Thursday, September 02, 2010

Saudi Hypocrisy

Global Voices reported today the response from other countries in the Middle East and North Africa to their recent ban on young Moroccan women coming to the Kingdom to perform omrah, the pilgrimage that takes place during Ramadan rather than during the Great Feast a month or so later. These women, apparently, have been decided to be a threat to the sanctity of Saudi male morality as they might be prostitutes (and one must assume, of course, that the required male accompanying them would be their pimp). To say that the Moroccans are a bit miffed is a major understatement. This is a blanket indictment of Moroccan society by a group of people who are notorious for their travels throughout the region for the purpose of sexual enjoyment.

In Egypt, there are villages outside of Giza and Cairo where male Saudi tourists have made a tradition of offering young girls sizable (for the girls of course, peanuts to the Saudis) amounts of money for the "privilege" of an informal marriage to the tourist for the summer months. The girls are then left to fend for themselves, and the fortunate ones find someone who is practical enough to appreciate a girl with some money to start a life with. Not a pretty picture. Apparently, this is common enough practice in Morocco as well to cause Moroccan legislators to pass a law requiring Saudi wives to be informed of these marriages before the marriage can take place. Since the law was passed in 2007, this ban is probably not in retaliation.

The assumption that Moroccan women are looser in their morality and thus probably prostitutes is highly offensive to all Moroccans. Morocco is less strait-laced than Saudi, to be sure, but then the Saudi's are notoriously less strait-laced the second they set foot off Saudi soil as well. It seems to me to be a serious case of the pot calling the kettle black. An article in the Guardian looks at the stereotyping involved. By the same kind of logic of "loose morality", given the stereotypes of North American and European women, one would have to ask if Muslim women from these areas have special problems going on pilrimages as well...and why are Egyptian women not banned? Maybe that's the point. These pilgrimages are getting to be very crowded, so perhaps it's better to make them gender-specific and cut the crowds down?

copyright 2010 Maryanne Stroud Gabbani