Saturday, June 12, 2004
The dogs of Abu Ghraib
Thursday, June 10, 2004
Encouraging wassatiya in the schools.
[T]he kingdom'sIf that wasn't clear enough, another source reveals that he went on to say,religious leaders were outraged, particularly after a picture appeared in Saudi newspapers the next day showing Olayan without a veil. "Such a practice is agreed upon unanimously to be forbidden, as is newspapers' publication of photographs of such women in this unseemly, Islamically unlawful state," intoned the grand mufti, Sheik Abdalaziz bin Abdullah Sheik.
The face that launched a thousand rants.
“I decree3 that Muslims should beware, be alert and avoid being carried away by this propaganda, which destroys religion, morals and virtues... What was published in some newspapers about this being the start of liberating the Saudi woman—such talk is null and void. One's duty is to obey Shariah (Islamic law) by complying with orders and shunning that which is forbidden.”Now I know that being deprived of a glimpse of any portion of the female anatomy since you last saw your mother's teat will cause strange reactions, and I will not even speculate upon what Saudi men may have done to themselves when they saw that face. But in any case, it can't be as bad as the teaching of Darwinism, which is what Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell have to put up with. But what we're really talking about here is preserving the regime.
Preserving the regime
The single most important pillar supporting the ruling Saud family, the Wahhabis, are under siege at a time when the Sauds need them more than ever to bolster their rule against Islamic radicals.4Again, the parallel with the Bush regime is striking. It too depends for its preservation upon grand muftis such as the Revs. Robertson and Falwell. But a part of Bush's problem is that he can't seem to elicit the same degree of fervor from his religious followers as the House of Saud can.
"Seeking to overthrow existing legitimate regimes is forbidden," the grand mufti said in a late January sermon.... "Praise the leaders of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia who are providing us with peace and security." Terrorism must be "crushed," he continued. "God says the penalty of those that fight God and his prophet and spread violence and terror is to be killed, crucified or have their hands and legs chopped off."
While Bush may be able to count on Pat Robertson to call down a hurricane or two come November, the effect is just not the same.
A teeny part of the dilemma for both King George and the House of Saud is that neither really believes in the beliefs of their supporters. So they're forced to appear as radical moderates, or moderate radicals (that's wassatiya, to you), and the hypocrisy is just killing them.In his heart of hearts our Great Leader probably wants to support stem-cell research and go to Mars in hope of finding dinosaurs or something (which could wreak havoc with the Christian fundamentalist idea that the universe was created just 5,000 years ago). But he knows how precarious his regime really is, so we'll go to Mars, but he just won't mention the dinosaurs. As for the Saudis, if you've ever seen a Saudi prince in a hotel bar, you know what I mean. To put it succinctly—they don't give a shit about Shariah and admit that they're often miffed by the muftis. If all this weren't enough, there's the media problem.
[M]any Saudis contend the House of Wahhab's iron grip is slipping. Shobokshi, the Jiddah businessman and columnist, ascribes this to expanded access to more moderate Islamic preachers elsewhere in the Arab world. "Saudis have discovered there are other ways to get interpretations of the Koran from other sheiks on the Internet and satellite television previously not available," he said.You see what I mean? I have written elsewhere on the corrupting influence of foreign journalists and our government's efforts to prevent it, but the Internet and satellite television may require something more drastic. What that "something" may be remains unclear. While the government already has the capacity to survey your every mouse click, it is not—so far as I know—actually coming between you and your clicker. That could change. The satellite television component of the media assault on the population is more easily contained. Our newly activated Star Wars antiballistic missile system needs something sufficiently immobile to shoot at, since so far it has been absolutely hopeless at shooting down anything that moves. A geostationary satellite should be just the thing.
Footnotes1 "Piqued" may be too strong a word here. The events described in the article took place last January, and the article itself appears on page 18. [back]
2 Lest you get all weepy about the plight of Ms. Olayan, let me reassure you by mentioning that she is hovering around #34 in the billionaire's list and can raise a private army of mercenaries, should her naked face require it. [back]
3Don't you love that word "decree"? I've been expecting our Great Leader to use it any day now, as in "Today I am decreeing martial law." [back]
4I'm really not clear on this. I thought the Wahhabis were the Islamic radicals. [back]
Wednesday, June 09, 2004
What the journalist saw ...
Sitting next to an intriguingly silent young man who could have been a porn star or a well camouflaged air marshal, I spent most of the 11-hour flight daydreaming about the city where he so clearly belonged and that I had never visited.Most red-blooded American women (not to mention men) would have spent the 11-hour flight dreaming of him, and surely would have made him a remunerative offer before touchdown. It wouldn't really have mattered whether he was a porn star or an air marshal, since we admire raw sex and authority almost equally.
But that's a British journalist for you—cheap and a bit repressed. And what we need right now is an economic stimulus—something more like electroshock really—and people like Mrs. Lappin are just not going to get the job done.Here she is again:
I incurred the wrath of the boss [of the guards] when I insisted on edible food. "I'm in charge in here. Do you know who you are? Do you know where you are? This isn't a hotel," he screamed. "Why are you yelling?" I asked. "I'm just asking for some decent food. I'll pay for it myself." A Burger King fishburger never tasted so good. And it occurred to me that a hotel or transit lounge would have been a better place to keep travellers waiting to return home.See what I mean? They let her pay for her food while she's in detention, and what does she order? A California pizza with gouda and prosciutto for $15.95? An Atkins Diet appetizer of chitlins in hand-rendered bacon fat for $10.95. Not her. It's fish-and-chips all the way for $3.95. And she wants to eat it in a lounge?! When she got back to London, she could hardly wait to write up her experience. She concluded her version of the episode rather snippily, I thought.
During my surreal interlude at LAX, I told the officer taking my fingerprints that I would be writing about it all. "No doubt," he snorted. "And anything you'll write won't be the truth."
If they ever let her back in, I just hope she'll have the good sense to leave her notebook at home and bring her credit card.
Tuesday, June 08, 2004
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