Saudi Arabia for having two unrelated, twenty-something men in her house. Literally, God forbid any intermingling of the sexes. I mean, imagine what would have happened had the religious police not intervened? Who knows? Maybe the grandmother would have offered these boys tea and cookies. We all know how tea and cookies can corrupt humanity.
Those sneaky guys tried to get away with it, though:
Fahd told the policeman he had the right to be there, because Sawadi had breast-fed him as a baby and was therefore considered to be a son to her in Islam, according to Al-Watan. Fahd, 24, added that his friend Hadian was escorting him as he delivered bread for the elderly woman. The policeman then arrested both men.
But don’t worry, this treacherous breast-fed man and his buddy didn’t get away with their inappropriate behavior:
Fahd was sentenced to four months in prison and 40 lashes; Hadian was sentenced to six months in prison and 60 lashes.
I am having a hard time gathering my thoughts about this idiotic sentencing, which is yet another coup for Saudi Arabia’s heinous Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice. If anyone was near me after I read this absolutely abhorrent report they would have seen steam pouring out of my ears like a fuming cartoon character.
This commission’s police force patrols and regulates behavior based on a strict interpretation of Islam (Wahhabism). This repressive organization bases its power on being judges of piety and forces a population to follow its interpretation of a religion. But who or what gave them the right to judge anyone’s piety? This commission and its ideology is extremism at its worst, but some people are astutely pointing out that religion may not really be the driving force behind this group’s actions. The CNN story quotes Wajeha Al-Huwaider, a Saudi women’s rights activist, as saying:
“This is the problem with the religious police, watching people and thinking they’re bad all the time. It has nothing to do with religion. It’s all about control. And the more you spread fear among people, the more you control them. It’s giving a bad reputation to the country.”
Really, if any good could come from this sickening story it is that the court’s verdict and sentencing has created public outrage, and hopefully the sentences will be overturned.
“It’s made everybody angry because this is like a grandmother,” Saudi women’s rights activist Wajeha Al-Huwaider told CNN. “Forty lashes — how can she handle that pain? You cannot justify it.”
Saudi Arabia is hardly the only country with puritanical policing of its people, however. What about Iran during the Islamic Revolution, or Iraq, where barbers are attacked for shaving beards, or in Afghanistan, where girls are attacked for attending school? Clearly, when a population is vulnerable, using the guise of religion makes it easy to maintain power by enforcing strict rules and instilling fear in society.
I am just glad that people in these countries are becoming more vocal in their outrage. Rather than being regarded as the rule of law, these police forces are being openly criticized by the very societies they try to oppress. Consequently, more and more people will shed their fear, and the police forces will ultimately loose power.
I am reminded of a great scene in Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud’s film, Persepolis, which is set during the Islamic Revolution of Iran. Late for class, Marji races down the street, books in hand, as Tehran’s religious police call out repeatedly for her to stop. Finally getting Marji to turn around, the policemen demand that she stop running. Marji tries to explain that she’s late for class, but one of the policemen explains that when she runs, her rear end moves in what he calls an “indecent” or “obscene” manner.
Fed up with the tyranny, Marji explodes with “Well, stop looking at my a**!!”